2019 ICF Slalom World Cup 3, Tacen (Slovenia) – Day 1 Qualifiers
by Ross Solly
Fox and Clarke remind everyone of their class at ICF slalom world cup
Australia’s Jessica Fox showed she is close to returning to her incredible 2018 form, while speed machine teammate Daniel Watkins also impressed on the opening day of the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Tacen, Ljubljana on Friday.
But it was Great Britain’s Joe Clarke who put down the most impressive run of the day, the Olympic gold medalist returning to the water after a one week break to post the fastest time in the men’s K1.
In news that will no doubt send a shiver down the spine of all Clarke’s opponents, he revealed he is still troubled by a shoulder injury.
“The week off didn’t actually do it any good, but hopefully it will sort itself out in time,” Clarke said.
“It’s not hindering me too much as you can see, but it’s just there in the back of my head, but we’ll deal with it.”
Clarke’s time was 75.19, just ahead of Australia’s Watkins in 75.90. Watkins had earlier posted the fastest time in the men’s C1. Portugal’s Antoine Launay was third fastest in 77.94.
Watkins finally showed what he is capable of with a sizzling quickest run in the men’s C1, and then finishing second fastest in the K1.
After teasing at the opening two world cups with super-fast runs, only to cruel his chances with careless gate touches, the 23-year-old Australian set an error-free time of 82.14 in the C1 on the short Ljubljana course.
“I was really happy with that qualification, but a little surprised with how well it stacked up,” he said.
“I always surprise myself when I paddle well – sometimes it can feel like I’m really controlled and really patient and not going crazy fast, and then the actual speed on the boat proves to be really strong.
“Being qualification I guess I relaxed a little bit, and took those split seconds to make sure I was really safe around the poles.”
Slovakia’s Matej Benus finished 1.30 seconds back on 83.44, while Czech Lukas Rohan was third in 83.91.
Jessica Fox was more than four seconds quicker than the next best paddler in the women’s C1 qualifying, and only just missed out on fastest time in the first round of the women’s K1.
“I didn’t expect to replicate 2018, but I think there have been some good parts to each world cup,” Fox said.
“It’s not going to be the perfect 2019 like I would have liked, but every race is a new race. I don’t judge the season off the first race or the second race. It’s four months overseas for us, so you have to ease yourself into it.”
Fox posted a fault-free 94.19 in the women’s C1, with Austria’s Viktoria Wolffhardt second in 98.44, and Slovenia’s Alja Kozorog third in 100.94.
Italy’s Stefanie Horn showed the benefit of taking a week off by posting the fastest time in the women’s K1, her 89.53 time just 0.09 seconds quicker than reigning world champion, Australian Jessica Fox.
Horn said she feels at home paddling in Tacen.
“When you start in Tacen, there’s a really big jump and you feel like you are flying,” Horn said.
“You start with a good experience, and it’s really nice. I love Tacen, it’s my favourite course.
Brazil’s Ana Satila qualified third fastest in 91.10.
The third ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup continues on Saturday with semi-finals and finals in the women’s K1 and the men’s C1.