Royal Canoe Club’s Radka Felingerova is now 3rd in the International Canoe Federation wildwater rankings for C1, based on her combined points in the ‘classic’ and ‘sprint’ events, in which she was placed 3rd and 4th respectively at the World Championships last week.
The results might indicate a smooth trip – alas, it was not quite so.
In Bosnia for a thrilling World Cup, Italian and German coaches saw Radka’s Limax C1 and advised installing new fittings to make it more competitive. These changes did make a difference and it was revealing just how supportive countries’ coaches can be to other teams even in such a competitive environment.
Radka trained in the new Limax C1 for two weeks in France before the arrival of the rest of the British team. She made significant progress during the week though there were some spectacular rolls, capsizes and swims in the rapids. The boat retaliated during one swim and hit Radka in the face. Even with blood running down her face, she kept going. Her boat was saved on two occasions by the Czech and Australian teams, who were rewarded with beer – it proved an expensive reward by the end of the trip.
The World Champs saw 30 countries and more than 600 people at the opening ceremony. It was an amazing atmosphere, the sight of an eagle flying flags into the arena something many of us will remember.
Radka faced the ‘classic’ event first - a 5km time trial. The winning time last year was 18.47 minutes and in training Radka’s three best splits totalled 17.35 mins – 3 T pot island time trials, really. Putting them together with no errors was always going to be tough.
In the end, Julie Paoletti of France won in 16.49, two minutes faster than last year with the same volume of water on the same river. HanaPeterkova of the Czech Republic was 2nd in 17.08 and Rdka just seconds behind at 17.24 n third place.
All three beat local paddler and hot favourite Marjolaine Hecquet, while last year’s sprint world champion, Rosalyn Lawrence of Australia, only managed 5th in 18.49.
The medal ceremony was a very proud moment indeed. But training resumed straightaway with the ‘sprint’ event still to come.
Radka, unfortunately came to grief during a practice warm-up routine. Swerving to avoid rescue swimmers in the river, Radka ended up with a broken boat on rocks and more cuts and bruises to boot. This was pretty disastrous with just 18 hours to the finals.
An assessment of the boat revealed it had no tail deck, a detached cockpit rim detached, three substantial holes and four hull splits.
Radka’s spare boat was old and uncompetitive. Dave got to work and struggled through the night to get the boat fixed. Fueled by the local hooch and armed with masses of epoxy from Harry Postill and Dave Bradburn, the boat started to take shape again. Meanwhile, Radka qualified in her old boat, no mean feat – and something defending champion Rosalyn Lawrence wasn’t able to do after capsizing before the finish line.
The final was spectacular. You get one run down the course and the fastest wins. There’s no room for error.
The atmosphere was incredible – TV coverage and massive French crowds saw to that. Radka qualified 5th so was second to start. Perhaps not one of her best runs but under the circumstances a truly spirited performance that earned her 4th place. One of the other favourites last years silver medalist Radka Valikova capsized just before the finish and couldn’t roll up in time before crossing the line so was disqualified. .
Check out some of the footage here. The overhead shots are a little deceptive but watch the river level shots and you will see how big the river really is. Footage of the WC1 class starts at about 29 minutes. Radka is wearing bib number 36.
Elsewhere, Ben Oakley (Men’s K1 sprint) was fastest British finisher. He scraped through to the final as the 15th fastest following the disqualification of Tomas Slovak for an underweight boat. His bronze medal was a fantastic result.
Sandra Hyslop was 5th in the Women’s K1 and just 1.19 seconds off the winner.
The Men’s K1 Sprint Team Event of Ben Oakley, Grant Anderson and Martyn Steele was 7th.
And in the Masters Classic C2 event Dave Bradburn and Brian McNulty won a brilliant bronze medal.
Harry Postill, only just out of the junior class gained valuable experience in his first year as a senior.
After the closing ceremony we bade a sad farewell to all team friends and fellow paddlers and coaches from across the world and headed home. The UK was a welcome sight after six weeks and 6,500 miles of driving on the wrong side of the road.
Article by Dave Kelly, personal coach to Radka Felingerova and the GB Team