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Ups and downs for British boats in Prague

It was an unusually overcast day in Prague today, but the weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or the paddlers, as the first medals of the weekend were presented. And whilst it was a case of so near and yet so far for the British team, there were some excellent performances, demonstrating that preparations are building nicely towards the end of season Olympic selection decider in Spain, in just over two weeks-time.

Burgess C1 Final Prague

Adam Burgess is top GB boat in Men's C1

Set by former GB coach Mark Delaney, the course proved to be a difficult challenge, coupled with the renowned pace of the Prague water. There were lots of gates in a really tight space and the course was relentless. There was one hard move after another and no rest for a paddlers with so much going on.

The men’s canoe single (C1) event was a particularly tense affair for the world-class British trio of David Florence (Lloyds Register), Ryan Westley (Lower Wharf) and Adam Burgess (Stafford & Stone), with this competition also doubling up as their second Olympic selection event.

Adam Burgess took it out early on in the semi finals posting a fast clean run of 101.54 seconds to sit at the top of the leader board for the remaining half of the field to chase. His tactics worked well and he finished third to ease into the final. His final run also looked to have gone well, with his time enough to put him in silver medal position behind the eventual winner Matej Benus of Slovakia. However a late called touch on gate 8 quickly bumped him off the podium to finish in 6th.

However despite the disappointment not to medal here in Prague, it was a great performance from this rising star of British Canoeing, who took World Cup 1 silver at Lee Valley in June and now sits with maximum points in the British Olympic selection race to date.

Speaking after the race Adam said: “I am really happy with the way things have gone. It has been pretty hard work here all weekend, although I never expected any of the selection races to be done after first run today and to be racing the final with a bit less pressure.

“I knew when I saw the star against my name as I crossed the finish line that there was a review going on probably around gate 7/8/9, but I wasn’t really aware of which gate it was. I wasn’t really on plan at that point and I was just reacting.

Every single run this season on finals day I have been quick enough to be on the podium and I believe that I am one of the most in form boats in the world. Whilst being on maximum points is great, all three of us are capable of getting bonus points at Worlds, so it is far from over.

– Adam Burgess

David Florence was also in the semi final, and although his run was clean, her was unable to respond to the pace at the top and he quickly slipped down the rankings to miss the all-important top ten, finishing 13th. It was also the end of his chance to gain maximum points today, in his bid to go to his fourth successive Olympic Games.

Fate also dealt a poor hand to Ryan Westley (Lower Wharf) who was last to go in the semi final, having won the first heats run and he looked to be in unstoppable form. Whilst things started well for the 2018 World silver medallist and European Champion here in Prague last year, things began to unravel on this tricky course, picking up two touches and there was just no way to compensate. He finished in 15th place and joined David Florence as a disappointed spectator for the final.

However with one more race to come and bonus points on offer for a top five finish, the Men’s C1 place will all go down to the wire at the World Championships in La Seu d’Urgell in Spain.

Woods K1 Final Prague

Kimberley Woods shows good form this weekend.

In the women’s kayak single (K1), Kimberley Woods (Rugby) continued to show good form after two second places in the heats. Coming 9th in the semis, she went on to post her first clean run of the weekend in the final, to initially top the leader board. However the 23-year-old knew there were still lots of strong opposition to follow and she was eventually nudged down to 5th.

Satisfied with her performance today Kimberley said: “I was happy to put a half decent run down in the final today, which was my first clean run of the weekend and to finish in the top five. To finish 4th at the Lee Valley World Cup was heart breaking in a way.

“To see the girls really take the race on today made it so exciting and I love it like that. I wanted a tight course which we got, as I feel it brings out that reactive paddler in me which is when I am at my best. To be up there with these girls, many of whom I see as role models really gives me a lot of confidence going into the last race of the season.”

Looking forward to tomorrow’s C1 semi final she added: “I need to keep at it and keep reacting. It will be a lot harder tomorrow as everyone has seen the course today and how the C1 men tackled it. I will go away now and put my plan together. Keeping off the poles is going to be the key thing!”

Winner of World Cup 1 in kayak, Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District) also went clean in the final, but she couldn’t quite produce the usual silky smooth run to collect further rewards toady. She clocked 107.41 seconds to finish one place behind Woods in 6th and will also get another opportunity to show off her huge talent tomorrow, when she joins Kimberley and Sophie Ogilvie in the women’s C1 semi final.

Tomorrow’s semi finals in the Women’s C1 and Men’s K1 start at 0800hrs.

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Men’s C1

Adam Burgess (Stafford & Stone) – Final 6th

David Florence (Lloyds Register) – Semi final 13th

Ryan Westley (Lower Wharf) – Semi final 15th

Women’s K1

Kimberley Woods (Rugby) – Final 5th

Mallory Franklin (Windsor & District)  - Final 6th