International canoe slalom returns to the London 2012 Olympic venue, for the first time since the 2015 ICF World Championships, as the Lee Valley White Water Centre prepares to host the opening World Cup of the 2019 season this week. And for the 10-strong British team, the stakes are raised further, as the event also doubles as a crucial 2020 Olympic selection race.
The international line-up is second to none, with five medallists from the London Games making a return to the scene of 2012 Olympic glory and adding to the glamour, all three gold medallists from the Rio 2016 Olympics will also be on the start line as the journey towards Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification picks up speed.
In 2012 German Sideris Tasiadis and Slovakia’s Michal Martikan picked up silver and bronze respectively in the men’s C1, while another German, Hannes Aigner, won bronze in the men’s K1 on the Lee Valley course.
In the women’s K1, a teenage Jessica Fox won silver for Australia while Spain’s Maialen Chourraut took bronze. Four years later the Spaniard won gold in Rio, while Fox picked up the bronze.
Joe Clarke (Stafford & Stone) will lead the charge for the home team at Lee Valley this weekend. He won K1 gold for Great Britain in Rio, and has maintained his strong form in the subsequent two years. He notably won his first World Cup gold last year in Krakow, along with a bronze in Liptovsky and posted his best ever World Championship result finishing fifth back on the Rio course. He started 2019 well at the European Championships two weeks ago, just a touch away from the podium in fourth and would love nothing more than to put on a winning display for the crowd on his home course.
Clarke will be joined in the British line-up by Bradley Forbes-Cryans (CR Cats), who enjoyed his best ever season in 2018 making several international finals and winning World silver in his final year at U23 and Chris Bowers (Stafford & Stone), confident he can kick-start his season here at home.
David Florence (Lloyds Register), a silver medallist in the men’s C2 at both London and Rio Olympics, will lead a strong British trio in the men’s C1. In 2015 Florence won the C1 world title for the second time when the championships were held at Lee Valley, an event that also doubled as an Olympic qualifier. Now being pushed all the way by 2018 World silver medallist and European Champion, Ryan Westley (Lower Wharfe) and 2018 European silver medallist, Adam Burgess (Stafford & Stone), David will have to draw on his vast experience and knowledge of his home course if he is to see off the challenge from his teammates, let alone the world-class international field that descended on London this week.
Frenchman Denis Gargaud Chanut won C1 gold in Rio, contemplated retirement, but is back and ready to launch an assault he hopes will provide him with the chance to defend his gold medal in Tokyo. Only one Olympic medallist from Rio, Japan’s Takuya Haneda in the men’s C1, will be absent this weekend, giving the competition an almost world championship-strength line-up.
Fresh from her triple medal success at the European Championships in Pau, which included her first senior European title in C1, Windsor’s Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) will be hoping for a golden double for Great Britain when she steps out in the women’s K1 and C1 events. Franklin is one of several female athletes who will compete in both, with C1 set to make its Olympic debut next year.
Australia’s Fox will be the athlete to catch in the C1, after she went through 2018 undefeated in the discipline and finished with a stunning world championship title in Rio. GB’s Kimberley Woods (Rugby) will also be aiming for her second podium finish of the season, having claimed C1 European bronze in Pau and like Franklin will double up in K1, joining the hugely experienced and two-time K1 Olympian, Fiona Pennie (CR Cats).
20-year-old Sophie Ogilvie (CR Cats) completes the British C1 trio, having made her British senior team debut in style only two weeks ago, contributing to the women’s fourth successive C1 Team title and qualifying for the individual final. Learning with every race, Sophie is excited about the prospect of competing internationally at Lee Valley in front of family and friends.
The opening ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup begins in Lee Valley on Friday 14 June and runs through until 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: http://siwihome.azurewebsites.net/canoe123/live?SessionKey=bcu.20190420
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).