It was a confident return to international racing for the British slalom team as all five kayak boats qualified through to the semi-finals on day one of the 2021 ECA Canoe Slalom European Championships in Ivrea, Italy.
19 months on from their last international competition, five of Britain’s nine-strong team took to the racing waters once again, with day one playing host to the men’s and women’s kayak heats.
It was Bradley Forbes-Cryans (CR Cats) who led the way in the men’s kayak heats, once again showing the speed and precision he showed at the World Championships in 2019 to qualify with ease in second place.
This was Bradley’s first international outing since qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games taking place later this summer, and he will go into Saturday’s semi-finals off the back of a clean run that saw him finish with a time of 76.51.
Ivrea is a course Bradley has fond memories of, having won a silver medal at the U23 World Championships back in 2018, and he hit the waters full of confidence.
“It was quite an unknown coming into the race this week, you don’t know if the rest of the field had moved on, so to place in the top three in the first heat felt great.
“It was really good to show that my pace was there early doors, and to show I was quick by doing the technical stuff well was really pleasing too. For me it was all about finding that rhythm on the course and it came back naturally which I was happy about.”– Bradley Forbes-Cryans
“As soon as it came to race day, I just really enjoyed being on that start line for the first time. It’s something I have yearned for since we last raced in September 2019.
“We’ve got the teams’ race tomorrow, so I am really looking forward to racing with Joe (Clarke) and Chris (Bowers) once again.
“I am going to stick with my processes over the next few days and see how I turn out.”
Forbes-Cryans was swiftly followed down the course by current Olympic Champion Joe Clarke, who too qualified for Saturday’s semifinal off the first run.
It was a speedy opening from Clarke, who went into the first split 0.41 quicker than the rest of the start list, but the deftest of touches on gate 13 and slower bottom half of the course meant he finished in 16th place with a time of 79.58.
Clarke’s Stafford & Stone teammate Chris Bowers required the second heat to ensure his qualification into the next stage of the race. A touch on gate six took him narrowly outside of the top 30 required in the first run, but Bowers regrouped and delivered a really strong, clean run of 80.05 to place in second spot of the heat and book his place on that semi-final start list.
In the women’s K1, selected Tokyo Olympian Kimberley Woods kicked off her international season in quick and impressive fashion after posting a storming run in the heats.
Looking to build on her sixth place finish at the 2019 World Championships, the Rugby born athlete looked quick, sharp and composed as she charged out the start line.
Despite taking touches on gates 1 and 20, Kimberley put herself safely though to Saturday’s semi-finals in seventh place with a time of 89.95 and was the quickest raw pace of the first heat.
It felt incredible to be in a race environment again. All the feelings came back naturally. I wasn’t worried about anything and got straight back into it, it felt as if I hadn’t had a whole year off.– Kimberley Woods
“I am happy to put a quick run down straight away and show everyone I have got the speed. I was definitely nervous about 30 seconds before heading off, but I had speed on the top part of the course. I have been focusing on keeping my head strong throughout the run and I knew I was quick and it was great to prove to myself that I am.
“I’ve put lots of physical work into my kayak and have trained really hard over the last year. I am glad that it showed today my training has worked.”
Kimberley will now turn her attentions to tomorrow morning as she prepares to take on the women’s C1 heats.
Like Chris Bowers, 2013 European Champion Fiona Pennie (CR Cats) too required the second run to join Kimberley in the next round, taking six penalty seconds and having some trouble with gate 14.
But Pennie had no trouble on the second run, going clean with a time of 93.47 to finish in sixth place and progress through to Satuday.
Friday sees the men’s and women’s C1 athletes return to the water for the first time since 2019, with the team events also taking place in the afternoon out in Ivrea.
DAY 1 RESULTS SUMMARY
Women’s K1 Heats
Kimberley Woods (Rugby) - Heats 1st Run 7th & qualifies for semi-final on Saturday
Fiona Pennie (CR Cats) – Heats 1st Run 36th; 2nd run 6th and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Men’s K1 Heats
Bradley Forbes-Cryans (CR Cats) – Heats 1st Run 2nd and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Joe Clarke (Stafford & Stone) – Heats 1st Run 16th and qualifies for semi final on Saturday
Chris Bowers (Stafford & Stone) – Heats 1st Run 32nd; 2nd run 2nd and qualifies for semi final on Saturday