Nil, nunca, nada. That’s how many sprint paddling spots the U.S. team has earned for the 2012 London Olympics after the recent ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, where perennial powerhouses Germany and Russia took home 11 medals each. But there’s still one more chance to secure a berth. PL checks in with U.S. Sprint National Senior Team Coach Guy Wilding for the state of sprint in the states…
In all, 94 countries competed in the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, with host country Hungary taking the second-place hotspot with 10 medals followed by Belarus with eight. The U.S.’s lone bright spot came from Krista Zur taking silver in the K1 1000m, which isn’t an Olympic event.
“This was a predominantly young and inexperienced U.S. team still in a re-building phase,” says Sprint National Senior Team Coach Guy Wilding. “The men’s K4 for example had only been together since April and were competing against probably the best men’s K4 field ever assembled. On top of that they drew the hardest semi final (into a strong head wind – which didn’t suit our smaller team). The current Olympic Champions (Belarus) did not make the final, the current World Champions (France) did not make the A or B final and the current European Champions (Portugal) did not make the A final – so we were in good company not progressing.
Things are also nascent for the U.S. on the women’s front. “Likewise, the women’s K4 were only together since July,” adds Wilding. “So they were pretty much thrown to the wolves as well.”
Still, he does see some promise moving forward. “We had some good results,” he says, giving a nod to Krista Zur’s silver in the K1 1000m and fourth in the K1 5000m (both non-Olympic events), as well as several A finals, B finals and C finals. “This was a big improvement on last year’s World Championships.”
For individual accolades, Poland’s Piotr Siemionowski won the Men’s K1 200m, with Edward McKeever taking second, unable to defend his World Champion status acquired last year in Poznan. “It’s funny to win a Silver medal and be disappointed, but races like this are down to fine margins,” he says.
Shortly later, the British duo of Jon Schofield and Liam Heath upgraded last year’s Bronze to a Silver, finishing behind France in the 32-second dash. The London Olympic Games will be the first time the Men’s K2 200m event will be included in the Olympic program.
Canada’s Laurence Vincent-LaPointe captured her second gold medal of these games with a win in the Women’s C1 200m final. Her first Gold came with partner Mallorie Nicholson in C2 500m. “It’s a really nice sport,” says Vincent-LaPointe. “I feel free when I do it. Even if I’m tired and my body is hurting, it feels like you did something great, it makes you feel strong and accomplished.”
Katalin Kovacs and Danuta Kozak added the final Gold to Hungary’s cache of 10 gold medals. After a rare miss of the podium in K-2 500m event (fourth), Kovacs came charging back with Danuta Kozak to claim Gold in the K2 200m event.
The U.S. isn’t the only country looking to better its mark. Disappointed that the emphasis he placed on Men’s K4 1000m team this past year didn’t pay off, Hungarian Head Coach Botond Storcz, while glad for his team’s 10 medals, is focusing on the future: “There are still some gaps that need to be filled next year and that’s the main task at hand,” the three-time Olympic gold medalist says.
The U.S., likewise, is looking ahead as sprint approaches its next Olympic year next summer in London. “We have our second-chance hemispheric qualifier at Mexico’s Pan American Games in October, and based on the World Championship results, although it will be difficult, we should pick up a few Olympic spots there,” says Wilding.
Complete results: www.Szeged2011.com
Event photos: Click Here .