12 Men's C1 and 15 Men's K1 paddlers qualified through to the semi-final stage of their events following Day 1 of Slalom action.
Michal MARTIKAN (SVK) recovered from a disastrous first run in the Men’s C1 heats, and Men’s K1 Hannes AIGNER (GER) showed he is the man to watch as the Canoe Slalom competition kicked off the Canoeing program at the Lee Valley White Water Centre.
A bronze medallist at the 2012 European Championships, Benjamin SAVSEK (SLO), took early advantage of the mistakes made by the main contenders to set the fastest time of 90.83 seconds in the first run, he would go on to qualify for the semifinal in second place overall.
Despite a 50-second penalty on the first run, Michal MARTIKAN (SVK) took the second run by storm with an aggressive yet clean style, qualifying with the fastest overall time Martikan said:
"In the first run I made a few mistakes. Second was not so fast but under control. The course is fair, the water is tough, but the gates not so much so. I didn't feel under pressure because I knew I didn't need the run of my life to reach the semis.
"Everything now goes back to zero. It's nice to remember you are champion, but it means nothing for the semifinals.''
Japan’s Takuya HANEDA finished third in 92.72 seconds, beating European champion Sideris TASIADIS (GER) who took fourth place by just 0.11 seconds.
After a disappointing first run, world No.1 and Beijing 2008 silver medallist David FLORENCE (GBR) set the fifth best time of 93.04 seconds, keeping the dream alive for the many supporters a "There was a lot of pressure. We looked back at the video and realised there were a few bits I needed to get right. I've been in the situation before, where I need to do it all in the second round.
"I feel relief in some senses, because I had left myself a lot to do, but tick, job done.
"It wasn't the perfect (second) run by any stretch, but I knew I just had to do enough to get through."
London 2012 is Spain’s Ander ELOSEGI’s second Olympic Games, the Spaniard finished fourth at Beijing 2008 came sixth in 93.24 seconds.
Double Olympic champion Tony ESTANGUET had to settle for seventh place after receiving four-seconds of penalties in both runs. On his performance today, Estanguet said, "I started well, but then I touched two gates and wasn't happy."
Commenting on what it was like competing against David FLORENCE (GBR) in front of a British crowd he said, "David is very strong on here, we will see."
Others who will compete in the semifinal on Tuesday are Grzegorz KILJANEK (POL), Stanislav JEZEK (CZE), Aleksandr LIPATOV (RUS), Zhiqiang TENG (CHN) and Kynan MALEY (AUS).
Sebastian Rossi will be deeply disappointed, having come close to medalling at the recently ended ICF Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships in Wausau, Wisconsin, the young Argentinean was hoping to at least make the final but finished in 16th place. Casey Eichfeld (USA) was another major casualty, the American finished in 14th place.
Hannes AIGNER (GER), bronze medallist at this year's European championship, set the best time of 83.49 seconds, 3.58 ahead of second-placed Samuel HERNANZ (ESP). AIGNER (GER) had beaten his team-mate and Olympic champion Alexander GRIMM (GER) to qualify for Germany's place in the competition.
Vavrinec HRADILEK (CZE) came third in 87.44 seconds and Mathieu DOBY (BEL) in fourth with 87.92 seconds whereas Peter KAUZER (SLO) ranked 1st in the ICF Ranking placed fifth with 88.10 seconds. Even with second clean run, the 2009 and 2011 World Champion was 4.43 seconds behind AIGNER.
"My first run, I crashed my boat. I had to get that fixed in-between runs which was hard," said Kauzer.
"My second run I was calm and relaxed. Once I did the difficult moves well, the rest just became a routine run. Now on to the semifinal"
Beijing bronze medallist Benjamin BOUKPETI (TOG) quest for gold continues after qualifying in 14th place, behind newcomer Etienne DAILLE (FRA).
"I felt the second run was really strong. I got through without penalty and that is really important to me. There are a lot of people here supporting me. I have had messages of support from people in Togo, France and Canada. I want to push higher and higher for them."
Also going into the semifinal are Daniele Molmenti (ITA), Mike Dawson (NZL) and Helmut Oblinger (AUT).
Tomorrow’s competition begins at 13h30 with the Men’s C2 heats followed by the Women’s K1 heats.
Access Canoe Slalom programme here.
Access start list and results here.
Access photo gallery here.