Slalom: Olympic Champions Head Field for Opening CanöeSlalom World Cup in Prague
All but one of the gold medalists from the past two Olympic Games will line up in Prague this weekend for the first ICF canoe slalom world cup of 2022.
Among the starters will be Frenchman Denis Gargaud Chanut and Great Britain’s Joe Clarke, gold medalists from the 2016 Rio Olympics who both missed selection for last year’s Games.
There has also been a record number of entries for this weekend’s extreme slalom competition, with more than 140 athletes from 36 nations and all five continents taking the opportunity to compete in the new Olympic event.
More than 220 athletes have entered the Prague world cup, with Spain’s 2016 women’s K1 gold medalist, Maialen Chourraut, the only title holder from the previous two Olympics not competing this weekend.
Chourraut will be the only Tokyo medalist missing from this weekend’s competition, as athletes begin the two-year run to the Paris Olympics.
Czech Jiri Prskavec will get the chance to perform at an international event in front of his passionate home crowd for the first time since he won K1 gold in Tokyo last year. His contest with 2016 Olympic gold medalist, Joe Clarke, will be a weekend highlight.
Clarke has repeated his desire to become the first male paddler to win two Olympic K1 gold medals, but concedes he will have tough competition from Prskavec.
“I’ve got huge respect for Jiri and what he has achieved,” Clarke said on the eve of this weekend’s world cup.
“We’ve both got one Olympic title to our name, my goal is to win two Olympic gold medals and be the first person to do so. Now Jiri has one, so I’m sure he is going for the same.”
Germany’s Ricarda Funk and Australia’s Jessica Fox compete as first-time Olympic gold medalists, with Funk triumphing in the women’s K1 and Fox taking the title in the inaugural women’s C1 in Tokyo.
And Slovenia’s Benjamin Savsek, fresh from winning’s his country’s first Olympic canoe slalom gold medal and just it’s sixth gold medal in history, will start favourite in the men’s C1.
He will face strong competition from France’s Gargaud Chanut, who is determined to make an early impact after having to watch last year’s Games from afar.
The extreme slalom competition will feature both reigning world champions, Fox in the women’s event and Clarke in the men’s. Nearly all of the Tokyo medalists have also entered extreme competition in Prague.
The opening ICF canoe slalom world cup begins on Friday and finishes on Sunday afternoon.
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