The Canoe Marathon World Championships kicked off with the Junior and U23 events on Friday 20th at Lake Bagsværd in Copenhagen.
In the junior competition, Hungary smashed the field, claiming three golds out of three races with Tamara Takacs in K1 Women, Adam Petra in K1 Men and Kristof Khaut in C1 Men.
|Raquel Carbajo leads the race with Hatton (in black) and Brun-Lie (in white). Photo: Jan N (DKF)|
2 hours later, in perfect, glassy conditions, the U23 K1 Women, and C1 men, set off. After the first lap it was clear that Teneale Hatton (NZL), recently crowned 5000m world champion, wanted to set the pace in order to have the race under her control. After the second portage the front group was reduced to three paddlers: Hatton, Agnes Brun-Lie (NOR) and Raquel Carbajo (ESP), opening a gap of around 30 seconds over a group of six paddlers including Susanna Cicali (ITA), Noami Horvath (HUN) and Nuria Villace (ESP) and Lize Broekx (BEL), among others. The three leaders were careful to maintain the gap, each taking turns at the front to keep everything under control until the last lap.
Agnes Brun-Lie looked to be suffering from the first steps of the portage and lost contact with the quick Hatton and Carbajo. Hatton was first at the put-in and opened up a few meters of advantage, but the Spanish made a supreme effort and closed the gap. With the gold medal at stake, Carbajo made her final move, taking the lead after the last turn and pushing hard for the remaining 500 meters, but Hatton didn’t panic and waited for her moment. With just 150 meters to go, she powered ahead, passing Carbajo and taking her first marathon gold medal. Carbajo ended up with the silver medal, and Agnes Brun-Lie took bronze under pressure from Horvath, finally fourth.
|Danish Crown Prince Frederik (right) attended live the U23 races|
After a very fast final portage, and facing a long sprint, Martin (FRA) tried to go wide to pass Amorim (POR), while Lacerda (POR) seemed not as strong as his rivals. Finally, Amorim managed to hold back Martin’s attack and got a well-deserved gold medal. Martin got silver and Lacerda bronze.
The last race of Friday was an intense and very exciting Men’s U23 K1, with a strong field that quickly came down to four strong pairs, Hamar and Minde (NOR); Havas and Boros (HUN); Birkett and van der Walt (RSA); and Fidalgo and Llorens (ESP); and a solo fighter from Denmark, Larsen. Portages were in a rush from the first lap, making those at the back of the bunch suffer. The British paddlers Jonathan Tye and Tom Sharpe led the chasers, keeping the gap around 30 seconds.
The situation didn’t change until the fourth portage, when Birkett and Havas applied some pressure, breaking the group in two. They were joined by Llorens, van der Walt and Hamar, while Minde, Fidalgo, Larsen and Boros stayed between 20 and 30 seconds behind for the whole fifth lap. At the next portage Llorens couldn’t hold the pace anymore and the leaders made a perfect diamond to face the last 5 kilometers.
|Photo: Jan N (DKF)|
At this point, the four leaders realized that one of them will not medal. They even stopped paddling and stared at each other to see who was going to take the pull. Hamar went for broke and sprinted leading into the last turn of the long lap. Birkett then pushed very hard going into the sixth and final portage; however Hamar had a perfect take-out and took the lead. With one final turn coming up, and 500m to go, Havas was 20 meters behind, with no hope of a medal.
The final sprint was started by Hamar, playing his sprint skills against the South Africans, but Birkett passed him in such a powerful way that only van der Walt could stay on his wash. Hamar had to accept the bronze while the two South Africans made the crowd go crazy with the tightest of finishes. In the end, Andrew Birkett won by just a few centimeters, claiming his first world title from a fast finishing Brandon vd Walt.