On the final day of the canoe slalom competitions at the European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 Ryan WESTLEY (GBR) and Elena LILIK (GER) won gold medals in men’s and women’s canoe final.
The winners of Sunday’s canoe finals of the European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 were very happy after their winning performances. Elena LILIK (GER) burst into tears after Saturday’s kayak final, where she did too many mistakes and was ranked tenth. But she managed to forget the kayak final and completely focus on canoe, where she excelled from heats to semifinal and final at the end. In all the runs in canoe on the Vistula River she finished first and on Sunday the tears of joy were running down her cheeks.
“I am so happy I could learn from my mistake yesterday. The run was a fight. I was really on a line in a few gates, but I kept pushing. I was so happy at the end,” said LILIK.
“It was a little bit hard in my mind, because I remembered the run from yesterday and I wanted to do it better,” added LILIK.
LILIK touched the last gate on the course, which meant two penalty seconds were added to her final time, but she navigated through the entire course so quickly even this mistake did not cost her the gold medal. European Games count as European Championships, so this is also her first European Champion title in career.
“I was happy I got all the gates, and I knew I had to push hard because I had an unplanned spin in the beginning. And the touch in the last upstream was horrible,” said LILIK.
Local favourite Klaudia ZWOLINSKA (POL) won silver medal and repeated the success from kayak final, where she was also second. Only 0.62 seconds divided her and the gold medal, but nevertheless the Polish paddler was thrilled with the result in canoe.
“I am really shocked, because C1 is not my main category. Here in Krakow I thought I need to be really fast to make it into the final and this was my expectation. Now in the final I was shocked that I am improving so much and be able to win a medal at the European Games. It is really crazy,” said ZWOLINSKA.
Mallory FRANKLIN (GBR), who was the defending European Champion, won bronze medal, after she had three touches and consequently six penalty seconds.
“I had too many touches and I struggled in the run. But it is nice to know I can be quick and hopefully in the future I can stop hitting all the gates. I knew a lot of girls were quicker in the semis and I was not confident it would be a medal, but it is cool. I was very much expecting to be seventh or so, slowly it got more and more close to the medala,” said FRANKLIN.
29-year-old British canoeist Ryan WESTLEY became the winner of men’s canoe final after a penalty free and a fast run. Canoeist from Exeter was the European Champion in 2018 when he was unbeatable in Prague.
Just two weeks ago WESTLEY suffered an injury during training before the Canoe Slalom World Cup in Ljubljana and was afraid his career was over because of another injury.
“I did not think this could happen. I missed out Tacen World Cup with an injury. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Flying over home from there thinking my career would be over again with another injury. I did not think I had it to come back from this one. Fortunately, physio and team back home helped me out big time. I was really happy to be in the final and I was in a position where the pressure was off,” said WESTLEY.
British canoeist celebrated a win with 1.15 seconds advantage. “I was coming down, and thought that bit has gone well and that bit has gone well, it keeps going well. I could have not asked for a better run in a final,” said WESTLEY.
Spanish canoeist Miquel TRAVE added individual silver medal in canoe to his team gold medal he won on Thursday in men’s kayak together with David LLORENTE and Pau ECHANIZ. 23-year-old paddler who was junior European Champion in kayak and canoe at the same championships in 2018, won bronze medal at last year’s senior European Championships.
“This is giving me some bonus for the Olympics, there is just one British ahead of me, who will most probably take the spot in London. I am so happy, it is incredible. I cannot realise it yet. I worked really hard to get here,” said TRAVE.
Bronze medal was won by Vaclav CHALOUPKA (CZE), the 2021 senior World Champion. He had to wait until the last competitor on the start line – Olympic Champion Benjamin SAVSEK (SLO) to see if the medal will be his.
“It was hard to wait. Beni is the best racer at the moment of all of us. I said to myself, ok fourth place at the European Games is not that bad, but even Beni is human. We all make mistakes. The course was very tough, especially for the lefties. As you can see, first, second and third, we all righties. This maybe the difference. My run was not as smooth as in the semifinal, but is canoe slalom. I was a little bit slow in the start and had to push hard later on. I just pushed and fought hard, and at the end I am third. I am super happy,” said CHALOUPKA.
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.