Krisztina Zur Snags Silver

California's bright Olympic hope takes second at sprint kayak world championships

Zur, 30, claimed four World Cup sprint kayak (K-1) victories for her native Hungary before emigrating to the U.S. and marrying three-time Olympic sprint kayaker Rami Zur. Now she is one of America's top canoe/kayak medal hopes. Photo Chris Bishow

SZEGED, Hungary — Krisztina Zur (Newport Beach, Calif.) won a silver medal Friday in the Women’s K-1, 1000-meter race at the 2011 ICF Sprint World Championships. The Hungarian-American finished in 4 minutes, 13.47 seconds, 2.08 second behind the first place finisher, Tamara Csipes of Hungary. Zur, who won four 2011 World Cup Series medals, led through the first two splits in the non-Olympic event.

The World Championships serve as a major Olympic qualifier for the disciplines currently on the Olympic program for London 2012. The Olympic qualification events were, as you would expect, very hotly contested. The young Team USA members fared quite well, considering this is the first World Championships for many.

Zur at a race leading up to this week's world championship. Photo courtesy USACK.

Oklahoma City High Performance Team members Jen Burke (San Diego) and Kaitlyn McElroy (Oklahoma City) placed ninth in the Women’s K-2, 1000m A Final, a non-Olympic event. They finished in 4:03.84, +13.224 back from the winner. In Men’s Canoe, Robert Finlayson (Gainesville, Ga.) finished seventh in the C-1, 1000m C Final, 18.53 behind the first place finisher. Finlayson also teamed up with Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club teammates Ben Hefner (Gainesville, Ga.), Ian Ross (Bethesda, Md.) and Alejandro Schwedhelm (Potomac, Md.) to place eighth in the Men’s C-4, 1000m A Final, a non-Olympic event.

In Women’s Kayak, two-time Olympian Carrie Johnson (San Diego) finished second in her heat and fifth in her semifinal to advance to Saturday’s K-1, 500m B Final. She will also compete for an Olympic slot for Team USA in the Women’s K-1, 200m event beginning Saturday.

Maggie Hogan (San Diego) and Ariel Farrar-Wellman (Bethesda, Md.) placed sixth in their heat and their semifinal to reach Saturday’s K-2, 500m B Final.

The Men’s K-4 boat comprised of Luke Michael (Kailua, Hawaii), Jake Michael (Kailua, Hawaii), Pat Dolan (Kailua, Hawaii) and Morgan House (Gainesville, Ga.) found the competition too hot and did not advance to the 1000m finals. They finished sixth in their heat and eighth in their semifinal.

“Unfortunately, our K-4 Olympic dream came to an end today,” Jake Michael said. “We had been feeling great and doing some fast times coming into today. We did our best on the day and, unfortunately, on the day in the conditions we were dealt, our best was not quite good enough.”

The U.S. ParaCanoe athletes, however, fared quite well, kicking off the worlds championships Thursday with two medals. Robert Balk (Moravia, N.Y.) won the silver medal in Men’s V-1, 200m, while Tami Hetke (Boulder Creek, Calif.) took bronze in Women’s V-1, 200m. Balk crossed the line in 1:02.98, three-hundredths of a second behind the first place finisher.

CLICK HERE for a link to the full press release and links to athlete bios, and more information on the conclusion of this weekend’s championships.

Click HERE for more info and results from the world championships.

In other finishes from the world championships, from the ICF news desk:

Attila Vajda (HUN) the 2008 Olympic champion who enjoys a national hero status among Hungarians, thrilled a partisan hometown crowd with a momentous display of power and determination to stave off a last-minute charge by Spaniard David Cal and claim his second World title.

“I had energy from my father, this medal is dedicated to him,” Vajda said of his beloved father, David, who passed away in February. “He was holding my hand and he gave me more power the whole way.”

In a nail-biting sprint in the last 100 meters of the C1 1000m race, Vajda said he saw Cal on the charge but said to himself, “No David, this is not your race, this is not your course, and this is not your medal.”

In an event where ranking has been decided by thousandths of seconds, Vajda’s finish time revealed a decisive win, though it looked like a photo finish to those in the raucous grandstands. Vajda’s 4:04.749 was nearly 1.3 seconds faster than Cal and 3.4 seconds faster than defending champ Vadim Menkov (UZB).

Check out this video from a recent ICF Canoe-Kayak Sprint World Cup event in Racice, Czech Rep., leading up to this weekend’s championship:

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