By Joe Potoczak
Fabien Lefevre, the young French superstar turned American veteran, today won the 2014 C-1 world championship at home in his adopted country. It’s Lefevre’s seventh ICF world championship gold, but his first in C-1, and first as an American.
"I had the crowd on my side, pushing me downstream," Lefevre says. The roar flowed down the course like an oncoming wave as Lefevre surged through the gates this afternoon. A stampede of Lefevre’s teammates followed on the bank, flying the American flag overhead, urging him on.
Lefevre crossed the finish line and pumped his fist into the air, knowing that he’d run fast, and–so he thought–clean. But an official had signaled a gate touch near the bottom of the course. The initial result, including a two-second time penalty, showed Lefevre in silver. The penalty went under review and was soon overturned. Lefevre was confirmed as the 2014 world champion in C-1, in a blazing 106.82. Lefevre has now won world championship gold in K-1, C-2, and now C-1.
Benjamin Savsek of Slovenia took silver in 108.62. The German Franz Anton was third in 110.30.
"I did not expect to do that so quickly," says Lefevre on capturing gold in the C-1, a discipline he has only been racing in for the past couple of seasons.
"I did not feel a touch," Lefevre adds of the penalty that nearly kept him from gold. "I am happy the judges looked at it and made the proper call." The champion would be embraced by his friends, teammates, and the most important part of any athlete’s support group, his family.
But the celebration would have to wait. Moments after his C-1 run, and before he knew he’d won that event, Lefevre switched his canoe for a kayak to contest the K-1 final. "In the starting area I felt great. I said to myself, ‘Okay, let’s do that again.’" But he seemingly had used up his magic in the C-1 race. He missed a gate, and finished 10th in the kayak.
The K-1 men’s medals–all of them–would instead go to Lefevre’s former teammates, the French. Boris Neveu took gold, Sebastien Combot in silver and Mathieu Biazizzo in bronze. First place is a position Neveu had become accustomed to in this slalom worlds, where he posted the fastest time in the heats, semis and finals.
— LOUISE (@Louise_Bichet) September 20, 2014
"It feels good. It is like a dream for me to win," Neveu says of his K-1 victory. The French men would also go on to win the K-1 team event, putting the stamp on a superb French performance. It’s the first French podium sweep ever, and the first by any nation since 1949.
Australian Jessica Fox took her family legacy to a whole new level today. The daughter of legendary paddlers Myriam Jerusalmi and Richard Fox, Jessica has it in her blood to be a champion. She accomplished just that today in women’s C-1, defeating the next closest opponent, Mallory Franklin, by more than five seconds. In this level of competition that is a landslide. But that isn’t where this story ends. Twenty-five years ago, before she was even born, her parents each won gold at the legendary 1989 Savage worlds, just down the road from the Deep Creek 2014 venue. Richard Fox won the gold in men’s K-1, and Jerusalmi won the women’s K-1. "It nice to be back where it all happened for them," says the young champion. "It’s great seeing them reconnect with old friends and rivals." Fox will race for gold again in tomorrow’s K-1 women’s final.
C&K’s report from morning semis:
Fabien Lefevre continues to impress the field and keep the U.S. in the medal hunt, finishing in first place in this morning’s semi-final round of men’s C-1. The top seed going into the C-1 final will have his work cut out for him today though. His early run was the first of five he will now have to complete today–finals in both the C-1 and K-1, followed by the C-1 and K-1 team races. With each run down the course an all-out effort of about a minute and 40 seconds, it will be an exhausting day for Lefevre, and possibly a triumphant one.
The other two US men in the C-1 semi-final Casey Eichfeld and Zachary Lokken did not advance to the finals, but have enjoyed the experience here nonetheless.
"I really enjoyed the opportunity," says Lokken of his chance to take part in both the Worlds in the US and his first ever semi-final appearance at a Worlds. "I just wanted to get as far as I could," adds Lokken who also stated that he just wants to keep improving with each race. He moved up a position from the preliminary round, from 22nd to 21st a silver lining Lokken is happy to walk away with.
Casey Eichfeld, one of the team leaders and an ambassador of this year’s slalom worlds was also unable to advance. Eichfeld was hammering down the course with each forward stroke, and the raw time he posted would have easily slid him into the final. But a couple of costly penalties would prove to be the difference for Eichfeld, ending his race in 19th place for this year’s championship.
Lokken, Eichfeld, and Lefevre will work together later today to try and win gold in the team race, an exciting format where all three athletes will chase each other down the course. They know how to win that race, accomplishing the feat earlier this summer at the World Cup final in Augsburg, Germany