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A top ten finish from Josh Kippin was the highlight on a gripping day of competition for the Australian athletes at the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Kippin bounced back from a disappointing result at last year’s World Championships to finish ninth in a hotly contested men’s K1 final at Camps Drift.
“I had a pretty bad result last year with a 20th, so I was pretty disappointed with that,” the Western Australian said.
“So I just went back to the drawing board and re-jigged my training. My goal was top 10, I finished ninth so mission accomplished and it’s a stepping stone from here.
“You don’t get much respect when no-one knows you, but after you win a couple of sprints, I don’t know if it puts a bit of a target on your back,” he said.
“Down in Australia you are isolated from the European racing, we don’t get much chance to race at this level at all, so it’s a slow progression, but I’m learning fast.”
Michael Leverett finished 14th in the same race.
Marlena Ahrens finished 15th in the women’s C1.
“It was pretty tough in those conditions, really hot,” she said.
“Overall I think it was a really strong race, considering I had a year off last year.”
Teammate Kate Leverett fell out in the opening stages of the race and had to withdraw.
Reka Abraham made history for Australia, competing in the women’s C1 and finishing sixth.
“I knew I probably couldn’t keep up with the girls at the start, they are all sprinters and I just started in November,” Abraham said.
“So it’s still a lot of work for me for the future. In Victoria I am the only female canoeist, so I’m used to paddling on my own.
“Definitely my goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 with the girls, so I think it’s a good learning curve for me to start with the longer distances and get a bit of endurance in for the sprints.”
In the men’s C1 Rain Metsoja followed up his medal-winning performance in the Masters earlier in the week with a 10th in Saturday’s final.
Sunday will see Australians competing in the K2 classes.
There were more encouraging results for Australian paddlers on day two of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg.
Daniel Mole and Mitchell Cronin followed up their strong individual performances from Thursday with an eighth in the K2 men’s junior race, while Luke Dooley and Maxwell Smith finished 11th.
Emily O’Rourke and Rachel De Kretser fell out of their boat on the first lap, but climbed back in to finish their K2 women’s junior race in 10th place.
“It’s especially hard once you fall in at the start, just mentally keeping going,” O’Rourke said.
“I thought we were going to get lapped there for a little bit, but we didn’t and I’m really proud that we finished that.”
“We came all the way from Australia, so we had to finish the race,” De Kretser said.
Casey Haynes finished 18th and Logan Dutton 20th in the men’s U23 K1.
Sebastian Wakim didn’t finish the men’s U23 C1.
Australia has made a positive start to the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, headed by 18-year-old Erin Blanch in the junior women’s K1.
Blanch turned in a career-best performance to finish fifth in the 19-kilometre event, contested in scorching hot conditions in South Africa.
“It was very hard and very hot, but it was so much fun,” the Queenslander said after her race.
“I had a great experience and learned heaps. I would have been happy with top ten to be honest.
“I felt really comfortable on the wash out the back, I was just trying to save my energy because I knew I might not be as strong as the other girls. I just thought if I raced smart I could hang on to them.”
In the men’s K1 junior Daniel Mole finished eighth and Mitchell Cronin 10th.
“Grinding through that heat was a real struggle, but it was good to get through it and we had a great end sprint, so I was really stoked with those efforts,” Mole said.
“To be able to hook on to that front pack for the first lap, it boosts your confidence something chronic.
“You come away from a race like this and you think ‘I’ve just raced the best in the world’. You feel like Superman. You feel like you can do anything.”
Cronin said he had learned or lot from the race.
“It’s kill or be killed, it’s pretty brutal out there,” Cronin said.
“You’ve just got to hold your line and be tough, really tough.
“We weren’t too far off it at the end, so that’s a good eye opener. Anything can happen from here on in, the sky’s the limit.”
Mole and Cronin will team up for the junior K2 on Friday evening, Australian time.
Isabel Neilson finished 10th and Matilda Stevenson 11th in the women’s K1 U23, on a day when Hungary won every gold medal on offer.
Six Australian boats will be in action on Friday.
The 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships begin in South Africa on Thursday, with 21 Australians entered to take on the best paddlers in the world.
Australia has already made it’s mark at the Pietermaritzburg event, picking up 11 medals at a very successful Marathon Masters World Cup earlier this week.
Teenager Erin Blanch will kick off Australia’s World Championship campaign in the 19-kilometre K1 junior women’s event.
Matilda Stevenson and Isabel Neilson will both carry the Australian colours in the women’s U23 K1 over 22.6 kilometres, while Mitchell Cronin and Daniel Mole will be the final Australians in action on Thursday, competing in the K1 men’s junior event.
Full details of the event can be found on the canoeicf.com webpage, and you can watch live streaming of all races on the Planet Canoe YouTube page.