As yesterday’s sunshine turned to rain, it was a day of close shaves for the GB canoe slalom team, as seven boats graced the semi final start line at the ICF World Cup Final, held on the 1992 Olympic course in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain.
The U23 World Champion, Mallory Franklin gave another superb performance in the women’s C1 semi final posting a time of 110.23 to back up her third place in the heats and top the standings going into the afternoon session. Last to go in the final amongst such a high class field, Franklin new she had to attack the course if she was to challenge for the medals and ultimately a couple of costly errors on gates three and seven pushed her offline and down to sixth.
Mallory said: “I have not raced for a little while so I am quite pleased generally. My qualification and semi final runs were bringing me back to the style I want to paddle and where I want to be, but then to do it again in the final was quite a lot to ask, expecting every run to go well.
“It always difficult to not let going off last affect you, when you hear snippets of what’s going on, but I tried to just focus on what I was doing and get a good run out for me, rather than worry about what other people had done. It was pretty good fun and I enjoyed the racing. Seu is not a course that massively suits my paddling, but I am looking forward to going racing again tomorrow in kayak and seeing what I can put out there.”
In the same event, birthday girl Kimberley Woods who turned 22 yesterday, came so close to having real cause for celebrations. With the boat speed improving with every run this week, it was the errors that she struggled to eradicate.
Having taken it to the wire to qualify through the second run of heats she claimed eighth place in the semis to make it to the final ten. She then upped her game to post the fastest time of the day (113.54 seconds) including six penalty seconds to be top at the half way stage. But as the likes of Jessica Fox and home crowd favourite Nuria Vilarrubla came down the course, she was nudged off the podium into fourth by 0.53 seconds, matching her position here last year.
A pragmatic Kimberley Woods said: “I am not over the moon, but to almost not make the semi final and then to make the final with the second fastest time with just silly touches means I was pretty happy just to be in the final. I said to myself on the start line to just enjoy it, considering yesterday I wasn’t looking like I would be here. I am happy to have been in the final with such good paddlers. Last year, Nuria (Vilarrubla) who won the race here and again today was quite a few seconds ahead and it just shows we have all caught up to her and are getting faster and faster which is really good to see.
“Yesterday it was about getting to grips with racing again and I was a bit shaky and never really got in the groove, which was a pity as it was my birthday, but I came back strong in kayak which was good. I have been a bit messy this weekend, but I often go through phases of getting quicker and then touching gates, as I learn to adjust to my speed.”
Looking forward to paddling the kayak semi final tomorrow the C1 European champion added: “I have got to grips with this course now and I am hoping that I can cut the lines a little better tomorrow and stay off the poles a bit.”
Elsewhere in the men’s K1 Joe Clarke, Bradley Forbes-Cryans and Chris Bowers all paddled fast and clean in the semi final, but it still wasn’t enough to make the final where the cut stood at an impressive 91.96 seconds. Olympic champion Joe Clarke came closest posting 92.52 seconds to finish 13th.
Reflecting on the race, Joe said: “It was such an easy course it was always going to take a fast time to go through. It was difficult going off so early, as you didn’t quite know what you had to do and I posted a fast clean run which would normally have been enough to get through.
“I am not going to take too much from this weekend other than the process. After all the excitement of last year it has been a slow start to the year for me, but I’ve got a good eight week block of training behind me and I am looking forward to World’s which will be on a completely different type of course.”
Kimberley Woods (Rugby) – Final 4th (113.54 inc 6 secs penalties)
Mallory Franklin (Windsor) – Final 6th (time 114.52 inc 4 secs penalties)
Eilidh Gibson (Strathallan) – Semi Final 17th (121.33 inc 4 secs penalties
Bethan Forrow (Lee Valley Paddlesports) – Semi Final 27th (127.55 inc 6 secs penalties)
Joseph Clarke (Stafford & Stone) – Semi Final 13th (92.52 clean)
Bradley Forbes-Cryans (CR Cats) – Semi Final 17th (92.87 clean)
Chris Bowers (Stafford & Stone) – Semi Final 24th (94.89 clean)
Tomorrow will see another six GB boats in action in semi finals and finals in the men’s canoe single (C1) and the women’s kayak single (K1) starting at 0900hrs UK time.
Live streaming and results: https://www.canoeicf.com/canoe-slalom-world-cup/la-seu-durgell-2017