DATE OF RECKONING FOR CANOE SPRINT ATHLETES
Record numbers to compete at Szeged World Championships & Olympic Qualifiers
Lausanne, Switzerland – It has been the race of reference for Canoe Sprint athletes and enthusiasts all over the world, and even before the starting gun has gone off at the 2011 Canoe Sprint World Championships, records have already been broken. Szeged a city that has canoeing intertwined in its history, and is renowned for its passion for the sport and its celebrity canoeists. They will host athletes from a whopping 94 countries, and a massive number of paracanoe athletes, 74 in total, have registered to compete this week; it is the first time the event will be recognized as a paraolympic sport. The venue of the Championships is the glorified Maty-ér Regatta Course, it is acknowledged to be one of the best, courses in the world, and is a firm favourite among many of canoeing’s elite. This event is organized by the Szeged Organising Committee and it kicks off this Wednesday 17 August, concluding on Sunday 21 August.
“We got entries even in the last minute, it will be an incredible competition at the Maty-ér regatta course,” said Gábor Schmidt, chair of the Organising Committee. “International canoeing sport is going through its most dynamic phase of development as proven by the incredible number of entries in the women’s discipline. Based on the latest information, in the K-1 200m event, 55 nations have entered their competitors which is an outstanding number of entries and would have been unimaginable a few years ago. I would not claim though that only the Olympic events are popular among participants as proven by 44 competitors entering men’s K-1 500m.”
The first senior World Championships of the season, the 2011 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships IN Szeged, promises to pull out all the stops. Having only won the right to host the event after the original hosts Vichy pulled out last year, the Organising Committee has declared itself ready to stage the biggest show that the canoeing world has ever seen. Several months of planning have gone into preparing a championship event fitting for champions, and one that precedes all others, because for many nations, Szeged 2011 will also serve as a qualification competition for London 2012. This week for some athletes represents the beginning or the end of a dream to compete at the Olympic Games.
In Hungary, canoeing athletes are likened to Hollywood celebrities, names like Natasa Janics, Katalin Kovacs, Attila Vajda have cast a spell on the canoe loving country and this week at the Canoe Sprint World Championships promises to deliver both glamour and sporting wizardry.
Who to watch
The results from the World Cups have been consistent and it is hard to foresee any major surprises. Howver, it is worth noting that Natasia Janics (HUN), the three-time Olympic Champion, is expecting a baby, as is Katrin Wagner-Augustin of Germany, so neither of them will be competing in this year’s World Championships. With only a handful of training sessions, Katalin Kovács Katalin (HUN) will be back competing in the K2 200m event with her new partner Tamara Csipes, with whom she won the 2011 European Championships. But who comes out on top this weekend is anybody’s guess, and here are a few paddlers to look out for:
The season has so far played to Women’s K1 200m Nicole Reinhardt (GER) tune, she has been the most consistent of the ladies this season and has stood on the podium at every World Cup she took part in, not surprisingly she leads the ICF Ranking in Women’s Kayak. Alana Nicholls has also seen some great success this season and she will be one to look out for along with Natalia Lobova (RUS) and Teresa Portela (POR), who won the 200m event in Racice but has struggled a bit on the single boat races this year. While the Qualifying Queen Inna Osypenko-Radomska (UKR) has on two occasions just fallen short of a podium place, nobody will be surprised if she uses these Championships to seal her place in London.
In the team events, Belarus overwhelmingly go into the Championships as the favourites having won the Women’s K2 200m and Women’s K4 500m and1000m event. Similarly the men showed great class in the K4 1000m, winning in Racice and taking 3rd Place in Poznan. Germany will also be looking to flex some muscle as will Russia and Poland who sit 3rd and 4th Place on the ICF Ranking.
Eurosport, BBC, Rai Sport and many other channels will be televising the World Championships LIVE. Five days of excitement are planned around the Championships and spectators are expected to come out in their droves to support their favourite athletes and sport.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS