The freestyle Kayaking Euro Championships were held in Slovakia. Everybody knows the whitewater course in Cunovo as it’s one of the best slalom courses in Europe, but not all know there is a decent hole on the second channel. It is not a big one, in fact you can even miss it, if you don't know the exact place, it is a bit flat and a bit shallow, but you can throw very high scoring rides in there.
We came a week before national training started to get enough practice, but we weren't the first. Dagger team: Tomacz Czapliki, Zosia and Max Karlson - was already there for over a week training hard and doing very impressive rides. Soon after our arrival it started get busy and even very busy, but a few days practice were enough to figure out the hole.
The feature favours left moves (which is not ideal for me), it is not deep, so a few carbon boats got slightly damaged, it looked better for short, rounded boats. The favourites in this competitions was of course Slovakians, as it is their home.
Peter was the one to beat in men, as he trains here throughout the year. And, as expected, he proved to be pretty much unbeatable, scoring 1800 in one of the rounds with every move, links and trophies, breaking ICF and ECA score records. He took a well deserved Gold in the finals. Next expectations went to France’s Sebastian and Mathieu Dumoulin. I thought Mathieu kayaked good, but it didn't look like this hole suits him or his style, he came close to a medal, but it wasn't his race. Sebastian won in an earlier round and looked strong, but in semis it was Salt all over again: all top guys had very strong rides over 1000 point rides before his go and pressure was high, Sebastian could not put it together and missed the finals, making prospect of medal ever closer to the others. Quim Fontane - last European Champion (2012) fought hard to keep the title, as usual he threw a million moves in one ride fast and valiant. On some occasions tricks looked very nice, on some not as nice, but judges and spectators agreed - he is getting better at it and scoring more and more of them. Quim did very good and with his last ride of the final snatched silver out of Pringles hands. Pringle himself after not very impressive start in prelims seemed to find his focus and went on to take a strong 3rd position in the next two rounds, he had some of the nicest links in his rides in semis and in finals, and got bronze in the end. Tomasz Czapliki (5th) confidently made the final under big pressure of semis, but to me he looked may be a bit over trained to be able to fight for a medal, his training rides often looked much better than in competition. This hole is not too powerful and hard on the body, as you need to generate power yourself.
In Womens we had a few favourites too:
Marlene, who has the last 2 European titles, had all the rights to defend her Gold, and she prepared good for it. Doing Mcnasties both sides, loops and spaces (which are very difficult to score in this hole because it's shallow). She won every round, but didn't look unbeatable.
Nina Conkova would be the first favourite, as it is her home spot, she would be the one to take the title from Marlene, but she just had a baby 2 month ago, so we wasn't sure if she is in shape for that. As it turned out - she was in a pretty good shape, but maybe just not enough for the Gold.
Zosia (Tomasz Czapliki girlfriend) looked like she received some serious coaching last month and did a lot of practice in this hole. She actually did look like she would get a medal, just would it be enough for a gold? I myself was very pleased with how paddling was going, i was consistently on 4-3 places with over 300 points rides and was able to do my big moves in every round. I did struggle only in a final and this was 100% mental, as i had the moves and skill to go for a medal, expectations suddenly lay heavy on my shoulders and I had the worst performance in this competition. :) I took 4th. Marlene looked, like she is not challenged enough, she won braking the 500 point barrier, but I know she could go higher. Nina came very close and did her best ride in this competitions, but only to take Silver. Zosia had a solid ride of 300+ and took bronze - her first medal on such high level competitions, I am very glad for her and foresee a very bright future for this girl in Freestyle.
In this class the favourite made sure he is prepared! Max Karlsson spent a month here in Cunovo practising, being coached, planning his rides and resting. He became almost local here. Taking a full advantage of his last year in juniors he won everything he could this year and Europeans wasn't an exception. His performance was solid and spectacular. He won every round and took well deserved Gold.
Second was Lane De Meluenaere, strong and consistent paddler from Belgium. Third was Jan Havelka - unknown Czech paddler, who seemed to be familiar with this kind of features. He came as a surprise, showed some solid paddling and took the medal out of the hands of Thomas Richard - french star and Worlds Silver medalist. Thomas was very unfortunate in his final rides and went home empty handed with 4th place. For some reason french paddlers, usually very strong & good, did not excel in this hole.
In C-1 Czech paddler Lucas Cervinka took the title, he is very used to this kind of features, and was one of the favourites. Sebastian Devred took Silver, free from K-1 men final he was able to put his focus in C-1 and made sure Silver stays with him in this category. Bronze went to Spanish Adria Bosch Roca.
Junior women category had the same winner as last time - Nuria Fontane. She did not meet a challenger strong enough this time, the rest of girls was fighting for over second and bronze. Kim Aldred took silver coming up with her best ride of event and German Emma Schuk 3rd - rather a miraculous medal, pushing British Emma Witherford off the podium.
One more medal I just have to mention:
Anna Orlova - my Russian team mate took Gold in Squirt boats - our first European Champion. Even I understand - this class is small and not too serious, but this is our first Gold and we’re going to celebrate it! Hope it will inspire my team to train harder in all other categories as well!