The first individual canoe slalom medals have been awarded in Kolna Sports Centre to the best in men’s and women’s kayak finals. Olympic Champions Ricarda FUNK (GER) and Jiri PRSKAVEC (CZE) were the fastest in their respective finals.
The gates setting on the Vistula River proved to be worthy of the semifinal and final kayak races of the European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 and the competitors had to show all their knowledge and skills to perform well.
31-year-old German Ricarda FUNK qualified to the final as tenth in the semifinal, meaning she just caught the last place in the final. The decisive run was much better and she set the fastest time of the day in women’s kayak event. Despite the two seconds penalty she still won with advantage of two seconds.
Canoe Slalom competitions are making a debut at the European Games and FUNK managed to complete her medals collection already in the first attempt. Namely, German kayaker is the reigning Olympic and World Champion (2021, 2022), and was also a European Champion twice already (2014, 2018).
“I am happy. It’s the European Games and such a special event for us, canoe slalom is here for the first time. I had a really good run and I am happy with it. I was just on the run, the spins were good, I think they were quite tricky and I had troubles with them in the semifinal. After the semifinal I knew I can develop a little bit. I like this feeling when you are in a flow and today I had it,” said FUNK.
“This course was technically really challenging. To be honest I was not really sure what will happen and I said to myself let’s have fingers crossed,” said FUNK who started first in the final and had to wait for all the other nine competitors to conclude their runs. It was hard to wait. “My performance was done, I could not change anything, I was just sitting here and waiting, looking at what the girls are doing. But I knew I can be happy with my run, regardless of the result,” concluded FUNK.
Local favourite Klaudia ZWOLINSKA (POL), who took an oath in the name of the athletes during the Opening Ceremony of the European Games, finished the final run in second place. She had two touches and consequently four penalty seconds which pushed her to silver medal position. She was 1.97 seconds behind FUNK.
“It is really special moment for me. I was fighting in the last years, I was always in the finals, fourth or fifth. I was close and fast, but without a medal. Before this competition I wanted to break it and I did it, and this is why I am happy. This medal is the most important in my career. The course was tricky and not easy for me,” said ZWOLINSKA.
Bronze medal went to Czechia thanks to Tereza FISEROVA who had a penalty free final run and was 3.25 seconds behind. “I am really happy, because the K1 is my worst discipline, and the bronze medal at the European Games is amazing,” said FISEROVA, who will be one of the main favourites in Sunday’s canoe event.
Jiri PRSKAVEC (CZE), like FUNK, completed the medals collection with the only gold medal he was missing. Tokyo Olympic Champion, two times World Champion and five times European Champion won in men’s kayak final to celebrate his sixth European title, as European Games also count for the Canoe Slalom European Championships.
Experienced Czech kayaker finished the course in 88.21 seconds. “It is beautiful. I did not expect the European Games to be so big. I think we all felt more pressure than at usual European Championships. I am happy with the performance and especially with the final. It was a hard position to start from, but I finished with a clean and nice run with some risky moves,” said PRSKAVEC.
PRSKAVEC this year qualified to Czech team in canoe as well, so another semifinal awaits him on Sunday. “Since Krakow is a course where you have to paddle forward and push hard, I am not expecting too much. If I can make a nice and clean run, maybe I can think about the final and that would be a success for me,” said PRSKAVEC.
Swiss kayaker Martin DOUGOUD won silver medal, after being the fastest in Thursday’s heats and third in the semifinal. The course in Krakow suit him well and he recorded the biggest success in his career so far.
After the race DOUGOUD said: “It feels great, awesome. I had really good heats, I was struggling a bit in the semifinal, and again in the final I was not completely free of my paddling, but I managed to push until the end. I am second and I can’t believe it.”
Joseph CLARKE (GBR), 2016 Olympic Champion, caught the last place in the semifinal that still lead to the final and made the best out of it. He started the first in the final and stayed on the top of the results table until DOUGOUD crossed the finish line. At the end of the race CLARKE was third, and celebrated bronze medal. This is his first individual canoe slalom medal at European Championships, but he already has bronze medal from kayak cross European Championships in 2021.
“Mixed emotions, I am obviously very happy, but also disappointed. The touch of the gate one was very cheap, these were one of the easiest gates on the course. I showed my composure and class to hold it together for a really good run. I had the quickest time of the day, unfortunately these two penalty seconds meant it was a bronze medal,” said CLARKE.
On Sunday, the canoe slalom competitions at the European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 will conclude with men’s and women’s canoe semifinals and finals, as well as kayak cross elimination phases.
The complete competition schedule and results can be found here.
European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 is the Europe’s biggest multidisciplinary sporting event in 2023. More than 7 thousand athletes are competing in 26 sports and 29 disciplines for 253 gold medals. More than that, European Games 2023 are part of the qualification process for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024 in 19 sports. This great celebration of sports starts with opening ceremony in Krakow on 21st of June. The closing ceremony will take place on July 2nd.