Olympic Selection Racing Heats Up at 2020 Oceania Canoe Sprint Championships

Racing continued at the 2020 Oceania Canoe Sprint Association’s Canoe Sprint Continental Championships, Olympic qualifier and Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Grand Prix 2 on Saturday with all eyes set on the first round of Olympic and national team selection racing.

On Friday, Australia provisionally added five additional Olympic canoe sprint quota spots to the ten spots that the team already secured at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships last year and took home two additional spots in the women’s kayaking and women’s canoeing events as well as one quota spot in the men’s C1 1000.

On Saturday and with the maximum canoe sprint quotas locked away, the attention returned to the selection relevant racing at Sydney International Regatta Centre (14-16 February 2020) with the event the first out of two events counting towards Olympic and U23 national team selection.

Olympians Alyce Wood (nee Burnett) and Alyssa Bull made the most of their opportunity and set a first mark in the women’s K2 500, the boat class they raced in at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They taking home the win in the final on Saturday after also winning the heat on Friday.

The Sunshine Coast combination won in a time of 1:41.44 and over two seconds ahead of 2019 world championship K4 team mates Jaime Roberts (WA) and Jo Brigden-Jones (NSW).

“We absolutely love the K2, it’s been great to be able to focus on that again this year and it is like going home again. Just the feeling of the K2 going well, nothing beats it,” Alyce Wood (nee Burnett) said.

“The K2 is good fun and all the girls are racing really fast so the competition is hot out there. The girls are racing well in the K2 and we have everything to lose and everyone else has everything to gain,” Bull added about the pair going into selections at the top of the ranks.

“A big shout out to Cat and Bri (Brianna) getting an extra two spots for the team. It’s going to be very exciting to be able to send six girls to the Games comes Tokyo time,” Alyssa Bull added, giving credit to team mates Cat McArthurand Brianna Massie, who finished third in the K2 500 final, but secured Australia the women’s K2 500 Olympic quota spot in Friday’s racing.

The Oceania Champs are the first round of selection racing, which will wrap up at the Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Championships mid-March (11-15 March) and in each race until then there is a lot at stake.

“The nerves are high, that’s for sure and the pressure coming into this weekend is a lot different to what we are used to. Everyone is targeting you but it is really nice to get out there and have a nice race,” Wood said, who together with Bull, Roberts and Brigden-Jones focused on successfully qualifying the K4 last year.

“Before Rio, we missed qualifying the K4 so in 2016 we had to qualify the K2 which is what Bully and I did and we had to qualify the K1 as well. So, it’s so different this year having a full quota now. This is the first round of selection so this win doesn’t really mean a lot unless we back it up again at nationals but you got to put your best foot forward and that was a really good race,” Wood added about the selection process.

Wood also won the heat and semi-final in the women’s K1 200 as well as the heat in the women’s K1 500, while Alyssa Bull also won her heat in the women’s K1 500 with finals to follow on Sunday.

Racing also started to heat up in the men’s kayaking events with 20-year old Tom Green (QLD) winning the hotly contested men’s K1 1000 in his quest to make his first Olympic team.

Green, who took home a double world champion title last year in the U23 men’s K1 1000 as well as the U23 men’s K4 500, also won the heat and semi-final, before winning the final in a time of 3:30.37 and 1.83 seconds ahead of Jean van der Westhuyzen (QLD). Rio Olympian Jordan Wood finished third with London Olympic champion Murray Stewart (NSW) following in fourth.

“It was actually quite a tough race but it was definitely a good one to learn from and it is even more of a special race when I race the guys I am training with. It’s awesome, knowing that I am racing against Australia’s bests and even some of the World’s bests. We are an A grade group, they help me a lot, I help them and we push ourselves and each other in training which is good,” Tom Green gave credit to his team mates.

Green, who already secured U23 selection in the men’s K2 1000 together with partner Jean van der Westhuyzen on Thursday, will have another chance to impress selectors on Sunday in the Open men’s K2 after the pair won their heat on Saturday. Green also put in straight wins in the heat and semi-final of the men’s K1 500 with the final also scheduled for Sunday.

The men’s K1 200 was won by South Australian Matt Goble, who took out the win in time of 0:35.40 and +0.94 seconds ahead of Ethan Neville (NSW) with Bill Bain (QLD) following in third. Goble also won the heat and semi-final in the event and added two second places in the heat and semi-final of the men’s K1 500 to progress through to tomorrow’s final.

“This was good for me and nice to have a good hit-out and it was the first final of the weekend. The wind definitely helped and hopefully I went fast enough. This weekend for me is about getting good results with nationals the big race for me. That’s where the K1 500 will be my big focus. I will still do the 200 and hopefully some team boats,” Goble said.

“People are definitely paddling faster in the heats and semis than I was expecting and there were a lot of fast times. I don’t think we get people paddling under 1:40 very often in the heats in the 500 and then again in the semi and I think it will be a fast weekend,” Goble added about the racing heating up towards selection.

Goble - Photo JGRImages

Goble – Photo JGRImages

In the women’s C1 it was also all about times, with Australia’s women’s canoe paddlers aiming to meet international performance standards in order to gain selection.

South Australian Sport Institute’s canoeists Bernadette Wallace and Josephine Bulmer wrote sporting history on Friday, securing the first ever women’s canoe quota for Australia, with women’s canoeing to premier on the Olympic Program at Tokyo 2020, but on Saturday they were racing against each other in the C1 and trying to meet those times.

Wallace got the closes, winning the final in a time of 0:49.02 and only 0.87 seconds off the time to hit with Bulmer following in second (0:50.89) and Japan’s Tokui Misaki in third.

“We had a great race yesterday in the C2, not the fastest but it’s definitely on track. It wasn’t what we wanted to do time wise so today was really integral for us to show what we can do in our singles. We are strong and we are fit, we just haven’t done canoeing for very long,” Wallace explained, who only switched from kayaking to canoeing at the end of 2018.

“The final was part of Olympic selection, you get two wins and meet the qualification time and you are in. Today I was .87 off the time, but after all the pressure from yesterday, I’m really happy about what I just did and I got another three weeks until nationals to scrape that .87 off and I’m looking forward to it,” Wallace said confidently.

Wallace - Photo JGRImages

Wallace – Photo JGRImages

In the men’s canoeing, Queensland’s Benjamin Manning secured Australia the Olympic quota on Friday and backed it up on Saturday with a win in the C1 1000 final.

He also still has to meet international performance standards to keep his Olympic dream alive but is confident he will be able to.

“I would love to make the Olympics this year, that’s been my goal for the past couple of years so I aim for Tokyo. It’s always been a goal to make Tokyo 2020 so when I was told that I was the one racing for the quotas it was an honour for me. It was definitely a bit more nerve wracking than most races, but I was really happy to get it done and qualify the spot,” Manning said about the Oceania qualifier on Friday.

“The goal is to go under 3:57 at nationals so I can just be named straight away on the Olympic team, which is definitely been dream of mine for a while now, but if not this year, 2024 has always been the next goal as well. That’s where I want to be, out there competing internationally so four more years will help, but it would be a great experience if I could make this one (Tokyo Olympics),” the young paddler, who is only turning 21 on Sunday, added confidently.

 

While Australia has already secured their maximum Olympic quotas, more Oceania country spots were at stake on Saturday with Samoa adding the men’s K1 200 to their provisional quota allocation after already securing the women’s K1 500 on Friday.

Due to a rib injury, Tonga’s dual Olympian Pita Taufatofua missed the Oceania Continental Qualifier opportunity to secure Tonga its first ever Olympic kayaking spot and his opportunity to lock in his third consecutive Games in a third sport, but he will have another chance at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Germany in May.

Taufatofua – JGR Images

Racing wraps up at Sydney International Regatta Centre on Sunday. 
 
Over 150 athletes from ten countries are contesting the 2020 Oceania Association Canoe Sprint Championship and Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint GP2, with the event kicking off a hot month of paddling on Sydney’s 2000 Olympic canoeing courses and with Olympic and Paralympic team selections set to be decided in Penrith over the next couple of weeks at Sydney International Regatta Centre (SIRC) as well as at the Penrith Whitewater Course.
 
See all results here: http://bit.ly/OceaniaSprint2020Results