Attention turns to Tokyo for Britain’s paddlers after a tough final day of racing at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Markkleeberg.
Having picked up a pair of medals at last week’s World Cup in Prague and four at the European Championships in Ivrea, Britain’s best continued their return to racing on the outskirts of Leipzig.
And it was a challenging final day for the six athletes in action, competing in C1W and C1M finals as well as Extreme Slalom for both genders.
17-time C1 World Cup medallist Mallory Franklin emerged from her final race before an Olympic debut with seventh in the C1 final.
Having qualified quickest from the heats, Mallory attacked the course in her semi-final and was rewarded by advancing sixth-fastest into the final.
She started superbly in her semi and had more than a second on her rivals through the top section, with only a touch on gate 15 preventing her from a top seeding for the final.
Unfortunately a lapse in concentration saw Mallory miss the seventh gate and have to renegotiate a section of the course.
She stuck to her task and incurred only one time penalty, completing the course in a time of 128.28.
“I made a very stupid mistake that made a big difference,” said the 26-year-old. “There were some really good bits other than that though, so in general it’s positive.
“I think I’m in good form, I’m putting down good runs and it’s about tweaking little bits. It’s all slowly coming, you can see from my qualification performances, and it’s about putting it together in the final.
“We’ve got two weeks at home of normal training now and topping up gym stuff before going to Tokyo.
“The most important thing has always been Tokyo but we can focus on that as our next race now.
“I liked the course when I tried it in 2019, hopefully we can get out there, get used to it and build from there.”
First down the course in the semi-final, Sophie Ogilvie set the standard with 129.28 and ended up in 24th place.
In the C1M competition, there was to be no repeat of last week’s sublime World Cup silver for David Florence who exited at the semi-final stage.
David’s boat speed was clear for all to see as he finished 12th in the heats and made good time down a difficult course, leading by 0.85 and 0.31 at the checkpoints.
Sadly a late error saw the Scot give away a touch on the 25th and final gate. He finished 21st in 105.19s, coming up 4.66 short of the top ten.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” said the 38-year-old. “I was on a perfectly good run for the final going down to the final few gates, and one big error cost me a place in the final today.
“To come away with a silver from these World Cups is still a good outcome, and I’m pretty pleased on the whole with the way I’m paddling.
“It’s a long time until my next race, so it’s about taking advantage of all the training time and hopefully build on good paddling on my return to racing.
“The aim is to get in really good shape for the remaining World Cups and the World Championships.”
Meanwhile, Britain showed their teeth in the rough and tumble of Extreme Slalom with Sophie Ogilvie and Joe Clarke both making finals.
Having taken a silver medal in Prague, Fiona Pennie showed her strength in the format to win both her heat and quarter-final before missing out at the semi-final stage.
Sophie finished second in her heat, took victory in her quarter-final and took fourth place in the medal run-off in a mature performance.
Clarke was typically tenacious en route to the final, where he missed the second gate and incurred a Fault, which saw him finish fourth.
Chris Bowers won his heat and quarter-finals, but he was knocked out with fourth place at the semi-final stage.
Reflecting on the day’s racing, Head Coach Mark Ratcliffe said: “Overall, it was a tough day for the team and I felt for them.
“Mallory was paddling well and a little error was very costly in the end, but she showed great attitude to paddle back and put a run down in the end which was credit to her.
“There was a mistake at the bottom for David, who had gone well up to that point.
“It’s a difficult course and there was such a big spread of times in the finals. The door was open if you got to the final to win a medal, unfortunately it wasn’t to be today.
“We’re early days with Extreme Slalom, we’re trying to learn as much as we can, but it was good to see the paddlers taking it on, particularly young Sophie and Chris taking it on.
“Sophie and Joe were only one place off the medals in eventful finals, I’m sure they’ll be pleased coming away having reached the final but just short of a medal.
“The World Cups are about getting races under our belt and all of the athletes have shown their speed in different rounds. They’ve had to show it in different scenarios at these competitions so it’s been really good practice.
“Ultimately this is a stepping stone period into the Games, and we’re confident heading to Tokyo. The last few weeks have been a good workout for us.”