With the 2018 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships (September 25-30) set to begin tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, here are some things to watch for at this year’s event:
Will Jessica Fox continue her run of dominance in Rio?
Calling it a banner year for Fox would be an understatement. The Australian two-time Olympic medalist had nothing short of a historic World Cup season, winning three golds and a silver in K-1 and five golds in C-1 to become the first athlete to win the World Cup overall in two categories. She also became the first athlete, male or female, to win every race in a season, a feat neither her father nor mother were able to accomplish during their storied slalom careers. Now she’s poised to make a run at another double-world championship title on the same course where she took home a bronze medal in K-1 at the 2016 Olympics.
The return of Fabien Lefevre
After taking a two-year hiatus from racing, Fabien Lefevre (USA) returns to the start line to compete in both K-1 and C-1. Already considered one of the most accomplished racers in the history of slalom with two Olympic medals and a world championship medals in three categories (K-1, C-1, and C-2), Lefevre hopes to show that he hasn’t lost a step as he continues his push toward Toyko 2020. This will be his first world championship start since the 2014 World Championships in Deep Creek, Md., where he won gold in C-1 and finished top-10 in K-1.
A chance for redemption
With nearly the entire field from the Rio Olympics competing at this year’s world championships, most will be looking to earn a spot on the podium that eluded them two years ago. Meanwhile, many of the world’s top racers who missed out on the games because athlete quota limits (for the Olympics, each country only gets a maximum of one boat per category) will now have their shot to take down the Olympians and leave Rio with their own hardware.
Year 2 of the Slalom Cross
After making its world championship debut in 2017, the Slalom Cross is back once more. The event that has slalom racers get into plastic boats and smash into each other while trying to get around American Ninja Warrior-esque foam gates was a fan favorite last season; it will be interesting to watch once again, but probably not for the reasons you think.
This year, there is an added hazard. For some reason, the organizers in Rio are running the course with one less pump than for the Olympics, which means lower water. Since artificial courses already tend to be shallow, there is no avoiding hitting the plastic obstacles strewn throughout the channel. Heavy boats coupled with shallow water don’t really make for great conditions to go fast and create separation. Therefore the odds of some sort of carnage could increase exponentially. As I said, should be interesting…
Outlook for the U.S. Team
After an up-and-down World Cup season, Michal Smolen hopes to regain his medal-winning form on a course he’s quite familiar with from his time preparing for the 2016 Olympics. He’s got the speed and the skill to do it, but the margin for error is extremely thin in the ultra-competitive men’s K-1 category. Smolen will also look to win his second medal of the season in the Slalom Cross.
Casey Eichfeld, another Rio Olympian, has an opportunity to breakthrough for his first world championship medal in C-1 at the same venue as he made his first Olympic final. Zach “Bug” Lokken has been inconsistent in 2018, but also has the talent to make waves if he can put it all together.
The women’s team is comprised of Olympian Ashley Nee and two up-and-coming juniors. After winning U.S. Team Trials in April, Ria Sribar will try to put together a solid race in K-1 at her first senior world championships. Sribar also happens to be the youngest competitor at this year’s event. Meanwhile, after taking a year off, Ashley Nee will put her skills to the test as she competes in her first world championships since 2015.
- Sept 25 – Team Races
- Sept 26 – C1 Men’s & K-1 Women’s heats
- Sept 27 – C1 Women’s & K-1 Men’s heats; Men’s & Women’s Slalom Cross time trial
- Sept 28 – C1 Men’s & K-1 Women’s semifinal; Mixed C-2 semifinal & final
- Sept 29 – C1 Men’s & C-1 Women’s final; C1 Women’s & K-1 Men’s semifinal
- Sept 30 – C1 Women’s & K-1 Men’s final; Men’s & Women’s Slalom Cross
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