Great Britain’s women got off to the best possible start at the Canoe Slalom World Championships in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain, winning gold in the women’s K1 team event.
The experienced K1 trio of Fiona Pennie, Mallory Franklin and Kimberley Woods claimed the world championship title for GB for the first time in ten years, collecting just one penalty touch to finish in a time of 103.96 seconds to claim gold ahead of the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation.
In the individual events there was a roller coaster of emotions for the athletes and coaches, with Olympic selection and boats quota places on the line.
In the men’s C1 Adam Burgess was sitting on the maximum 60 selection points, requiring David Florence or Ryan Westley to beat him and finish in the top five to overhaul him.
The semi-final threw up some surprises with first Adam and then Ryan missing the top 10 needed to make the final. By booking a place in the final, David Florence secured Great Britain’s Olympic quota place for the men’s C1 boat, but he still needed to finish in the top five.
He started his run well, but precious time slipped away at the bottom of the course and he had an anxious wait until the final boat on the course pushed him down to sixth place, giving Adam the Olympic quota place.
In the women’s K1 the Olympic quota place was achieved in the heats and the British points race was claimed by Kimberley Woods by the end of the semi-final.
Kimberley going off early in the order posted a solid 99.65 seconds with just one touch and then had to sit and wait to see the rest of the race unfold. In the end it was enough to make the final, qualifying in eighth place.
More importantly for Kim, she had beaten both her K1 teammates Fiona Pennie and Mallory Franklin, who failed to make the cut. She then went on to achieve her best ever finish in a World Championships final, coming in sixth place.
On the final day of action Mallory Franklin and Kimberley Woods were back in action in the women’s C1 looking for Olympic qualification. Leading the British points race going into the Championships Mallory capsized at gate 14 which looked to end her chances.
But after a miraculous recovery where she had to paddle back to the gate, Mallory completed the course and clinch Great Britain’s women’s C1 quota place, despite an 11th place finish that rendered her out of the final.
Buoyed by her success in the women’s K1 final Kim’s confidence was flying high, however she didn’t have the best of runs and finished one place behind Franklin in 12th place.
In the men’s K1 the 40-strong semi-final line up was quickly whittled down to 10 and both Joe Clarke and Bradley Forbes-Cryans were amongst them.
Bradley put down a stellar run in the semi to make his first ever World Championship final. An hour later he went on to post one of the best runs of his life, with just the lightest of touches on gate 10 ultimately costing him a medal, to finish in fourth.
Rio 2016 Olympic Champion Joe Clarke set off well, but a touch on gate 11 and again on 19 upset his plans and he finished in fifth, which opened the door for Bradley Forbes-Cryans to top the British selection standings.
Speaking after the World Championships Performance Director Paul Ratcliffe said:
“It was incredibly tough, tight racing this week. We know that we have such a strong team and that it is always going to be difficult to separate them and we have a first past the post policy.
“Every single member of the team, athletes and coaching staff have handled themselves incredibly well under intense pressure. To leave here having achieved our number one aim of securing four Olympic quota places is a great position to be in.”
See the Great Britain Olympic slalom team compete at the European Championships
Great Britain’s slalom paddlers will be competing on home soil at the European Canoe Slalom Championships presented by Jaffa on 15 -17 May 2020 at Lee Valley White Water Centre. Tickets go on sale on Tuesday 1 October.
Full booking details on priority tickets are available here https://www.britishcanoeingevents.org.uk/