The 2014 Australian Open and National Slalom Championships commence in Penrith tomorrow morning from 8am EST.
The opening day will feature the C1M, K1W and C2M events.
A world class field will be in attendance with more than 200 athletes from seven countries set to fight it out for glory down the 2000 Sydney Olympic course.
Today we will be previewing the K1M event. Follow the links below the view the C1M/C2M, C1W and K1W previews.
The K1M event promises to be the race of the weekend with several high profile athletes making the trip to Australia.
Frenchman Etienne Daille will be the man to beat. The 24 year old finished seventh at the London Olympic Games and was the 2012 World Cup K1 Champion.
Other top international athletes to watch include fellow Frenchman Antoine Launay and Pierre Bourliaud, Japanese kayaker Taku Yoshida and Kiwi Michael Dawson.
Lucien Delfour will be Australia’s strongest contender after he stamped himself as a consistent top ten performer at ICF World Cup level in 2013.
The 25 year old produced a career best performance at World Cup 3 in Spain winning silver.
At last year’s Australian Open Delfour was the pick of the local performers finishing third behind Czech U23 star Jiri Prskavec and German ace Sebastian Schubert.
In similar fashion to Delfour, Joey Croft also featured in the top ten at last year’s Australian Open, finishing sixth amongst a world class field.
Croft is one of the frontrunners set to challenge for the K1M berth at the ICF Junior and U23 World Championships in Penrith in April.
Victorian Jaxon Merritt is another U23 athlete who will be looking to get off to a strong start with this weekend’s two events to act as the first selection trial for senior and U23 selection.
The 22 year old reached the semifinals at three of the five ICF World Cups in 2013. His 15th place finish in Cardiff at World Cup 1 was his best result.
At Senior Worlds he paddled exceptionally well to finish 17th, while at the U23 World Championships in Slovakia Merritt was the highest placed K1 Australian finishing ninth.
Merritt has been happy with his preparation.
“This week has been pretty good, just focusing on the kayaking quite a lot with University on at the same time but it has been nice to get lots of training in.”
Asked about what he hopes to achieve this weekend he responded, “Try to perform at my best obviously and see how fast or close I can go to the rest of the boys and really try to be competitive”
William Forsythe has a history of performing well at the Australian Open and will be one of the main men to watch this weekend.
The NSWIS kayaker had an injury interrupted 2013 overcoming shoulder surgery in the first half of the year before returning the senior fray in the second half of the year.
In his first race back he won the race off against fellow senior member Joey Croft and Olympian Warwick Draper before going on to finish 20th at the final World Cup in Bratislava.
He followed that performance with a 16th place finish at the World Championships and will be looking to build on that form with a strong performance this weekend.
Triple Olympian Warwick Draper will look to draw on his experience to return to the senior K1M team this year after an interrupted 2013.
The 37 year old Victorian completed the double at last year’s National Championships winning the senior K1 and C1 events and will be looking to defend his National titles this weekend.
Tasmanian Daniel Watkins steps up to U23s this year following a stellar junior career.
Watkins finished fifth at last year’s National Championships and was a member of the National team that competed at the Junior and U23 World Championships in Slovakia.
The Derwent kayaker recently contested the National Schools Championships this week in the lead up to the event winning the senior classification and looks set to continue that form into tomorrow’s start at the Australian Open.
“I have been pretty happy with my training on the water and hopefully I can just put down another solid run again at the next race.”
Watkins is aiming to make this year’s U23 team.
“I am really hoping to make the team this year. First year of U23s would be really good.”
“I really just want to bridge the gap between U18s and seniors and see how much improvement I can make having a gap year this year.”
Other junior athletes to keep an eye out for include Victorian Tim Anderson, Western Australian Brodie Crawford and local Penrith junior Angus Thompson who will be out to push forward a strong case for selection to this year’s U23 and junior teams.
Please follow the links for more information regarding the 2014 Australian Open and National Slalom Championships from 24-26 January.
|Australian Open website|