Saturday, 22 September 2012

Renata Csay steps into legend at Rome. Campos and Alonso, new marathon world champions in C1 and K1

This is the article we have written in colabroation with, where you can read it and see all the results archive and pictures of the championships. Check it at this link.

Renata Csay (HUN) this morning at Rome
This morning Hungarian legend Renata Csay won her 11th world title in the K1 Senior Women's race, becoming the most decorated marathon paddler ever, just surpassing another legend, Spanish Manuel Busto, who has ten golds so far. In the other two races Spain has showed its potential in this discipline by taking another two gold medals; Manuel Antonio 'Tono' Campos is the new world champion in C1 Senior Men and Iván Alonso is the same in K1 Men.

Races started in fair weather with an exciting starting list, where marathon experts met some sprinters after finishing their Sprint season in London. Marathon paddlers draw on their valuable experience and today was not an exception.

K1 Women

In the women's race, we could see from the start that, with Renata Csay (HUN) around, other contestants were only limited to go for silver.

The 35 year old mother of two refused a tactical race from the very start and just paddled away doing the whole 6 laps on her own. With a firm pace, seconds started to pull away from the chasing group, composed of locals Stefania Cicali and Anna Alberti (ITA), London 2012 Olympian Henriette Engel Hansen (DEN), Berenike Faldum (BUL) and Krizstina Bedoecs (AUT). Already on the second lap, they split and only Cicali and Faldum remained chasing Csay, while Hansen, Bedoecs and Alberti stayed together in the third group. Not much followed after that, with Csay widening the gap to one and a half minutes, so the interest was in the fight for silver between Cicali and Faldum. The Italian tried twice at the portages to escape, but she was caught again in the water. On the third attempt and with one lap to go, Stefania Cicali managed to assure second place while Renata Csay, already touching gold, slowed her pace down a bit.

So gold and a mark into canoeing history went to Renata Csay, it was silver for a young and promising Stefania Cicali and a bronze medal for a strong Berenike Faldum. After them, Anna Alberti finished in 4th position. She started a list of big names crossing the finish line, including Hansen who was finally disqualified, probably for unauthorised assistance during portages; the very promising Agnes Brun-Lie (NOR); South Africans Alexa Cole and Michele Eray, winner this year's Sella Descent and the Nelo Summer Challenge; Birgit Pontoppidan (DEN), winner of the Denmark Marathon 2012 and Mara Santos (ESP) who was World Champion in 2000.

C1 Men

Tono Campos, in red, new world champion
At same time, C1 Senior Men were in competition with a good mix of young and veteran paddlers. Two of them had the best odds and there was no room for surprises: Péter Nagy (HUN) and Tono Campos (ESP) set a tough pace from the start and managed to make a one minute gap which allowed them to become more tactical and conservative. So they spent the whole race switching between first and second and trying not to bother each other at the portages knowing that the medal was sure. Behind, youngsters Nuno Barros (POR) and Matthias Erbhardt (GER) formed a second group in the fight for bronze.

Nagy and Campos managed to keep up for a minute until the last lap when Erbhardt managed to get away from Barros as the two at the front had their mind on saving some effort for the final portage. Then Campos jumped out of the canoe to make an impressive run on the bank where he managed to get a 30 metre advantage before entering into the water again. He had enough to paddle the last 1.5 km on his own to become the new World Champion. Péter Nagy took silver and Matthias Erbhardt, gold in 2011, claimed bronze this time.

K1 Men

After the award ceremony, it was time for the K1 Senior Men's event featuring 38 paddlers and a wide range of favourites including reigning champion since Singapore, Hank McGregor (RSA), Portuguese Fernando Pimenta and José Ramalho, Len Jenkins Jr. (RSA), Iván Alonso and David Rodríguez Dorado (ESP), Máté Petrovics (HUN) and Tomas Jezek (CZE).

The start was a frenzy as some athletes are Sprint specialists; Pimenta himself (silver medallist in K2 1.000 at London 2012), 1.000 metre stars like Slovenians Lovro Leban and Jost Zakrajsek as well as Norwegian Daniel Salbu. A bunch of around twelve paddlers went down the Tiber on the lead. Only 6 appeared back at the first portage leading the race, and four of them were marathon specialists: Hank McGregor, Len Jenkins, Iván Alonso and José Ramalho, with Fernando Pimenta (impressive in his second marathon in 24 hours, after his silver medal in the U23 category) and Jan Andrlik (CZE) as an outsider.

The Czech quickly paid for his extra effort and fell down to the following group, while the main five stayed in the lead for the next laps. It was at the third portage when Ramalho and McGregor fought for the place to start running, that the Portuguese paddler fell down the wooden ramp smashing both kayak and paddle hard against the floor. Ramalho lost precious time and was out of the first group for the next two laps. Then, the race became extremely tactical on the lead. Sometimes they even stopped paddling to see who was going to set the pace; both South Africans, Alonso and Pimenta just looked at each other. Alonso didn’t want McGregor to go comfortably onto the diamond wash and Pimenta was probably saying how tired he was from the day before, so that allowed the chasing group to get closer and closer. Ramalho was pushing hard for it and Joep van Bakel, Luca Piemonte and the impressive Michael Leverett (AUS, 41 years old) were right behind.

At the fourth portage, McGregor did what everybody was expecting. He pressed hard into the portage and made a magnificent run to start paddling 20 metres before the rest of the group. It seemed then that he was breaking the race as he did last year in Singapore. But it was just a “watch out, here I am”, as he slowed down again at the turn and was swallowed by the chasing group. Then, the four of them started once again to look at each other as they became an eight paddler unit when the others finally caught up, but Italian Piemonte was out and Hungarian Máté Petrovics in after a good comeback during the first two thirds of the race.

At fifth portage, there was little drama for McGregor. He almost fell in when getting into the kayak and got plenty of water in it. He decided to go on after Jenkins, but there was too much water already in the boat and during the next lap couldn’t pump it all out, so he lost around 25 seconds. His rivals saw that problem and both Portuguese and the Spanish Alonso worked to make the gap worthwhile. When arriving at the portage, McGregor was again in a second group with van Bakel, Petrovics and Leverett. He actually had to turn the kayak upside down to let all the water out and then had to catch up for the next whole lap. There was only 4,5 km. to go and Ramalho was pulling away from the leaders not to let the second group arrive. But McGregor managed to close the gap and there was again an eight paddler group. Facing the last portage was going to be exciting. And the two Portuguese didn’t want to give away a chance and jumped out of the kayak in first position, followed closely by Alonso and McGregor, while Jenkins was suffering 20 metres behind and the rest of the group lost all options. The run on the bank field was chaotic and McGregor managed to catch Ramalho on the way down to the water, but clashed both again and the Portuguese hit the floor with his kayak. When the top four were finally in the water, they disappeared looking for the last turn all together.

And finally, it was the Spaniard, Iván Alonso leading the last and long sprint to the finish line. Ramalho was on his left wash and McGregor at the back, with Pimenta giving up some metres behind. Positions didn’t change and Iván Alonso claimed his first world title, with Ramalho taking silver and McGregor, bronze.

Iván Alonso entering the finish line to get his first gold medal at the World Championships

Alonso felt very happy, but the race was not over. When interviewed just after leaving the kayak, he said that the South Africans' behaviour was not fair during the race. At the same time, the Portuguese Federation was sending an official complaint to the committee and everything ended at around eight o’clock in the evening with the disqualification of both Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins Jr. due to “rough tactics” at the portages. It was not the best way of finishing a world championship race, but McGregor will have another chance tomorrow paddling the K2 with Grant van der Walt.

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