Stafford and Stone’s Joe Clarke, Adam Burgess and Chris Bowers have just concluded a fantastic weekend of racing at this season’s second World Cup race in Krakow.
On Friday’s qualification races, Adam and Chris qualified for the semi-finals easily in 3rd and 6th places respectively. However, it was a little less straight forward for Joe who uncharacteristically had to use a second run in order to progress due to too many penalties first time down the river. Little dramas though as the race is not won on qualification day.
On to Saturday’s slalom semi-final, Joe was early early off and set a blistering pace. This set the benchmark time which was eventually only bettered by legends of the sport Jiri Prskavec and Peter Kauzer. Therefore, safely through to the 10 boat final. Unfortunately, whilst Chris’s run was quick enough to join him, he cut a stagger too tight at the top of the course and was awarded a 50 second penalty.
In the Final, Joe again attached the course earning a 1.4 second advantage ahead of the 2021 European Champion Vit Prindis. However, slight time losses on stopper crosses turned that to a slim 0.16 second deficit by the end of the course. Following down the course, Kauzer and Prskavec could not better that time meaning that Joe takes home a very creditable silver medal to go with his gold from that previous world cup race at this venue in 2018.
No time for celebrating though with a swift change of course and equipment for the extreme slalom qualifications later in the afternoon. Here Joe qualified impressively Chris for Sunday’s knockout stages in first place with Chris also not far behind in 3rd.
Sunday morning was time for the C1s to enter the semi-final arena. Olympic champion Benny Savsek set the early benchmark time. An excellent run from Adam came to within 0.03 of a second and therefore qualified impressively for the final in 2nd place. In the final, Adam paddled a blistering pace, setting the fastest two splits and improving his semi-final time by nearly two seconds. However, an unfortunate touch on the penultimate gate meant that he slid behind Frenchman Nicolas Gestin and also Savsek the final paddler down the course. The bronze is Adam’s 3rd world cup medal and an excellent reward for a super consistent set of runs over the weekend (never outside the top three).
So to the final events of the weekend, the extreme slalom head to head races. Clear away the slalom gates, bring in a start ramp, roll gate and more robust plastic kayaks. Joe lived up to his number 1 seeding serenely negotiating his heat, quarter final and semi-final, each time in first place. On the other side of the draw Chris also progressed after a series of battles with Olympic slalom champion Prskavec. Joining them in the final was Etienne Chappell making 3 GB paddlers, joined by Vid Kuder Marusic from Slovenia. Joe got an excellent early start off the ramp allowing him to choose his first breakout. Chris on his heals opted for the opposite gate. However, the 3rd and 4th paddlers both opted to join Joe in the same breakout blocking his way whilst Chris could sneak out and into the lead. One final breakout skilfully negotiated and Chris could cruise to the finish in first place for his first senior individual medal! Following more congestion at the final gate, Joe also came through for a bronze.
Given that extreme slalom will also feature in the Olympic games in Paris 2024 this bodes very well for both the club and Great Britain. Roll on Tacen next weekend then the World Champs in Augsburg at the end of July for more slalom and extreme slalom action!
Words – Rob Holdway
Pictures – Various