It was a confident start by the 10-strong British canoe slalom team at Lee Valley White Water Centre today, on the opening day of the ICF World Cup. Great Britain qualified all 12 boats through to the semi finals over the weekend and an opportunity to also secure vital 2020 Olympic selection points.
The world-wide line-up was second to none, as international canoe slalom returned to the London 2012 Olympic course for the first time since the 2015 ICF World Championships and just as they did then, the British team made the most of home advantage.
The men’s canoe single (C1) was the first event of the day and all three British boats made it safely through to the semi final on the first heat run.
Despite the difficult course set for today’s heats, David Florence (Lloyds Register) looked at ease on the Lee Valley rapids to take second spot with a clean run of 91.46 seconds. Happy to have eased through to the semi final, David Florence said: “It all went fairly well and the important thing was just to get through in that top 20, so a perfect start. It is not an easy course at all. One of the biggest challenges is there are no easy parts to the course at all, it is pretty continuous. There are quite a lot of tricky moves on the stoppers, gates 2-3 ,15-16, 22-23 where your moves need to be accurate and there is a lot of potential to make mistakes.”
Adam Burgess (Stafford & Stone) also enjoyed a smooth path through in eighth place and said: “I just kept it super solid today to get the job done and qualify, so I will be racing again on Saturday now. It is quite a tricky course and as always on Lee Valley, it is really physical. I was definitely getting a bit tired towards the bottom, but I hung on and did a really solid job. The energy you got from the home crowd was really amazing!”
Although still battling to find his perfect touch as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery, Ryan Westley quickly made it three out of three for GB in men’s C1 qualifying in 18th place. Ryan said: “It wasn’t very good this morning, it was a bit sticky from the start and I made a fairly big mistake in the middle which cost me quite a bit. I felt like I would have the pace on this course to get into the semi final, so I just kept it controlled from there and made sure I didn’t hit any gates or make any more major mistakes and I just snuck in in the end.
“It is all about getting through the rounds. And it was just nice to get out racing on the course today, but I will definitely be hoping for a bit more tomorrow.”
In the women’s kayak single (K1), once again the British team made their experience on this world-class course count and also enjoyed the support of the local school children, who suddenly arrived in their droves.
Stamping her authority on the race to win the first heat, a satisfied Kimberley Woods (Rugby) said: “It is definitely good to get off to a good start and having the crowd supporting me it all came together. I missed a couple of bits of my plan, but I kept a cool head to finish with a quick run. My arms were dead coming out of the last upstream and I thought just don’t miss the last gate and I had the crowd cheering me on which was what it was like at the World Championships in 2015.
“2015 was such a big event for me being the first Worlds where I doubled up on the senior team. Being back here again and being much better now than I was then, there is a little more expectation and then it is not just about the World Cup, but about Olympic selection as well.”
Fiona Pennie also went safely through at the first time of asking, saying: “I am happy it was enough to get in. There were a few errors in it and I was a little bit out of shape in a few places and had to use my knowledge of the course in a few places to get back on track. It was quite hard for a qualifying course, with a few stings in the tail to try and get you. It is nice to be finished in the morning and get the chance to chill out ahead of tomorrow.”
However, Mallory Franklin made life difficult for herself after a poor first run. Going last off in the second heat of the morning she dealt well with the pressure, to post the fastest run time of the morning and secure her spot in the semis.
Mallory said: “It was quite a lot of pressure, with this also being Olympic selection, a home race and especially being the only British boat in second run which was a little bit stressful, so I was happy to keep it solid at the top but it was good fun.
“I was confident that I could get through and knowing I had the pace to do a similar time as Kim and then a little bit of a cushion on that, gives you confidence to keep it calm for the first bit then start to bring it together towards the bottom. Once I had got through gate 16 heading towards oval I thought I just need to get through everything and get to the finish. It was daunting but nice to have that little buffer.”
In the afternoon Kimberley and Mallory both went on to also qualify in the women’s canoe single (C1) in fourth and seventh respectively, with 20-year-old Sophie also going through in ninth on her senior World Cup debut.
Sophie said: “I am super happy with that run! I put down my plan and delivered it. I made a bit of a mistake at the bottom of the course and had to paddle back, but apart from that the run was bang on. It has been a whirlwind this last couple of months but it has been amazing.”
The day finished in style with near textbook runs by the men’s K1 trio of Joe Clarke (Stafford & Stone), Bradley Forbes-Cryans (CR Cats) and Chris Bowers (Stafford & Stone)) to finish in first, second and fourth respectively in the first heat and progress to Sunday’s semi final. The three-way tussle showed Britain’s strength in depth and the intensity of the competition for maximum Olympic selection points this week.
A business-like Joe Clarke said: “I didn’t get off to the best start around gates 9, 10 and 11 but saw it home with a really strong bottom half. But I am pleased to get through with another win in the qualifications, the third this year so I am pretty stoked.
“I have said all season that selection for Tokyo is going to be tough and today just proves it and shows what kind of level we are operating at which is really positive. Bradley put down a really fast time and so did Chris so it was just a case of chasing them, but remaining on my game and doing it better than anyone else.”
Bradley was also pleased with his start to the competition saying: “That was a solid nine out of ten there. I was a bit frustrated with the variation from my plan on gate 9, but in the run the gates opened up and I just went with it and I feel I now have the confidence to do that.”
Delighted to have kick-started his season here today, Chris Bowers added: “I was pretty disappointed two weeks ago in Pau, so to come back here and do such a good run was great. This is the first time I have ever performed internationally in front of a home crowd so it feels really special. Everyone is cheering and supporting each other which is exactly the sort of environment we want.”
DAY 1 RESULTS SUMMARY
Men’s C1 Heats
David Florence (Lloyds Register) – 2nd and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Adam Burgess (Stafford & Stone) – 8th and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Ryan Westley (Lower Wharfe) – 18th and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Women’s K1 Heats
Kimberley Woods (Rugby) – 1st and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Fiona Pennie (CR Cats) – 6th and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) – 1st run 42nd; 2nd run 1st and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Women’s C1 Heats
Kimberley Woods (Rugby) – 4th and qualifies for semi final on Sunday
Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) – 7th and qualifies for semi final on Sunday
Sophie Ogilvie (CR Cats) – 9th and qualifies for semi final on Sunday
Men’s K1 Heats
Joe Clarke (Stafford & Stone) – 1st and qualifies for semi final on Sunday
Bradley Forbes-Cryans (CR Cats) – 2nd and qualifies for semi final on Sunday
Chris Bowers (Stafford & Stone) – 4th and qualifies for semi final on Sunday
World Cup 1 continues tomorrow (Saturday 15 June) with semi finals and finals in the men’s C1 and women’s K1 and Sunday 16 June.
You can follow the action in a number of ways:
British Canoeing LIVE Blog: https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/competition/whatson/events-live-blog
For Live Results: https://siwihome.azurewebsites.net/canoe123/live?SessionKey=bcu.20190420
For Live Stream and VOD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXqv-at9HP0
The 2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 1 will also be broadcast by BBC Sport with a 90 minute highlights programme on BBC Two, alongside live content from the three day event on the BBC Sport digital channels and Red Button service (schedules subject to change).