2019 ICF Junior & U23 Slalom World Championships – Day 3 C1 Men & K1 Women Finals
by Ross Solly
Emotions flow as Czechs pick up two more canoe slalom gold medals
Czech padders Amalie Hilgertova and Antonie Galuskova won emotional gold medals in a tough day of competition at the 2019 ICF junior and U23 canoe slalom world championships in Krakow, Poland, on Friday.
For Hilgertova it was confirmation that she has finally overcome the nerves which had dogged her career for so long, while for Galuskova it was a return to the top of the podium after a disappointing result in 2018.
There were also gold medals for France’s Nicolas Gestin in the men’s U23 C1, and for Nejc Polencic in the junior C1.
Hilgertova is enjoying the best season of her career, her gold medal on Friday coming after winning the European senior title at the start of the season. She said it’s been a long time coming after bursting onto the international stage in 2013 with a junior world championship gold medal.
“I’ve been waiting for an under 23 medal for a very long time, and every time I lost it because of my head I think,” she said.
“This year I have managed to get it together, and now this happens. I’ve started to do some focus, mental exercises, and that really helps me. My feeling on the water is much better, I’m more confident, I know what I’m doing, and I manage to be at the right place at the right time.
“I think after my first big medal in 2013 I had big expectations, not just from others but also from myself. I created big pressure on myself, and I was always nervous before the races, I couldn’t perform well. I think I told myself that I had had enough of this and I really started to work on it.”
Hilgertova kept her cool on the challenging Krakow course to post a winning time of 95.22. Polish paddler Klaudia Zwolinska sizzled down the course to post a 95.76, which included a two-second penalty, but the Czech was up to the challenge.
Germany’s Selina Jones was ecstatic after finishing third in 98.34, the best result of her career.
Watch Junior K1 Women Winning Run
Watch U23 K1 Women Winning Run
Galuskova celebrated her final year in the junior class with a win in the K1, despite a gate touch. The Czech was lucky to scrape into the final in 10th position. She said missing the podium in 2018 may have helped her.
“I think it was good for me,” she said.
“Maybe it was a little bit painful at first, but I got over it and I knew it would help me in the future. I just wanted to have fun here, but it actually wasn’t much fun because I nearly missed the final.
“And in the final I thought with my touch, I would regret it. But it was fast.”
Galuskova finished with 100.91, with Slovenia’s Eva Alina Hocevar second in 102.00. 15-year-old American Evy Leibfarth continued her dream year with a bronze medal in 102.35. Six seconds of penalties kept Leibfarth of the top of the podium.
19-year-old Gestin won the men’s U23 C1 title, to add to the European U23 title he won earlier this month. It’s his first year in the U23 competition, after picking up a bronze medal last year at the junior world championships.
“I think to paddle at this level, two times, with the Europeans and the world championships, I like it so much to reach this level in the finals,”Gestin said.
“I didn’t think I was paddling well during the heats and the semi-finals, that was hard for me. But in the final I knew what I had to do, I knew I could go faster.
“Every day with my coach I try and learn new things, and I think next year I could learn even more with the new whitewater centre in Paris.”
Gestin finished with a time of 90.39, with French teammate Lucas Roisin second on 91.34. Irishman Liam Jegou took the bronze on 91.97, which included a two-second penalty that put him out of the gold medal position.
Watch Junior C1 Men Winning Run
Watch U23 C1 Men Winning Run
After two years of making junior finals with winning a medal, Nejc Polencic broke through to win C1 gold in a time of 98.47, even with four seconds of penalties.
“This is my first podium, I’m really happy. I made a few mistakes, but it was enough,” he said.
“I had two touches, but when I crossed the line I saw the time and I was happy. I knew after me there were only three paddlers.
“After last season I got a new coach, but I didn’t know how fast I was. I didn’t make the finals at the European championships. It’s amazing to finish my junior career as champion.”
Host nation Poland picked up their second silver medal of the day, with Szymon Nowobilski finishing in 99.22, while Frenchman Adrien Fisher took bronze in 99.26.
Competition continues tomorrow Saturday with the C1 Women and the K1 Men finals