Olympian Fitzsimmons To Lead Aspiring Tokyo Olympians At U23 And Junior Canoe Sprint World Championships

Paddle Australia’s aspiring Tokyo 2020 Olympic canoe sprint talent, including Rio Olympian Riley Fitzsimmons, will be leading the charge at the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint Junior and U23 World Championships with racing to start in Pitesti, Romania tomorrow, Thursday, 1 August 2019.

Athletes from more than 60 countries will take part in the event which will showcase the future of canoe sprint. Many of the athletes competing have set their sights on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, while others are looking further ahead to Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028.

With just under one year to go to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the Junior and U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships will be a welcome opportunity for Paddle Australia’s youngest Olympic aspirants to get some racing under their belt and build confidence ahead of the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championship and Olympic qualification in three weeks’ time.

Riley Fitzsimmons spearheads the group of U23 paddlers at Pitesti, who will be contesting both the U23 world championships this week as well as the senior world championships and Olympic qualification event in Szeged, Hungary at the end of August (21 – 25 August 2019).

“It’s a super promising team with a lot of rising stars in our country at the moment and it’s going to be really good to get some race practice before the Olympic qualification in Szeged,” Riley Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons celebrated his 23rd birthday last week and will be the most senior member on the team in Pitesti.

“It is my last under 23 world championships, I’ve had some great memories through juniors and it’s developed me into the paddler I am today so fingers crossed we can finish it on a positive note to give us some confidence leading into senior worlds.”

The Avoca Kayak Club paddler will stroke a promising men’s K4 in Romania that includes new-comers to the u23 world and senior world championships team Jackson Collins (QLD) and Jean van der Westhuyzen (QLD) as well as last year’s U23 world champion in the K2 1000 Tom Green (QLD).

Tom Green will also be contesting the men’s K1 1000 in Pitesti, while Jackson Collins and Jean van der Westhuyzen will line up in the men’s K2 1000 with the aim to defend Australia’s 2018 gold medal in the event.

“Everyone is coming here to win, but we’ll try to take the gold medal home again and try and follow Joel (McKitterick) and Tom (Green)’s awesome performance last year,” Jean van der Westhuyzen said.

Green surged on to the international scene in 2018 and after winning u23 gold, he also made the A final at his first Senior World Championships in the men’s K1 500 and finished fourth in the men’s K4 500 together with Olympians Riley Fitzsimmons, Jordan Wood and Murray Stewart.

While Green returns to the team, it will be the first World Championships in the green and gold for20-year old former AFL player and surf ski paddler Jackson Collins, who is the son of four-time Olympian and dual Olympic medallist Daniel Collins and only switched to kayaking last year.

Tom Green - Photo Bence VekassyIt will also be the first senior team for 20-year old former South African Junior marathon world champion Jean van der Westhuyzen, with all four paddlers also to race at this year’s ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Szeged Hungary.

“We haven’t had much time in the K4 because of our commitment to our senior boats. But in saying that in the short time we’ve had, it’s showed some promising improvements.

“More race experience never hurts so it’ll be good racing these U23 world championships to give us the feeling of race day pressure and practicing our routines for the senior worlds,” Riley Fitzsimmons, who will be contesting the men’s K2 together with fellow Olympian Jordan Wood at the senior worlds, explained.

On the women’s side, U23 paddler Brianna Massie (QLD) made late selection to the women’s senior world championships team after promising results at the canoe sprint world cups earlier in the season and will also be racing the U23 world championships in the women’s K1 500m and 200m events in the lead-up to the senior World Championships.

“The U23 worlds is a chance for me to practice performing under pressure, executing a good race and hopefully giving myself confidence moving forward. I hope that I will come away from U23 worlds having learnt a lot and feeling more confident and ready to race senior worlds,” Massie said about the opportunity to race the two world championships.

“I also hope to apply the U23 racing experience to the up and coming domestic season. I hope to learn how to perform at my best in a high-pressure environment without the support of team mates in my boat,” Massie added about her longer-term goals which also include Tokyo 2020.

“As for Tokyo 2020, I am definitely looking towards it as a goal, but there are two steps in reaching that goal. The first step is qualifying the spots in August and the second will be to be selected into those spots next year.

“I am taking each step as it comes, at the moment and the first goal is to secure the quota spot. After that, I know there are many girls both on the team and back home working hard to put their name on one of those seats and I will be doing the same thing.”

Brianna Massie returns to the U23 women’s team together with fellow Queenslander Lucinda Kelly and Jemma Smith (NSW), who will be racing in the women’s K2 500. Jemma Smith will also line up in the women’s K1 1000.

Sydney U23 sprint paddler Ethan Neville (NSW) completes the Australian U23 line-up in Pitesti.

Paddle Australia will be represented in Pitesti with a 16-strong team including several newcomers in the Junior ranks.

“Have fun with it, enjoy every moment you get to paddle out there because you won’t have these opportunities to represent your country for forever. It’s always an honour to put the Australian singlet on and we should feel so lucky to be doing what we do,” is Fitzsimmons’ advice to the up and coming junior paddlers on the team.

It will be the first time on the team for South Australian junior paddlers Ashlee Schoene (SA), Caitlin Webber (SA) and Charli Smyth (SA), while Alicia Fay (QLD) and Yasemin Ray (WA) return to the team.

“We’ve worked really hard to make the team. We missed out last year and I think it made us train so much harder and just have a bigger focus on what we wanted from the sport and we did our best and we are be pretty stoked to be here,” Ashlee Schoene said.

On the junior men’s team fellow South Australians Daniel Kucharski and Jesse Kneebone-Ellis return to the team for their final year of juniors and will be racing the K2 1000 together.

“It’s super exciting to be part of the team again and get some more international racing experience and hopefully improve on our result from last year. We got second in the B final, so 11th overall in the K4 at Juniors last year and hopefully this year we can get to the A final in the K2 and just do as good as we can really,” Dan Kucharski said.
Kucharski and Kneebone-Ellis will also be racing the MK1 500 and 200 respectively, while team mate Tinus Koekemoor will be contesting the men’s K1 1000. Koekemoor returns to the team after missing out of racing at the world championships last year following a car accident.

“I made the team last year and then unfortunately got into a car accident and had to forfeit my position because the injuries were too severe to recuperate before going away. I also had to undergo surgery for a dislocated toe at the beginning of the year, so after all that I’m happy to be here now and to able to show what I’ve got,” Koekemoor said about his come-back journey.

KoekemoerSimilar to Koekemoor last year, up and coming junior paddler Kayley Harlen (NSW) will miss this year’s world championships after suffering a wrist injury in a bike accident during training camp.

Racing starts in Pitesti, Romania on Thursday with the first round of heats. The world championships conclude on Sunday, 4 August 2019.

For more information, including live results once racing starts, see the event website here: https://www.canoeicf.com/canoe-sprint-world-championships/pitesti-2019

2019 ICF Canoe Sprint Junior & U23 World Championships, Pitesti, Romania, 1-4 August 2019

Jackson Collins (QLD):                                                      MK2 1000 + MK4 500
Riley Fitzsimmons (NSW | NSWIS | Avoca)                          MK4 500
Tom Green (QLD | QAS | Varsity Lakes)                             MK1 1000 + MK4 500
Ethan Neville (NSW | NSWIS | Salty Paddlers)                     MK1 200
Jean Van Der Westhuyzen (QLD | QAS | Varsity Lakes):     MK2 1000 + MK4 500

Lucinda Kelly (QLD | QAS | Kawana Waters):                      WK2 500
Brianna Massie (QLD | QAS | Kawana Waters):                   WK1 500 + WK1 200
Jemma Smith (NSW | NSWIS | Avoca):                               WK1 1000 + WK2 500

Jesse Kneebone Ellis (SA | SASI | West Lakes):                  MK2 1000 + MK1 200
Joachim Koekemoer (NSW | NSWIS | Sydney Northern Beaches): MK1 1000
Daniel Kucharski (SA | SASI | West Lakes):                          MK2 1000 + MK1 500

Alicia Fay (QLD | QAS | Kawana Waters):                             WK4 500
Yasemin Ray (WA | WAIS | Bayswater):                               WK4 500
Ashlee Schoene (SA | West Lakes):                                    WK 4 500
Charli Smyth (SA | West Lakes):                                         WK1 200 + WK2 500
Caitlin Webber (SA | West Lakes):                                       WK2 500

By Events 
WK2 500 Lucinda Kelly, Jemma Smith
WK1 500 Brianna Massie
WK1 200 Brianna Massie
WK1 1000 Jemma Smith

MK1 1000 Tom Green
MK1 200 Ethan Neville
MK2 1000 Jean van der Westhuyzen / Jackson Collins
MK4 500 Fitzsimmons / Green / Collins / van der Westhuyzen

WK2 500 Charli Smyth / Caitlin Webber
WK1 200 Charli Smyth
WK4 500 Ray/Schoene/ Fay/ Webber

MK1 500 Dan Kucharski
MK1 200 Jesse Kneebone-Ellis
MK1 1000 Joachim Koekemoer
MK2 1000 Dan Kucharski / Jesse Kneebone-Ellis

Follow live via www.canoeicf.com or via Planet Canoe youtube:


Team Aus Race Schedule Thursday, 1 August 2019  

09:18 18 WK4 500m Heat 1 Lane 2 Ray/Schoene/ Fay/ Webber
Progression: 1st to A, 2/7 to Semi
09:50 18 Mk1 1000m Heat 3 Lane 3 Joachim Koekemoer
Progression: 1/6 to Semi + 3 next best
11:00 23 WK1 1000m Heat 2 Lane 8 Jemma Smith
Progression: 1/3 direct to final. 4/7 + next BT to semi
11:07 23 MK1 1000m Heat 1 Lane 5 Tom Green
Progression: 1/6 to Semi + 3 next best
12:10 18 MK2 1000m Heat 3 Lane 4 Dan Kucharski / Jesse Kneebone-Ellis
Progression: 1/6 to Semi + 3 next best
12:45 23 MK2 1000m Heat 1 Lane 5 Jean V.W/ Jackson C
Progression: 1st to A, 2/7 to Semi
15:20 18 WK1 200m Heat 2 Lane 2 Charli Smyth
Progression: 1/7 + Next BT to semi
15:55 18 MK1 200m Heat 4 Lane 3 Jesse Kneebone – Ellis
Progression: 1/7 + Next BT to semi
16:45 23 WK1 200m Heat 2 Lane 6 Brianna Massie
Progression: 1/6 to Semi + 3 next best
17:10 23 MK1 200m Heat 3 Lane 1 Ethan Neville
Progression: 1/6 to Semi + 3 next best
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