Philip Miles (Royal Leamington Spa), Emma Russell (Chelmsford) and Kristina Armstrong of Linlithgow led the charge in their respective A finals to conclude an excellent weekend of racing at the Junior and U23 European Canoe Sprint Championships in Belgrade.
It was Philip Miles who was in the first A Final of the day. He finished ninth in the U23 men’s 500m medal race, continuing his fine form to set a new personal best time over the 500m distance, crossing the line in a time of 1:40.939. Having also set a new personal record in the B Final of the 1000m yesterday, Philip is looking to carry on his form ahead of the selection regatta for the Under-23 World Championships which will be held in Nottingham next weekend.
He said: “The conditions were favourable for racing today so I’m pleased that I achieved those times.
“This is the first time I’ve raced internationally at 500m so I’ve taken lots of learnings as I’ve progressed through the rounds. To have no expectations on outcomes it was great to make the A final and deliver well.
"I just wanted to say thanks to all of the coaches and staff, those out here and those back home, who have done a really good job at motivating us all."
Emma Russell continued her great form to finish in eighth place in the women’s event, crossing the line in 1:52.87 after a close finish. With the Senior World and European Championships on the horizon in August, Emma was pleased with her race delivery in Belgrade.
“I’m pleased with my racing throughout the weekend. Each round was better and I took something away from each race. It was a close final too which meant it was really exciting racing.
“I’ll now head back with the team to prepare ahead of the senior World and European Championships and I’ll take real confidence from the way I followed my processes and plans, to deliver the races that I did.”
Daniel Atkins (Reading) and Ieuan James (Scottish Performance Squad) saved their best race until last in the men’s K2 U23 500m.
Having only just made it into the B final after finishing with the fastest eighth place time in the semi-finals, the pairing grasped their opportunity in Sunday’s B final to finish in third place, overtaking Belgian duo Kilian Meersmans and Rafael Bastiaens with late surge to the line.
And after improving their semi-final time by almost two seconds, 21-year-old Atkins believes the duo’s partnership is on the right trajectory after a productive few days in Belgrade.
“We came into this regatta knowing there were a lot of learnings still to go especially having jumped to K2 just before the World Cups and we had a few different race strategies,” he said.
“We learnt a lot through the heats and the semi-final and we managed to pull together the most complete race in the B final and we just about pipped the Belgians in the last few metres.
“So overall we’re really happy with how much we’ve learnt in this regatta and we’re looking forward to pushing on to the other competitions later in the year.
“There’s lots of training to get under our belt still, lots of sessions to really build that back end of the race but really happy with how we are coming together and gelling as a crew.
“We’re learning how to work better with each other every day. The key is being able to race against the best in the world and it’s very beneficial racing against these guys.
“They are all going for the same goal as you and going toe-to-toe the whole way down. It puts you under pressure and helps you build that experience up, it’s really good.”
In the K2 Junior Men 500m B final, Benjamin Cabrera (Fowey) and Dominic Stanley (Falcon) also finished their weekend on a high with a strong fourth-place finish.
The pairing crossed the finish line in 1:36.393 as they narrowly missed out on third to the Turkish duo of Idris Senturk and Emircan Ayakli to round off an encouraging display in Belgrave.
Cabrera returned to action in the K1 Junior Men 200m B final in the afternoon, finishing in sixth place with a time of 38.798 as he set a new personal best time over the distance.
Meanwhile, Honor Lewis (Wey) finished seventh with a PB of her own in the B final of the women’s K1 Junior 500m while Dylan O’Connor (Richmond) finished eighth in the men’s event.
Finally, Kristina Armstrong (Linlithgow) concluded the British participation in Belgrade on Sunday with the A final of the K1 Junior 200m, finishing ninth in 44.143.
“I came into the competition with making the A final as my main goal so I was delighted to achieve that,” said Armstrong. “It was a great feeling in the semi-final to qualify.
“I went out there today and gave it my all and I wasn’t expecting anything but it was really enjoyable. I could hear the crowd really loudly and I was really happy with my time.”
And coach Brendon Stead added: “I’ve been really impressed with the team. Some of them are very new to racing and they have developed well throughout the weekend.
“There has been a good feeling in the team with the more senior members supporting the juniors and there has been a real togetherness that has been great to see.
“Ieuan James and Daniel Atkins put in a great performance in their B final while Philip Miles set a new PB today. Emma Russell has also improved a lot in a short space of time.
“In the Juniors, Honor Lewis produced a new personal best as did Benji Cabrera in his 500m B final. The racing has been great and all in all it’s been a very pleasing weekend.”
K1 U23 Women 500m A Final - Emma Russell (Chelmsford) – 8th
K1 Junior Women 200m A Final - Kristina Armstrong (Linlithgow) – 9th
K1 U23 Men 500m A Final - Philip Miles (Royal Leamington Spa) – 9th
K2 U23 Men 500m B Final - Ieuan James (Scottish Performance Squad), Daniel Atkins (Reading) – 3rd
K1 Junior Men 500m B Final Dylan O’Connor (Richmond) – 8th
K2 Junior Men 500m B Final - Benjamin Cabrera (Fowey), Dominic Stanley (Falcon) – 4th
K1 Junior Men 200m B Final - Benjamin Cabrera (Fowey) – 6th
K1 Junior Women 500m B Final - Honor Lewis (Wey) – 7th