Slalom Racers (and Spectators) Ready for Maryland’s Slalom World Championships (Plus: TV Schedule)

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It’s been 25 years since the ICF World Slalom Championships came to the U.S., when they took place on Maryland’s Savage River in 1989. Not they’re back, this time coming to Maryland’s Adventure Sports Center International, the only mountaintop re-circulating whitewater course in the world, Sept. 17-21, marking just the second time in history the event has been held in the U.S.

“It’s awesome to have the Slalom Worlds in the US again,” says Kent Ford, who competed in the 1989 event and will be announcing this year’s Worlds. “I’ve been watching some of the competitors, and the level of performance today is outrageous.”

Drawing nearly 10,000 spectators daily, in 1989, the event was held on the Savage River, just 30 minutes down the road from the ASCI artificial course. In 1989, U.S. C-1 stars Jon Lugbill and Davey Hearn won six of 24 medals, including two gold. In 2001, the Worlds were slated to be held on Tennessee’s Ocoee River, but they were cancelled due to 9-11. The 2013 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships were held in Prague, Czech Republic.

This year, the world’s premier kayakers and canoeists will descend upon Deep Creek, Maryland, as the Championships return to the United States for the first time in 25 years.

“I’m super excited that the World Championships are coming back to Maryland,” says Lugbill, who won his unprecedented fifth World Championships gold medal as a 28-year-old with what has been called “one of the greatest slalom runs of all time.”

But he’s the first to admit that the sport might not be quite occupy the same stage that it did back in his day. “I think that slalom racing has diminished significantly over the past 25 years in the U.S.,” he says. “Looking back, we were extremely fortunate to have a very intense, small group of dedicated athletes led by a very dynamic leader, Bill Endicott. The rise of the U.S. as a world power in paddling corresponded with the arrival of Bill as our coach.”

Still, the U.S. team is hoping for a strong showing in their home country. The U.S. will be trying to break a World Championship medal drought dating back to 2002, when Rebecca Giddens won the K1 gold in Bourg St. Maurice, France. The last U.S. man to capture a medal at the showcase event was Scott Shipley, who won the silver in K1 in Spain in 1999.

One of the biggest hopes for the U.S this year is Michal Smolen, 20, who took the gold at this year’s Under-23 World Championships in Australia and won his first-ever World Cup medal in Prague in June. Also representing the U.S. will be recent French transplant Fabien Lefevre, 32, a 13-time world championship medalist now in his second season competing for USA Canoe/Kayak.

“The atmosphere at the Adventure Sports Center International is incredible,” says Deep Creek 2014 Executive Director Todd Copley, touting training by athletes from nine different countries. “It should be a great event and bring tremendous international focus to Maryland’s scenic western-most county.”

The event is expected to draw 300 athletes from over 35 countries, 20,000 spectators, and be aired to 21.5 million international broadcast television viewers around the world. The 2015 Championships will be held in London, England, site of the 2012 Olympic Games.

TV Broadcast Schedule
NBC SPORTS NETWORK & NBC Universal
NBCSN airs on Oct. 18, 2014, 5:30-6pm EST & Oct. 19, 2014 2:30-3pm

Who to Watch For/Past Medal Winners
2011 ICF World Championships:
Gold Medal:

C1 Denis Gargaud (FRA)
C1 Team: Michal Martikan (SVK)
C1W Team: Jessica Fox/Rosalyn Lawrence (AUS)
K1W Corinne Kuhnle (AUT)
C2Team: Denis Gargaud/Fabien Lefevre (FRA)
Silver Medal:
C2 Denis Gargaud/Fabien Lefevre (FRA)
K1 Mateus Potacyzyk (POL)
K1Team: Fabien Lefevre (FRA)

2012 Olympics:
Gold Medal:

K1 Daniele Molmenti (ITA)
K1W Emilie Fer (FRA)
Silver Medal:
K1W Jessica Fox (AUS)
Bronze Medal:
C1 Michal Martikan (SLO)

2013 ICF World Championships:
Gold Medal:

C1 David Florence (GBR)
C2 David Florence/Richard Hounslow (GBR)
C1 Michal Martikan (SVK)
C1W Jessica Fox (AUS)
C1Team: Jessica Fox/Rosalyn Lawrence (AUS)
K1 Team: Daniele Molmenti (ITA)
K1W Emilie Fer (FRA)
Silver Medal:
K1W Nouria Newman (FRA)
Bronze Medal:
C1Team: Denis Gargaud/Nicolas Peschier (FRA)
C2 Team: David Florence/Richard Hounsley…Rhys Davies/Matthew Lister (GBR)
C1W Caroline Loir (FRA)

NBC SPORTS NETWORK & NBC Universal
NBCSN airs on Oct 18th, 2014 5:30-6p EST & Oct 19th, 2014 2:30-3p