September 11 – GAINESVILLE, GA. – Competition at the 33rd International Canoe Federation Flatwater Racing World Championships began with strong performances from the expected favorites and set up the Championships for three more days of fierce, down-to-the-wire competition. Weekend tickets were still available as of Friday, Sept. 12.
The first of four full days of competition for athletes from around the world, Thursday was the beginning of the first canoe/kayak world championships ever held in the United States and one of the largest canoe/kayak world championships ever in terms of participating countries.
More than 500 athletes from 66 nations will compete through the weekend at Lake Lanier to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Of the 246 paddlers who will compete in Greece, more than half can qualify this week in Gainesville.
The event is a tangible symbol of the Olympic legacy that began at Lake Lanier during 1996 Olympics and has continued to the present.
Today’s notable performances include:
– The Hungarian team exerted its paddling prowess once again with first place showings in the heats of the women’s K1 1000m and 500m by Katalin Kovacs, men’s K2 1000m and 500m, men’s K4 500m and 1000m, women’s K4 500m, K1 500m by Akos Vereckei, men’s C1 500m by Gyorgy Kolonics, men’s C2 500m, women’s K2 500m.
– The United States team showed promise with strong performances from Rami Zur, a potential medallist in the men’s K1 500m who finished first in his heat, and Ruth Nortje, who finished second in her K1 500m heat. Local paddlers Sonrisa Reed (8th in K4 500m) and Ty Hagler (6th in K2 1000m) of Gainesville also competed for the U.S. team.
The majority of favorites and previous World Champions advanced as expected.
Finish times from today’s races suggest this will be one of the fastest World Championships ever and one of deepest, according to Olympic gold medalists Greg Barton and Norman Bellingham. No single class was weak or wide open and no particular paddler or team dominated the competition. With such parity, every World Championship title is up in the air and the competition is bound to be exciting.
A complete list of today’s results is available at LanierCanoe2003.org .