Canoe Slalom paddlers Joe Clarke MBE and Mallory Franklin both picked up medals on the final day of the first ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup of the season in Prague.
Stafford and Stone’s Clarke secured a silver in the men’s extreme slalom final, while Franklin also grabbed a podium spot finishing with a bronze in the women’s race.
Having made his way through the knockout rounds, the 2021 World Championship gold medallist Clarke was involved in an eventful final battle where he looked capable of topping the podium after making a flying start, only for German Stefan Hengst to take the win.
A tricky second gate saw him drop back down to third but, after heading into the roll zone dead level with Brazilian Pedro Goncalves, Clarke pulled off a superb recovery in the latter stages of the course to kick-start his season with silver.
The 2016 Olympic champion was close to missing out on the final after he endured a disastrous start to his semi-final, but an excellent recovery at the halfway mark saw him jump from last to second and qualify.
“At first it was great just to get to the final after some tough rounds,” said Clarke. “And then (in the final) I was in almost every different position.
“So to go from last to second was quite intense. I was pushed wide on the up right and I thought ‘oh no this is it.’
“To get back into again was brilliant. I knew Pedro is very good at his rolls so it was always going to be close.
“Thankfully I managed to execute a really good roll and push on through to the finish.
“So I’m amazed and happy to take the silver today.
It’s never over until it’s over in the extreme. You just have to keep pushing right up to the line because you never know what might happen
He became the second Brit to secure a Prague podium after Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) finished third in the women’s final immediately before.
The C1 silver medallist from Tokyo took bronze, with Klaudia Zwolinska claiming silver and home favourite Tereza Fiserova topping the podium for her second gold of the weekend.
The British kayaker was second at the first upstream gate, but Zwolinska recovered well in the latter part of the run to steal second.
Yet it was still a strong start to the World Cup season for Franklin, who picked up four medals in the European Championships two weeks ago.
“It was definitely still a big positive for me to take,” she said. “Extreme is one of those events where once you’re in the final anything can happen, but I’m still happy to get a bronze.
“The final was a bit of a funny one because Fiserova had taken a paddle to the face in her previous race and was holding a medical swab to her face.
“I’m good friends with her, but I think that strangely made it more relaxed at the start.
“I just wanted to go down and make good tactical decisions, which I think I did.
“But I’m really happy to come away with a bronze. It has been a mixed weekend, but it ended well.”
Elsewhere in the extreme kayak competitions, Megan Hamer-Evans (Seren Dwr) and Christopher Bowers (Stafford & Stone) both exited at the quarter-final stage, after finishing third and fourth in their heats respectively.
Nikita Setchell (Holme Pierrepont Canoe Club) but was eliminated in the third heat after she came across the line in third behind eventual winner Fiserova.
Earlier in the day, a number of Brits went in search of medals in the latter stages of both C1 events this morning.
Both Franklin and teammate Kimberley Woods (Rugby) ensured there would be two British boats in the women’s final after strong runs in the semis.
And it was Woods, who led the charge of the British contingent on Sunday morning, after laying down a competitive time with no penalties.
She eventually finished in sixth place after a solid run of 116.08 seconds, which at the time sent her to the top of the leaderboard.
Meanwhile Franklin was aiming to go one better than her fourth place finish in the women’s K1 on Saturday.
It was not to be on this occasion, the Olympic silver medalist finishing 10th after receiving a 50-second penalty for a fly-by at gate 11.
CR Cats’ Sophie Ogilvie had exited the competition earlier on after finishing 25th in the semi-final.
Earlier on, three Brits were in semi-final action of the men’s C1 event after progressing through the heats on Saturday.
But qualification for the final proved a step too far on this occasion for Ryan Westley, Adam Burgess and Peter Linksted.
Westley (Lower Wharf) went closest to the top-10 finish required, with his time of 107.27 seconds seeing him end up in 14th.
His compatriot Burgess (Stafford and Stone) finished 20th after picking up five penalty touches on his run which proved costly, finishing 5.23 seconds outside the final qualification spot, with Linksted (Stirling & Falkirk) just behind in 21st.
Performance director Mark Ratcliffe reflected on a double success to conclude a busy weekend in Prague.
He said: “It’s obviously a new Olympic event, the extreme slalom, and we’re all finding our way. Every event we go to there is something different and new we have to face.
“I’m really pleased to see the guys embrace it and to come out with Joe getting a silver and Mallory picking up bronze is fantastic for us.
“It is definitely a physical event, but they adapted really well today.
“The three (World Cup) events back-to-back is a real challenge physically, and we manage that the best we can.
“Competing in both events can be tough, we just have to try and recover the best we can between sessions.”
The British team will now move onto the next ICF World Cup event in Krakow, Poland which gets underway on Friday.
Women’s C1 Final
Kimberley Woods (Rugby) – 6th
Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) – 10th
Sophie Ogilvie (CR Cats) – 25th
Men’s C1 Semi-final
Ryan Westley (Lower Wharfe) – 14th
Adam Burgess (Stafford & Stone) – 20th
Peter Linksted (Stirling & Falkirk) – 21st
Extreme Slalom Women
Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) – 3rd
Megan Hamer-Evans (Seren Dwr) – 3rd in quarter- final
Nikita Setchell (Holme Pierrepont CC) – 3rd in heat 3
Extreme Slalom Men
Joe Clarke (Stafford & Stone)- 2nd
Chris Bowers (Stafford & Stone)- 4th in quarter-final