Pic by Delly Carr/Australian Canoeing
European paddlers have dominated the opening day of the canoe slalom Australian Open in Penrith, but Australia’s top-ranked paddlers are all safely through to the weekend’s semi-finals.
Australia’s Fox sisters, Jessica and Noemie, qualified first and second in the women’s C1, with the Czech Republic’s Monika Jancova third.
In the women’s K1, two-time Olympic medallist, Jessica Fox, qualified second quickest behind the Czech Republic’s Veronika Vojtova, with another Australian, Ros Lawrence, in third.
In the men’s events, Olympic bronze medallist and two-time world champion, Jiri Prskavec, looked impressive in qualifying fastest in the men’s K1.
The Czech finished ahead of American Michal Smolen, with Australian Olympian Lucien Delfour qualifying third.
Olympic silver medallist, Slovakia’s Matej Benus, was fastest in the men’s C1, with countrymen Alexander Slafkovsky and Michal Martikan finishing second and third.
Olympian Ian Borrows was the best placed Australian, in eighth.
Paddlers had to compete in wildly fluctuating weather conditions on Friday, with scorching temperatures in the morning, and afternoon thunder and lightning, driving rain and hail, and strong winds.
“Today we did have the four seasons in one day, it was pretty windy, there was hail, but it did settle down pretty quickly,” Jessica Fox said.
“But we are an outdoor sport. Rio was very windy, we’ve had races in pouring rain, but it is all part of adapting.”
Fox said it was exciting to compete in the C1, knowing it will be part of the Olympic program for the first time in Tokyo 2020.
“I’m actually looking forward to seeing how the girls evolve and change over the next four years now that it is an Olympic discipline,” Fox said.
“Hopefully there will be some more coaching for them, and more funding. For the girls internationally, some of them struggled with that, while for us in Australia we’ve always had the support of our Federation.
“I think over the next four years, some of the girls are already specialising, so I think it’s going to change a lot.”
Delfour was happy with his run, but said there was room for improvement.
“The middle section wasn’t that good, I got pretty tired unfortunately,” he said.
‘I think overall I’m pretty happy with the run. Even though I didn’t feel great physically, the overall feeling was pretty good.”
The Australian Open is also the final selection event for the Australian team to compete at this year’s World Championships and World Cup program.