Time Trials, Round One, Repachage. Day One at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games
The morning kicked off with individual runs that sorted the order of the day. Many faced some serious challenges as a few athletes with very little Canoe Sprint experience faced some of the world's best juniors.
Starting with the Women's K1 category, Hungary's Ramona Farkasdi kept up her country's tradition of Canoe Sprint domination winning the time trial and both her rounds with ease moving on to the 4th round tomorrow. The Russian Natalia Podolskaya also won, as expected. Talking to the ICF after winning the first round, Natalia said; “It's an extraordinary course, usually we are trying to go straight, now there are so many turns, I like it. The level is really high, it's good to see other competitors. My strategy was to concentrate throughout the whole distance so if I failed in one turn, I would fail in all.” Hot favourite in the Canoe Slalom category, Jessica Fox (AUS) qualified in 8th position after the time trials which meant a meeting with home-girl, Wang Nan Feng.
The crowd's cheers were just not enough for the young Singaporean however, Jessica Fox crossed the line first. But Nan Feng put up a good fight. “I was hoping I could win, it was so close but I did my best... the crowd were really supportive, they helped me a lot. I especially told my coach to shout really really loud.” Talking about the course she continued, “I had a few months to practice... when athletes don't practice, their turns are really really big so it's their disadvantage. I don't paddle as fast as others so I have to make it up in the corners.” Jess went on to the third round where she was knocked out in a very close race.
Canoe Slalom specialists were taken through their paces as they raced for the first time on such an international stage in a Canoe Sprint boat. Going into the third round, the Brazilian, Isaquias Queiroz, had posted the fastest time of the day's events. Most surprising about this though is that this time of 1.41.53 was posted in his time trial. Round 1 did not happen for the young Queiroz as the disqualification of the Russian athlete, Alexey Volgin. Instead Queiroz went straight through to Round 3, winning that with ease.
At the other end of the scale, Hayden Daniels (who raced World Champion, Tony Estanguet on Thursday) showed his sporting spirit – or YOG DNA – as, visibly shaky in his sprint boat, he made his way round the course.
Going into tomorrow's final, other strong athletes to look out for are the Cuban, Cardenas Sacerio, and the Ukranian, Anatolii Melnyk.
Germany and Poland are looking strong. Perhaps the biggest excitement of the day came when Singaporean, Brandon Ooi came up against Australian Scott Smith. A true photo finish, this race had the local crowd going crazy in the filled stands. At first under the impression he had beaten Smith, silence fell over the crowd as they were delivered the news. The two were actually a metre apart, perhaps not a photo finish in a standard sprint race, but with the athletes finishing in opposite directions it is not so easy.
Talking to the ICF directly after the race, Brandon said, “the crowd helped me quite a bit. The race felt ok until the last run, I was completely exhausted. My strategy was to just go and go and see how....”. Racing later in the 2nd round repechage, the crowd very nearly saw their boy go through but after another really tight race, Brandon was knocked out.
Again, in the K1, we saw more of the spirit of the Games as Dikongue Dipoko of Cameroon made it round in his sprint boat. Clearly new to the experience, this young athletes grit determination saw him through. An inspiration to us all.
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