Monday, 10 June 2013

European Marathon Championships: Final day chronicle

In collaboration with Sportscene. Photos by Carolyn J. Cooper

Today was the day for K2 and C2, starting with the K2 Senior Women and the C2 early in the morning, in wet and fresh weather in Vila Verde, Portugal.
From the very start of the Women’s K2 it was seen that the English crew of Fay Lamph and Lizzie Broughton were attacking the race with determination. They were the only ones just focused on the K2, not having competed in K1 before, and that made the difference between them and the rest of the field. Only the U23 Spanish pair of Raquel Carbajo and Nuria Villacé could keep up with their pace, while the favorite Hungarian crews were together in the second group, slowly losing seconds. At the halfway point the difference was already about a minute.

canoe kayak marathon vila verde portugal european championships eca 2013 sportscene k2 c2 The two crews in the front seemed to take it easy; the Danish Jeanette Løvborg and Annemia Pretzmann caught up to the second group while Hungarians Petra Tóth and Edina Csernák dropped behind. This meant the Danish were now fighting for bronze with the other Hungarian pair of Alexandra Bara and Vanda Kiszli.

Everything looked quiet until the fifth portage when Carbajo and Villacé, with their water pump not working, tried to empty the kayak while running and pushed the British against the fences. For a moment there was some tension; the judges were just in front but they agreed the action was unintentional and let the Spanish go with no penalty. However, the issue helped the prosecutors close the gap a little. During the last lap they were only around 30 seconds behind the leaders. At the last portage, Lamph and Broughton re-entered the water with decisiveness and took off while the Spaniards stopped to empty water from their K2. No final sprint was needed to see the British claim the European title and Carbajo and Villacé arrived in the silver medal position about fifty meters behind. In the sprint for the bronze medal, Bara and Kiszli took it for Hungary ahead of the Danish Løvborg and Pretzmann after keeping the 10 meter gap made up in the portage.

canoe kayak marathon vila verde portugal european championships eca 2013 sportscene k2 c2 C2 Men
In the C2 there were just 9 crews but the field was very strong, one could count many world champions and medalists among them. From the very start, current world champions Óscar Graña and Ramón Ferro (ESP), didn’t want any surprises and took the lead. After some fighting for positions, the other Spanish couple, Alan Ávila and Carlos Vega managed to push onto their wash and both pulled away from the rest of the field, with Hungarians Márton Kövér and Attila Györe ten seconds behind in the chase. This situation lasted for about two laps, until Ávila and Vega dropped from the lead and the Hungarians managed to overtake them and catch Graña and Ferro. At the halfway point, these three crews were within just thirty seconds of each other. The second group was lead by U23 gold and silver medalists Amorim and Lacerda (POR) who were trailing more than a minute behind.

The paddlers maintained these positions until the last portage, with Graña/Ferro leading and pulling away a bit at each portage, forcing the Hungarians to put in extra effort to close the gap again each time. In the last portage, with just 850 meters to go, the Spaniards made a final effort and pushed 20 meters ahead, a lead which they kept until crossing the line and becoming European champions, only 7 seconds ahead of Kövér and Györe and 45 seconds ahead of  Ávila and Vega.

K2 Men
At half past twelve it was time for the Senior Men’s K2. The strong field included current world champions Merchán/Iván Alonso (ESP), Dorado/Jorge Alonso, Thele/Sletsjøe (NOR), Lucas/Doux (FRA) Adam/Odvarko (CZE), Pendle/Simmons (GBR), Boros/Solti (HUN), Olsen/Blach (DEN), etc.

From the first lap, there was a group of five made by the two Spanish crews, the Czechs, Boros/Solti from Hungary and Lucas/Doux from France. The chase group, lead by both Olsen/Blach and Pendle/Simmons, managed to join the front group in the second lap, but after the portage it split again and the French crew lost contact. This left just four boats in a diamond in the lead and they controlled the pace, maintaining a comfortable gap and keeping energy for the last laps.

canoe kayak marathon vila verde portugal european championships eca 2013 sportscene k2 c2

In the fourth portage, another unit dropped from the leading group. Dorado and J. Alonso (ESP) had to stop to empty because their pump was not working properly. They lost precious seconds that were enough to relegate them to the chasing group. Then, the young Hungarians Boros and Solti realized that they were very close to winning their first medal in an international competition and set a strong pace to secure their position. It worked perfectly and, with Merchán/Alonso and Adam/Odvarko on their wash, the gap to the second group increased to two minutes.

It was clear that the top three didn’t want to risk their positions and took easy turns to avoid crashes, leaving the battle for the final portage and the remaining distance (less than a kilometer) to the finish line. It was the Spaniards who pushed very hard to enter the portage in first position. With a brilliant run, they manage to get a 20 meter advantage over the Hungarians, while the Czechs were third at the put in. With just 800 meters to go, Emilio Merchán and Iván Alonso had a free run ahead of them to take the gold medal. With a solid pace they entered the finish line as the new European champions. Jakub Adam and Michael Odvarko closed the gap with Adrián Boros and László Solti and finally beat them in the finishing sprint, taking a well deserved silver medal, while the U23 Hungarians got bronze.

It was an awesome performance again from Spanish Iván Alonso, who took a double gold medal in K1 and K2, as he did last September at the Worlds in Rome. This makes him the current world and European champion in every discipline of international marathon that he’s able to paddle.

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