Monday 7 October 2013

Spain take the doubles medals two by two in Men while Jeannette Løvborg and Henriette Engel Hansen claim the world title at home

Sunday, September 22nd, was the final day of the ICF Marathon World Championships in Copenhagen. After the emotions experienced in the previous two days, there were high expectations  when at 9:30 started the Women Senior K2 and Men Senior C2.

However, the first surprise jumped out just before the first kilometer. And never better said, because in the K2 of ones of the favorites for the medals, South Africans Michele Eray and Bridgitte Hartley , one of the rudder roulette screws jumped out, leaving them off the race. So the first leading bunch, facing the first portage, included one K2 from each of the following teams: Danish, Hungarian, Czech, British and Spanish Nuria Villacé and Raquel Carbajo. The other Spanish crew, formed by the very young and Begoña Lazcano and Amaia Benavente, was forced to leave after having done most of the first round in that group due to some sickness suffered by Lazcano. A pity, but a boat to keep in mind for the future and not just at Marathon, but also at Sprint.

Csay/Bara lead one of the portages with Løvborg/Hansen behind. Pic: Jan N
Meanwhile , ahead the selection started from the first portage . It was clear that the Hungarian crew of Renata Csay/Alexandra Bara and the Danish of Jeannette Løvborg/Henriette Engel Hansen were step by step tightening the rope, so after one third of the race thay both remained ahead just along with the Czechs Anna Adamova (Kova now) and Lenka Hrochova, the only ones who could keep on their wash. Behind, the chase group was led by the current European gold and silver medalists, Lizzie Lamph and Fay Broughton (GBR) and Nuria Villacé and Raquel Carbajo (ESP), who were for a long part of the race pulling from a group that included some other strong boats, like the Italiana Anna Alberti and Stefania Cicali and the Belgians and Lize Broekx and Hermien Peters, among others. In the last laps, British and Spaniards managed tu pull away and the fourth place went finally to Lamph/Broughton (GBR).

In the leading group, the Czechs always looked always to be suffering at portages (both were maybe accusing the effort of paddling the K1 on Saturday) until finally Danish and Hungarians broke away. The Danish crew seemed to be more comfortable and rhythmic, while the Hungarians showed the feeling that Csay was literally bursting Bara, especially at the portages , where at every time Csay didn’t let her back partner take the K2, dragging it herself uphill until Bara could reach it.

Finally, in the last portage Løvborg and Hansen made their final move with an excellent put-out and got some meters of advantage facing the last kilometer of the race. The Danes came in as winners for delight of the audience and Renata Csay stayed at the doors of her 14th gold, this time having to settle for silver with her young teammate Alexandra Bara. Hrochova and Adamova took finally the bronze medal.

In the senior C2 , the two Spanish couples Ferro/Graña and Campos/Romero decided from the beginning that they did not want the fight (literally) they had last year in Rome with the Hungarian crews. So, from the first lap they worked together to try to break away. They still got on their wash the C2 of Attila Györe and Marton Kavar for most of the course. The Portuguese Amorim and Lacerda were also fighting ahead until they had to give up as the pace was too strong for them. At that time, theGyöre and Kavar also lost contact, so the two Spanish crews went solo for a few laps, relaying and helping each other at any time to avoid the expected reaction of the Hungarians, who finally happened to be coming back to a just 30 seconds distance. However, it was not enough and the Spanish boats managed to get another gold and silver like last year in Rome, claiming again Ferro and Graña the world title and Campos and Romero taking silver after not even sprinting in the finish line, obvious symptom of having talked a lot among them during the race. Behind, Kavar and Györe (HUN) were eventually bronze.
C2 podium. Pic: Jan N

Finally, at noon it was time for the highlight of the day, the Senior Men K2 where once again the two Spanish crews departed as favorites after their double gold and silver medals in Rome 2012 and the magnificent demonstration they made a month ago in Banyoles at the Spanish Championships. However, let's be frank: the superiority which now have the two Spanish boats is such that after the second lap it was clear that the race was over. Even the crowd got a bit bored in the stands, everybody could feel it. And I got to hear comments that maybe the field was not strong enough, not really good rivals, etc ...

Wrong. I actually think that both Emilio Merchán/Iván Alonso and Walter Bouzán/Álvaro F.  Fiuza have reached such specialization in marathon that right now they would need Sprint paddlers who would be keen to make a try against them. And I mean top paddlers that would like to train for marathon for a whole year, as we could see with Rene Poulsen that just three weeks is not enough to be in the medals. The level showed by Manuel Busto o Thor Nielsen for many years (or Renata Csay in the Women K1, not to go back in time) has now been reached by these guys. And I 'm talking about people leading you train one years in this field , since in Copenhagen demonstrated that even a monster like Poulsen has no access to the medals with only three weeks preparing for the marathon. Like Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Villa, Puyol, etc., playing football they can make the others look bad when they are not. In fact, the level was high, very high, but World and European champions and paddlers of a top level (Rubenstein/Rice , Lucas /Doux , Noe brothers, Birkett/Schoeman, Adam/Odvarko, etc... ) were shadowed by the Spaniards performance.

Looking ahead, especially when it seems clear that Walter Bouzán is quitting marathon to focus in surfski, we will see if Spain maintains this level. Personally, I think they will need new combinations, as current couples behind these ones look pretty far away, or at least some of their members are already in their mid-30’s. I don’t think I'm wrong if I say that from next year we will witness the confirmation of young couples with good perspective. Norway has got a high quality team with all its members born in the '90s. South Africa has almost assured the realy of McGregor and Rubenstein with Rice, Birkett, Schoeman, Grant and Brandon van der Walt, etc ... And mainly Hungary : brothers Noe , Baras , Szolti , Petrovics ... U23 and already getting senior medals, not to mention the great junior team they brought to this World Champs.

The Spanish K2s break away entering the second portage. Pic: Jan N

Returning to the competition itself, little more to tell. The brothers Noe and Rubenstein/Rice endured enough to hold on the wash of the Spaniards for three laps while the other rivals were definitely away from the lead. But the Spanish K2s still had an additional gear and after a while agreed to break away and put some gap in between. And that was it. The fight for the bronze medal was 30 seconds behind and they managed to keep that distance until the final lap, when they set a faster pace to put the gap in almost two minutes at the finish. In that fight for the bronze , the South Africans looked to be suffering a bit more than the Hungarians at the portages. Finally, the Noe bothers pulled away at the put-in enough to secure the bronze medal. In the lead, a last masterful portage of Merchán and Alonso gave them the advantage to put a new gold in their extraordinary achievements. About 30 meters behind Walter and Fiuza entered the finish line, culminating a magnificent experience of 4 years together in which they have not accumulated anything but golds and silvers.

By teams, domination of Hungary , who has returned on track with a perfect blend of youth and experience .

At this link you may see the overall results.

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