Olympians lead the way into Olympic qualifying season
Paddle Australia’s national canoe sprint series kicked-off in style with top-level racing at the Canoe Sprint Grand Prix 1 in Adelaide over the weekend (7-9 December 2018).
Paddle Australia’s best Olympic and up and coming sprint paddlers as well as a strong international contingent contested the three-day event at West Lakes in changing conditions with Adelaide presenting four seasons in one day.
Australia’s current and aspiring Tokyo 2020 Olympians presented themselves in strong form at the first competition of the summer season and ahead of the 2019 Olympic qualifying season. But it was also the up and coming talent, who made waves at the Grand Prix 1 and build the excitement for what lies ahead with some impressive performances.
In the men’s events, Tom Green (QLD) continued to impress after a successful international season that saw him make his first Senior team and his first men’s K1 A-finalat the 2018 ICF Sprint World Championships in Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal. The 19-year old up and coming sprint talent, who was still competing on Junior level last year, won the K1-1000 with over one second ahead of Rio Olympian Jordan Wood (QLD) and 20-year old Jean van der Westhuyzen (QLD) in third. Green was also the fastest Australian in the K1-200, coming second with +0.87 seconds behind Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Maxime Beaumont from France.
In the K2 Green teamed up with his 2018 U23 World Champion partner Joel Kitterick (QLD) with the pair continuing nationally where they left off internationally and winning the men’s K2-1000 in convincing manner with an almost four seconds lead ahead of team mates Ken Wallace(QLD) and Bill Bain (QLD).
It was the first time back racing for Olympic champion and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Ken Wallace, who opted to not contest the international season this year. Proving he is still a force to be reckoned with as the team prepares for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying season, Wallace posted a couple of race wins in the preliminary rounds and together with Bill Bain finished second in the men’s K2-1000. Wallace also finished fifth in the men’s K1-1000.
Adding international flair to the event and stand-out international performer of the regatta was Rio 2016 K1-200 Olympic silver medallist Maxime Beaumont from France. The 36-year had a strong start to the regatta when he won both the semi-final as well as the final of the men’s K1-200 on Saturday. He also won the K1-500 on Sunday.
Beaumont also teamed up with Germany’s 2018 World University champion Felix Frank for the K2 events with the pair winning the MK2-500. They finished second in the MK2-200 behind Jordan Wood and Bill Bain and fourth in the MK2 1000.
In the absence of the national men’s squad on Sunday, Maxime Beaumont and Felix Frank teamed up with Rob McIntyre (NSW) and Brandon Ooi from Singapore to take out the men’s K4-500. Rob McIntyre, who contested the 2018 season on the wildwater circuit, had a strong sprint regatta, contesting five A-finals and medalling in the K4-500 and in the K2-500.
“We did the K4 with four nations and to be able to go on the water in crew boats with guys from other countries is great. I think racing is the best training, so it was cool for me to come and do all the races with the good Australian paddlers and with Germany, South Africa and Singapore,” Maxime Beaumont said.
“It was nice to compete with and against some great Australian guys. The 1000 was a little bit too long for me, but it was alright and overall it was a very good competition for me. I don’t know if this was the last of the year or the first of the season, but it was good racing. I would like to thank the organisers and volunteers because they did a great job and the South Australian Sport Institute that lent us boats and allowed us to be here,” Beaumont added.
The Frenchman will be training in Australia for most of the European winter and will also contest the Grand Prix 2 in Sydney in February.
The Australian Paddle Team’s women’s squad was also up against some strong international competition with Olympians Linnea Stensils (SWE), Manon Hostens (FRA) and Lea Jamelot (FRA) lining up against the Australians.
“It’s been good to have the internationals as part of the squad and train with us up at the Gold Coast and it’s cool, they’ve come down and race with us,” Olympian Alyce Burnett (QLD) said. “We had a couple of international podiums, both in the women’s K1-200 and women’s K1-500 and it’s great to have such high standards at a domestic regatta.”
2018 World Championships women’s K1-200 bronze medallist Linnea Stensils won the K1-200 ahead of Alyce Burnett and 2018 Wildwater World Champion and sprint World Championships finalist Manon Hostens from France in third. In the women’s K1-500 the order was reversed with Burnett impressing withthe fast time of 1:48.80 and taking out the win ahead of Hostens and with Stensils following in third.
“It’s so cool that as an international I can come here and train and race. The training has been very good and I think it’s good to do a race as well, even though you’re not prepared and Alyce racing at a 48 is very impressive,” Linnea Stensils said.
“It’s been a good weekend and great five weeks of training with the group up at the Gold Coast. I’m sure I will be back and I’m pretty sad to leave, but I am very thankful for the support I get from the Australian Paddle Team to be able to train here. I can’t wait to see them all again at the World Cups,” Stensils added.
“The internationals are keeping us on our toes, that’s for sure and it’s been a real treat to have them race here and train with us. They are welcome any time,” Alyssa Bull said, who finished fourth in the K1-500 and took out the win in the K2-500 with Burnett ahead of the French duo and Cat McArthur (SA) and Jaime Roberts (WA) in third.
“All the girls were paddling pretty fast out there with a nice tail breeze on the course and we’ve been producing some really good results which is exciting for the coming season,” Bull added about the weekend.
Fast was not only the Senior women’s K4 with a mixed-crew of this year’s national team paddlers, but also the second crew of 2018 U23 National Team paddlers Shannon Reynolds (WA), Brianna Massie (QLD), Yale Steinpreis (WA) and Ella Beere (NSW) who gave the combination of Alyssa Bull, Alyce Burnett, Cat McArthur and Jaime Roberts a run for their money in the women’s K4-500 and finished +1.80 seconds behind in second.
“It’s pretty cool with a bigger bunch coming through and they are the ones pushing us at the top. I think there are a few combinations that could possibly happen so it’s pretty exciting and I’m looking forward the more racing next year,” Jaime Roberts said.
Exciting was also the full field in the women’s individual canoe events. With the women’s canoe added to the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020 numbers continue to grow. The national women’s canoe program is run in collaboration with the South Australian Sport Institute (SASI) in Adelaide and the Grand Prix 1 was the comeback for former national team kayaker Bernadette Wallace (QLD) to the national sprint racing circuit.
The 29-year old sister of Kenny Wallace Wall recently joined the canoe program after a touch with cancer and a break from racing over the last couple of years. See full story here: https://paddle.org.au/2018/12/06/bernadette-wallaces-olympic-dream-starts-at-grand-prix-1-in-adelaide/
And a successful comeback it was with Wallace winning both the heat and final in the C1-500 event. She also raced the women’s C2 as well as three races in the C1-200, winning her heat and finishing third in the final. Wallace’s training partner and 2018 U23 and Senior team-member in the canoe Josephine Bulmer (SA) took out the win in the C1-200 and finished third in the 500.
“I am very happy with my races! And that I could lift from training. My performances felt like I was doing the real thing. I would say I’m in the associative stage of learning canoe at the moment but I felt like I had a lot of autonomous moments out there where I could just focus on just pulling more water,” Wallace reflected after racing on the boat class she is still learning to master.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system backing up races. We actually did a heat, semi and final for the 200 to emulate what it will be like to race internationally. So we are looking ahead but doing what is necessary now,” Wallace added.
“I am so impressed by my squads performance as a whole because we were so close in our times that it means that we will be pushing each other to only be better. I’m excited, there is lots to look forward to with a lot of potential for canoeing in Australia.”
A lot of potential was also seen across the younger age groups with some strong performances across the GP1 U18 and U16 events.
2018 National Team Junior Team paddlers and West Lakes locals Jesse Kneebone-Ellisand Daniel Kucharski had a strong regatta winning all three events in the men’s K2 18 (200, 500 and 1000). They also teamed up with club mates Sebastian Kucharski and Lincoln Loughry to win the MK4-500 18.
Kneebone-Ellis also won the 200 and 500 events in the K1 18. 2018 Junior national team paddler Carter Brodhurst-Hill (QLD) won the men’s K1-1000 18.
Fellow 2018 Junior national team paddler from Sydney’s Northern Beaches Kailey Harlen was similarly successful in the K1 events and was the stand-out Under 18 paddler in the junior women’s events. She won the women’s K1 18 across all three distances (200, 500 and 1000) as well as the women’s K2-500 together with 2018 Olympic Hopes Team paddler Alisa van der Kwartel (NSW) and the K2-200 with Phoebe Wills-Grace (QLD), who was also a team member of this year’s 2018 Olympic Hopes Team. Harlen topped off a successful regatta with a win in the women’s K4 together with Junior team paddlers Yasemin Ray (WA) and Alicia Fay (QLD) and Alisa van der Kwartel (NSW).
The Grand Prix 1 also saw the next generation of aspiring Junior team paddlers coming up with Varsity Lakes U16 paddler Chaise Richardson (QLD) winning both the women’s K1-200 16 as well as the K2-1000 16 together with Sydney Northern Beaches partner Isabelle Rupenovic. In the K1-1000 Richardson finished third behind winner Ellie Johnson (VIC) and local Demi Bates (SA) in second.
“I am very happy with the regatta as I have managed to achieve new PB’s in all K1 races. I am looking forward to State Champs next and GP2 at the start of next year, followed by nationals in March and hope to continue achieving PB’s and place in the top three in all K1 races this season,” Richardson said about her goals ahead.
In the Under 18s West Lakes Canoe Club locals Caitlin Webber and Ashlee Schoene made waves in the women’s Under 18 K1 and K2 events. Both were selected to attend the shadow Junior team camp early next year and have big goals for the season ahead. The pair won the K2-1000 18 and finished second in the K2-500 18 as well as third in the K2-200 18. They both also made the top three in the K1-500 and 1000 events.
“I’m so happy with the regatta. I definitely produced some results and put up some races I didn’t think I was capable of but am so stoked I did. PBs all round in the K1 and in the K2 so it can’t get much better,” Ashlee Schoene said.
“The goal next year is definitely to make the Junior Worlds team. I missed out last season which was devastating but I think it was the kick in the butt I needed to get myself back in the game. We are going up to the river for a training camp next but then after that I’ll get back in the swing of regular training in readiness for the shadow Junior Team Camp on the Gold Coast in January.”
K2 partner Caitlin Webber has the same goals and is ready for the work ahead, “My goal is also to definitely get into the junior worlds team, which would be incredible being my last chance. Next is the training camp in Roonka for us South Australians, then the shadow Junior camp and a lot of hard work in between that and the nationals in March.”
Paddle Australia’s canoe sprint series continues with the Grand Prix 2 at the start of February (8-10 February 2019) ahead of the Canoe Sprint National Championships at Champion Lakes, WA in March (6-10 March 2019).
141 athletes from five countries contested a full program of 72 events that kept paddlers, volunteers and race officials on their toes in sometimes tricky conditions, including some delays due to lightning and with wind conditions some races needing to be run in time trial format.
See all results here: https://sprint.paddle.org.au/results/
2018 / 2019 Canoe Sprint National & International Season
7-9 December 2018, Canoe Sprint Grand Prix 1, West Lakes, Adelaide, SA
8-10 February 2019, Canoe Sprint Grand Prix 2, Sydney International Regatta Centre, NSW
6-10 March 2019, Canoe Sprint National Championships, Champion Lakes, WA (Selection Trials)
24-26 May 2019, ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 1, Poznan, POL
31 May – 2 June 2019, ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 2, Duisburg, GER
1-4 August 2019, ICF Canoe Sprint Junior & U23 World Championships, Pitesti, ROM
21-25 August 2019, ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, Szeged, HUN
12-15 September 2019, ICF Canoe Sprint Tokyo Test Event