Olympic Places on the line this weekend at Australian Open
Olympic places will be on the line this weekend when more than 200 athletes from 24 countries compete in the 2012 Slalom Australian Open at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium.
The three-day event which begins this Friday 10th and ends Sunday 12th will be the first selection event to determine the 2012 Australian Olympic teams, with a win at the Australian Open increasing an athlete’s chances of securing an Olympic berth.
Racing will start on Friday with qualification runs for all events, followed by the Women’s K1 and Men’s C1 semi finals and finals on Saturday, with the remaining events scheduled for Sunday.
The Women’s K1 event promises to be an exciting affair with Jessica Fox, Rosalyn Lawrence, Kate Lawrence, and Sarah Grant set to battle it out, as they rival one another for the women’s single Olympic spot.
Kate Lawrence, who lives near the Penrith venue, said she was going into the competition feeling confident.
“I'm feeling really happy with my training. I paddled well at Nationals, and it was just one touch that knocked me down from 1st place to 4th. I've been refining my speed and focus even more since then. I'm feeling well prepared both physically and mentally and I'm looking forward to the upcoming races,” she said.
Lawrence was pipped at the post for a qualification spot in 2007 by her sister Jacqui. This time around she has another sibling to contend with: younger sister Rosalyn.
But she is confident that she has her match.
“I've had a few more years experience on the national team and racing big races. I've also suffered the disappointment from last time, and as they say - what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger,” Lawrence said.
“I have been really happy with my physical and mental preparation and I'm feeling confident that I can make the team. I've gone about things a bit differently this time. I've taken a holistic view, covering all my bases and trying new things in my training, but also balancing that with other interests and realising that it won't be the end of the world if I don't qualify. I'll be doing my best to make it happen though.”
Jessica Fox had a fine 2011 season combining her high school studies with competing at world cups and the world championship.
“Preparation has been really good, I’m really happy that I have overcome my back injury from last year and am excited to race,” she said.
Her performance at the Worlds in Bratislava, secured the Olympic Women’s K1 quota for Australia. But now she has to battle her teammates to claim that place in London.
“There are only four of us, and we have all been really close,” she said.
“There was only a second separating us at Nationals, and on any given day we are all good enough to beat each other.
“I think the key for me will be pacing myself through the weekend, so that I produce my best time in the final, then it’s off to Oceanias.”
Fox’s father, Richard, was a five time world champion for Great Britain, and her mother Miriam a bronze medallist for France at the Olympics, but she doesn’t believe her pedigree adds pressure to her career.
“No I don’t think so. I’m pretty young and I feel that if I miss out this time I will have a few more chances in the future, plus later this year this are world cups and Junior Worlds to look forward to so there are plenty more opportunities to achieve something great,” she said.
“I think I can learn from my parents’ experiences. You know my mum is my coach and she tells me what to expect, so I think that leaves me in good stead. But this weekend I’m just really looking forward to paddling against all the internationals. It’s a great field and I’m looking forward to racing.”
Austria’s 2011 Slalom K1 World Champion Corinna Kuhnle will be hard to beat for overall honours, but expect the Australian contingent to push the champ all the way, along with fellow countrywoman Violetta Oblinger-Peters, Elena Kaliska (SVK) and Eva Tercelj (SLO) who finished 6th, 7th and 9th respectively at Worlds last year.
The Men’s C1 finals will also be raced on Saturday and after teaming up to qualify their spots for London in the Men’s C2 event, Kynan Maley and Robin Jeffery will go head to head as they try to get the advantage heading into the Oceania Champs later this month.
The duo will face competition from recent New Zealand Open winner Ian Borrows who is in good form, and Ethan Hodson.
Overall honours will prove tough for the Aussies, with a very strong international contingent present including the three medal winners from last year’s World Champs; Denis Gargaud Chanut (FRA), Nico Bettge (GER) and Matej Benus (SVK).
Multiple Olympic and World Champion Tony Estanguet and Great Britain’s Olympic silver medallist David Florence are also set to challenge for line honours in what could be a preview of the Olympic final later this year.
After securing the Athens Quota in 2004, but then missing out on selection, Kynan Maley should be hungrier for success this year.
“Yeah for sure. What happened in 2004 was pretty devastating to get so close and to miss out, knowing that I raced some pretty quick times, but when you coming up against Robin Bell there is not much you can do,” he said.
“Since the disappointment of ‘04 and ‘08 I’ve felt I can race some really good times, and have been about the mark recently and I feel I can do something pretty good, and hopefully I get the chance.”
The Men’s C2 race will be held on Sunday, with Maley and Jeffery expected to be too strong for the Aussie contingent, and likely to challenge the strong international field. French World Championships silver medallists Fabian Lefevre and Denis Gargaud-Chanut, and Slovakian bronze medallists Ladislav and Peter Skantar will be among the feature competitors.
Emerging Aussie duo, 17-year-olds, Andrew Eckhardt and Daniel Watkins, are showing signs as athletes to look out for in the future. A star studded world class field will Line up for the Men’s K1, led by current Slovenian World Champion Peter Kauzer, World championship bronze medallist Fabian Lefevre and Italy’s Danielle Molmenti, but expect Australian trio, Lucien Delfour, Will Forsythe and Warwick Draper to push their international counterparts.
Embarking on competing at his third consecutive Olympics, Warwick Draper and current National Champion Will Forsythe appear to be the frontrunners to compete in the Men’s K1 event in London, but don’t discount the likes of Jaxon Merritt, Sam Lyons and Joey Croft from making a charge.
The Women’s C1 event will round off an exciting weekend of racing, and although not contested at Olympic level, expect Aussie girls Jessica Fox, Rosalyn Lawrence and Leanne Guinea, who are ranked one, two and three in the world to dominate.
The ‘Path to London’
- Australia has already qualified 3 athlete quotas for the 2012 London Games.
- The Women’s K1 and Men’s C2 boats have already gained an Olympic berth as a result of their 2011 World Championship results.
- The Men’s K1 and Men’s C1 spots will be up for grabs at the Slalom Oceania Championships from the 24-26th February in Penrith. The highest placed eligible Oceania athlete following the finals will earn the remaining NOC quota.
- Australia can qualify a maximum of 5 athlete quotas for the London Games.
- For the purpose of selecting which athletes will be nominated to the AOC to fill these quotas, Australian Canoeing will conduct Nomination Trials in each Olympic event.
- Canoe Slalom athletes will be nominated based on the following events:
Nomination Trial 1 - Australian Open, 10-12 February 2012, Penrith NSW
Nomination Trial 2 - Oceania Open, 24 February 2012, Penrith NSW
Nomination Trial 3 - Oceania Open, 25- 26 February 2012, Penrith NSW
For more information, contact: Steve Dettre: firstname.lastname@example.org