While men’s K-1 paddler Brett Heyl garnished seventh at the recent World Slalom Championships in Spain, that’s as high as U.S. paddlers fared. PL got in touch with the U.S. team’s head coach, Silvan Poberaj, to share his thoughts on our team’s performance…
Silvan Poberaj: In His Own Words:
I don’t like to generalize in an individual sport, so I’ll go athlete by athlete. If I’m happy or not with the results, I am happy for those athletes who did up to their potential and their expectations, and not happy when the athletes are not satisfied with their results.
At this Worlds we had athletes in K-1 Men (Brett Heyl, Scott Mann, Jim Wade), C-1 Men (Benn Fraker, Casey Eichfeld, Zach Lokken) and C1 Women (Carolin Peterson, Haley Thompson, Micky Reeves).
All three athletes had their best performances at the Worlds so far. Brett had a very solid Qualification race and a very good Semifinal run. In the Final run he made one bigger technical error at the very end of the course, which cost him a few seconds. Without that error he would have been very close to a medal. Brett was very happy with his performance.
Scott Mann and Jim Wade did not make it past the Qualification, but they raced relatively well and aren’t disappointed with how they raced. With the new slalom rules, where best of two runs counts in the Qualification and only 20 go to the semifinals (out of 90 boats competing), it’s really hard in the K-1 class to make it to the Semifinals. There was only two seconds from the second place to 20th. Scott was a half a second out of the Semifinal with a run without penalties, and Jim had a clean run without any penalties, but also came up one second too slow.
All three athletes are still young enough and they still have room for improvement. I expect that the competition for the one Olympic boat for the London Games will be very interesting and that all three paddlers will be very competitive internationally in the next few years.
This team was very young. Benn Fraker is just 20 years old, Casey is 19 and Lokken 15. After this year’s World Cup results, we expected that Fraker was capable of making the Finals. His first run was okay, but not good enough for the Semifinal. His second run was very fast, but the judges gave him a 50-second penalty for a missed gate that was actually a touch; I’m still convinced that it should have only been a two-second penalty. This result was disappointing, but I’m convinced that he will prove in the future that he can place at the top on the biggest international competitions.
For Casey this was his first Worlds in a C-1 class. For his age and experience, he was relatively fast, but had too many penalty touches. He finished maybe just slightly bellow his potential. Lokken was probably the youngest athlete in C-1 class at this worlds. He can be very happy with his second run. I did not expect anything more from him at this Worlds.
This class was a Demonstration event at this Worlds. Our athletes finished in the middle, just outside top 10. This was the first year that the C-1 women competed internationally, so it was hard to have any expectations regarding the results. The best slalom paddlers at this event were already very good with many years of training in a K-1W class. All our C-1 women athletes were C-1 paddlers only, and mostly new in the sport. It will take a few years of hard training to be able to catch up to those athletes who already have a lot of experience racing K-1.