On to Duisburg from Poznan, all of our Olympic events were covered here plus a couple of events we had not qualified boats for.
The Mens K1 1000m I have bitched enough about already, so the facts of the day were. Tim qualified for the A final while Paul had to settle for the B Final. This almost certainly means Tim will be our entrant for the Olympic 1000m race.
The semi final showed a very promising return to some kind of form for Tim, he has been a bit lacklustre for two years for various reasons and this is the first sign of some spark returning to his form. He is an exceptional talent and from here there is no knowing how far he can get up the ranks in time for the big event. Congratulations to him and I am sure with things now more settled he will get down to the work needed to get back in medal form.
For Paul it was the end of the line this time. A really good win in the B Final would be small consolation. You have to take your hat off to Paul for taking this challenge by the horns. He has given it a really good shot and came closer than most would have thought possible. But for a few hundredths of a second in Nottingham in April, this race could have been his.
The Mens K2 1000 saw Boyton and Rutherford back out in their K2, as yet they have not put down a bad performance internationally and this was no exception, finishing their semi final tantalisingly close to the Final A qualifiers and then going on to an exciting B Final they really have shown they are worthy of their place. You can only wonder what could have been had they been given this opportunity earlier in the cycle.
They also raced the K2 500m which saw them reach the A Final, though the standard is marginally lower in this non Olympic class they again showed that they are on the up and I think a very exciting prospect for the future. For me they were the stars of this regatta for GB.
The Womens K1 500 saw Rachael back out for more, having not been on site I don’t really know what to make of her semi final which seemed on paper to have been a nightmare. 6 seconds down at halfway is not what you would expect from a potential medallist. It would have seemed very bleak had she not won her C Final in a time that would have placed her well in the A Final. I know times are not comparable across different races but it was clear that the semi final had just been a one off aberration (we hope!)!
In the K2 500 Lani and Angela were again just pipped to the A Final places but again had a strong showing in the B Final. The competition here was pretty tough with two Hungarian and two German crews in the mix even if one of them did get disqualified for an underweight boat! It seems Louisa Sawers has started a trend!
The womens K4 was the highlight of the Worlds last year and it was exciting to see them back out for the first time. However all was not looking rosy. A 5th place and well down on the Germans and Poles with Hungarians, Russians and the Chinese all absent, there is clearly work to be done. On the video the boat looked a little ragged and rushed compared to last season when in extraordinary circumstances they took the win at this same regatta.
For Lani and Angela this may leave the door open for pushing their way into contention for a seat in this boat if the coaches decide there is time to tinker before London.
In the C1 classes we were not really close to A Final territory. In the 1000m James Train and Matt Lawrence were in the same semi final for their qualification tussle. Both were well down on the winner who coincidentally will be the man who loses his Olympic spot if Team GB have the nerve to accept their host nation place. From my view it would be amoral and criminal to do this to a man who has medal potential, but then again the perceived success of my job does not hang on how many people we qualify for the Games.
In the C1 200m Richard Jeffries again in the B Final took a respectable 4th place. The debate over who or if anyone should go to London is going to be interesting
The 200m events it seems are still the main medal hopes for GB. Ed McKeever again showed his winning form against new talent from Ecuador in the shape of Cesar de Ceasar one of several South Americans to podium this weekend. Only Siemionowski stands between him and the big prize and being out with a bad wrist must turn the tables in Eds favour.
In the K2 though things took a very interesting turn. The Russians who broke a paddle last week in Poznan, beat both the French and the Brits on their way to the final and in doing so laid down the fastest ever time over this distance. With them now in the mix and the French having never been beaten kind of relegated us to third ranked boat which is not a comfortable place to be.
Come the final though, there was a silver lining. The Russians took the race with a very commanding performance which is going to be hard to live with. However on the plus side Liam and Jonny beat the French reasonably comfortably which will give them a lot of confidence. To take the scalp of a crew who have always beaten you somehow changes the attitude for the better! The boys are not going to relinquish ground easily. The most impressive display from them we have seen yet.
In the women’s 200m event Jess Walker missed the A Final again but just as Rachael did in the 500m her B Final placing and time suggest she is capable of much better when she gets it right. All we need to do in these races it seems is get some of the consistency our men’s team have made their trademark!
When it comes down to it we are looking at medals in London to justify our huge budget. At this stage the K1 200 is looking like a banker, I am not going to put the hex on anything by suggesting a colour but the signs are good. In the K2 for a moment there the chances were looking slimmer but these guys are not folding. Chances it seems are still good though from this weekend’s showing the Gold is going to be a tall order.
Our other medal hopes are less definite but still alive. If both the women’s K1s hit the right form they should be in with a chance of Final A and from there who knows. It is tough at the top though. The K4 looked close to a win last year and they are going to have to do some work to get back to that level. Hopefully with another couple of races under their belt they will move up to a more realistic position than they took this weekend. At this stage there must be some lingering doubts as to whether splitting the women between three coaches after last season’s success was the best route to take. Has management bowing to paddler pressure again taken its toll on the team standings? Miklos Simon relegated to sub coach after getting the women this far must have mixed emotions seeing them trailing in the rankings right now. Perhaps the old adage “If it ain’t broke..don’t fix it” may well come back to taunt the management on this one.
The outside shot at this stage is Tim in the 1000m, he is well off the pace right now and he knows it. He also knows that he has done it before, more importantly his opposition knows that as well. His 2nd place in 2010 showed what he can do off the back of a mediocre year so I for one will not write him off. Winners do not quit and do not forget how to win.
Initially there was talk of 5 possible medals in 2012, this has already been reduced to a more realistic 3. However your guess is as good as mine as to where that 3rd medal is coming from. If we don’t get three, will there be any significant backlash? .............Probably not if we still get to write our own reports!