The sun was shining for Australia’s Canoe Slalom Team, as all five K1 athletes progressed to the semifinals on Day 3 of the 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships at the Lee Valley Whitewater Centre in London.
After a tumultuous day on Wednesday for the C1 Heats, Jess Fox had a smooth opening run in the WK1 heats, qualifying in second place for Saturday’s semifinals, 0.53 seconds off Germany’s Ricarda Funk in the top spot.
Fox said she was relieved to put down the run she wanted on the first go, especially considering the challenges mother nature threw at her on Wednesday.
“The conditions were amazing this morning, the sun’s out there, no wind, I’m in a short sleeve shirt, so really happy to be racing and happy to put a good run down,” the NSWIS athlete said.
“To be racing today with pretty good conditions makes a huge difference. You can focus on your lines, and attack it a bit more.
“It was very tight in the top 20m. This course is not the hardest course we’ve seen, so that means the margin for error is absolutely tiny. I was really keen to put down a good run with no mistakes to go through on the first run.”
After putting down the 28th fastest run of 72 starters in Women’s Heat 1, Kate Eckhardt’s strong form continued in Heat 2, where she finished 9th and earnt her start in the 30-paddler WK1 semifinal on Saturday.
Tim Anderson had a blistering first run in the Men’s K1 to record the fifth fastest time from 101 athletes to automatically qualify into Saturday’s semifinal.
Anderson said he felt calm and relaxed all race, which allowed him to bring his consistent form that has seen him in two top-10 K1 World Cup finals so far this season.
“It was a surprisingly relaxed, calm run, I never really flustered the whole way and I just kept paddling,” Anderson said.
“I was very relieved to just get the first qualification out of the way, it was really nice not having to do a second run, and pleasing to keep my good form going.
“It definitely helps knowing you can put down a top-10 pace run, and it wasn’t outside of my control at any time either.”
The Men’s K1 Heat 2 was delayed by a short severe storm, but the clouds parted once more for Anderson’s teammates Lucien Delfour and Ben Pope to join him in the semifinal.
Delfour produced the second fastest time in Heat 2, while Pope finished 8th to punch his ticket to the 40-athlete MK1 semi.
“It’s always a tough run when you’re in the second heat, especially when a lot of top paddlers missed out on the first heat so they had to go again and I knew I had my work cut out for me,” Pope said following Heat 2.
“I had one small mishap towards the start but the rest was good and I am happy with my run. I knew if I came down with a time around 81 [seconds], I would pretty much guarantee to be in the semi’s but I came down in 82 so I knew it was going to be close, but I’ve just done enough.
“It’s an absolute privilege to be here and to be able to represent Australia and hopefully do well in the finals now.”
Eckhardt and the Men’s K1 trio will have a rest day on Friday before they return to the course for finals on Saturday.
However Jessica Fox will be back in action on Friday for the Women’s C1 finals, where the first Canoe Slalom Paris 2024 Olympic quota places will be awarded to the first 12 nations. She’ll take to the course at 10.19am local time (7.19pm AEST) for the semifinals, before the finals get underway from 1.35pm local (10.35pm AEST).