|Olympic spots are looming. The biggest field of athletes in more than 15 years will take to the waters of La Seu in Spain this week, with the double goal of becoming 2019 ICF canoe slalom world champion, and also earning their country a place at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
For many countries competing in Spain, the World Championships will also be part of their Tokyo selection process. Some teams, such as Germany, will finalise their athletes for the Olympics this weekend.
Only Augsburg in 2003, an Olympic qualifier for the Athens 2004 Olympics, can boast a bigger world championships field of countries and competitors.
450 athletes from 63 countries are expected to compete in La Seu. The top 18 countries in both men’s and women’s K1, and the top 11 countries in men’s and women’s C1, will qualify a place at Tokyo 2020.
No country will be allowed to qualify more than one athlete per event for Tokyo, meaning in some disciplines athletes who finish outside the top 20 could still earn their country a ticket to the 2020 Olympics.
Every world champion from 2018 will be back to defend their title in La Seu. Hannes Aigner, the K1 title holder, has already locked away his place on the German Olympic team, and goes into this week without the pressure of worrying about Tokyo.
His German teammate, Franz Anton, will not only be trying to defend his C1 world crown, but also trying to finish ahead of fellow German, Sideris Tasiadis, to secure a ticket for the Olympics.
Australia’s Jessica Fox, who last year won the K1/C1 world title double for a second time, will be looking for a clean sweep for a record-breaking third year. She will start favourite in the women’s C1, but may have to settle for second-favouritism in the K1 behind Germany’s Ricarda Funk.
Funk sealed her Olympic quota in Markkleeberg last month, and is now free to concentrate on winning her first ever world title, after winning a silver and two bronze medals at her last three attempts.
This weekend will also see the ICF Wildwater World Championships contested in La Seu. The slalom and wildwater world titles were successfully combined in Pau, France, in 2017, and will come together again in Spain.
35 countries will compete in wildwater, with the Czech Republic, Slovenia and France expected to once again be the toughest teams to beat.
Czech Martina Satkova has been a dominant paddler in wildwater in recent seasons, and will start favourite to win both the women’s K1 and C1 titles this week.
Czech teammate Ondrej Rolenc won his second consecutive C1 title in Switzerland last year and will be looking to bring up a hat-trick at La Seu, while Slovenian pair Simon Oven and Nejc Znidarcic will be hard to beat in the men’s K1.
The 2019 ICF canoe slalom and wildwater world championships begin on Wednesday, with competition in the team events. Of most interest will be the performance of Slovakia’s C1 men’s team of Michal Martikan, Matej Benus and Alexander Slafkovsky.
The trio will put aside their battle for their country’s one available C1 Olympic position to try and win an incredible ninth consecutive team world title for Slovakia.