Sept. 14 – GAINESVILLE, GA. – Hungary dominated the World Championships, winning nine gold medals and 13 overall, but Germany and Poland qualified more boats for the 2004 Olympics.
The conclusion of the 33rd International Canoe Federation Flatwater Racing World Championships, which wrapped up in Georgia on Sunday, signals the bittersweet end of a long journey.
Overall, the Lake Lanier Olympic Center racecourse delivered fast times and ideal sprint racing conditions. Like past world championships, this one was dominated by teams from Central and Eastern Europe. But strong showings from non-Europeans demonstrate that canoe/kayak is a growing sport around the world.
Following are just a few of the many highlights of the 2003 World Championships:
The United States qualified two boats for the 2004 Olympics as Rami Zur and Ruth Nortje paddled to fourth-place finishes in the men’s and women’s K1 500m, respectively. When asked about his race and his goals for the next year, Zur said, “In the final, I was flying. It felt so good … I made the hard decision to leave my family [in Israel] and come to the United States for the Olympics. I have made all the sacrifices to win a gold medal. That’s what I’m going for.”
Hungary won the most medals (13) and by far the most gold medals (9), but Germany and Poland qualified more boats for the 2004 Olympics – eight each to Hungary’s seven. Canada and Spain both qualified six boats for the Olympics.
Hungary’s gold-medal count is largely due to a spectacular performance by the Hungarian women, who won gold in every women’s event except the K1 200m. Caroline Brunet of Canada snapped their streak by taking gold in that event.
For the first time in history, no Europeans finished in the top three in a world championship K-1 1,000m, and for only the second time ever, a non-European won gold in the K1 1,000m (U.S.’s Greg Barton placed first in 1987). Ben Fouhy of New Zealand won gold, followed by Adam Van Koeverden of Canada (2nd) and Australia’s Nathan Baggaley (3rd).
More information about the 33rd International Canoe Federation Flatwater Racing World Championships, including photographs, list of participating nations and athletes, and complete competition results, is available online at LanierCanoe2003.orgw.