The new slalom course was in full flow, offering many of the world’s best paddles the chance to challenge their skills and test the waters of the technically difficult channel, giving both the venue and racers a thorough competitive test ahead of next year’s Games.
With two days of a standard Olympic schedule squeezed into one, plenty of racing ensued as each of the four classes contested their semifinal and final runs. In the end, four champions were crowned at the Aquece Rio International Canoe Slalom Challenge under dramatically contrasting weather.
The racing was split into two sessions: the C1M and K1M completed theirs in bright sunshine, while the C2M and K1W battled torrential rain and lightning.
In C1M, David Florence (GBR) added two more medals to his ever-swelling collection under the Jekyll and Hyde conditions. After dominating the C1M event from start to finish, the multiple-World Champion joined Richard Hounslow to take silver in the C2M behind Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat (SLO).
“They have set the gates really, really hard for this competition,” said Florence afterward, underlining the course’s difficulty. “I saw a lot of mistakes from a lot of athletes. Not many people managed to have a perfect run. It was really difficult.”
Japan’s Takuya Haneda was Florence’s closest challenger in C1M and finished with a silver medal. Cameron Smedley (CAN) rounded out the podium in the individual class, whilst Russia’s Mikhail Kuznetsov and Dmitry Larionov did the same in the doubles.
After disappointing runs in the opening rounds, Mathieu Biazizzo (FRA) demonstrated why he is considered one of the best up-and-coming K1M stars on the international circuit. The 24-year-old managed to squeeze a three-second advantage over his closest rivals at the top end of the course, a margin he retained until the end.
“In the semifinal I felt slow, like I was under the water all the time,” said the 2014 World Championship bronze medalist. “But in the final I was kind of flying, it was really great.” Biazizzo’s compatriot, Sebastien Combot (FRA) took bronze, with Germany’s Sebastian Schubert squeezed in-between.
Violetta Obliger-Peters (AUS), 38, turned back the clock and demonstrated superb composure to set a target time of 105.77 that was eventually unanswered by the world-class roster. Fourth out of the blocks, the Austrian was over a second quicker than the rest of the field managing to hold off challenges from the recently crowned World Champion, Katerina Kudejova (CZE, silver) and the talented Maialen Chourrant (ESP, bronze).
Click HEREfor Mathieu Biazizzo (FRA) talking through his winning run in K1M.