Jamaica made canoe slalom history, Slovakia qualified two athletes fastest and France and the Czech Republic continued their solid week with strong performances on the third day of the ICF junior and U23 canoe slalom world championships in Slovenia on Thursday.
When 16-year-old Solomon Maragh took to the water in the first heat of the junior K1 competition he officially became the first ever Jamaican athlete to compete at an International Canoe Federation event.
He did not qualify for the semi-finals, but was happy with his two runs, and happy to have made history for his country.
“I feel really proud to have represented my country, and I’ve done the best that I can do for a developing nation,” Maragh said.
“I feel very proud, and feel I have the responsibility now to set the standard for other Jamaican athletes within canoe slalom when opportunities come along.”
The fastest qualifier in the men’s K1 juniors was Frenchman Titouan Castryck, more than one second ahead of Slovenia’s Urban Gajsek.
Slovakia did send two other athletes through to the semi-finals as fastest qualifiers – Ivana Chlebova in the junior K1, and Simona Glejtekova in the U23 C1.
Chlebova, who also qualified third fastest in the C1, is in her final year of competition as a junior, and celebrated by posting an error-free fastest time in the K1 qualifiers.
“I didn’t feel under any pressure, and just went with the waves,” Chlebova said.
“It’s my last year in the junior category, so I’ve told myself to really push it and we will see how it goes.”
Teammate Glejtekova put together one of the most impressive runs of the day, qualifying fastest by more than one second in the women’s U23 C1 qualifiers.
Spain’s Klara Olazabal, who just missed Tokyo Olympic qualification, went into Thursday as the number one athlete and safely progressed through in 12th place.
“It was enough for the semi-final, so I am happy with that, but I had some trouble at the beginning, I didn’t have a good line so I struggled,” Olazabal said.
“This is an emotional week because it is my last year in U23, so whatever is the result I will be happy with this experience. I am trying to make the most of it.
“I have never been bib number one, so that was kind of a shock but a good surprise.”
Czech Tereza Kneblova was the fastest in the women’s junior C1 qualifiers, finishing more than one second ahead of Slovakia’s Zuzana Pankova.
American Evy Leibfarth, who will head from Slovenia to Tokyo to make her Olympic debut, qualified sixth fastest in the morning’s junior K1, and fourth fastest in the C1 in the afternoon.
Friday will see semi-finals and finals in the men’s and women’s U23 kayak and the men’s and women’s junior canoe.