Slalom C1 Heats
report and photographs
Beijing, China - Slovakian C1
legend Michal Martikan signalled his intentions of ending his back-to-back
Olympic silver medal streak with two unmatched runs in the heats of the
Olympic slalom C1 competition at the impressive man-made wild water course
at Shunyi, north East of Beijing.
Martikan, who has had to play
second fiddle to France's Tony Estanguet at the last two Olympics since he
won gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was in a class of his own as the
sixteen athletes raced for the twelve berths in the semi-finals on
Martikan's two clear runs were the fastest of the day, but
importantly the stocky, slight Slovakian showed that he has the
combination of strength and subtle technique to master the demands posed
by the powerful and technical 280 metre long channel.
His speed and
glide in the upstream gates set him apart from the rest of the field, as
he took the first step towards a second Olympic gold with a brace of fast
Martikan however downplayed his times. "The times are not
important," he said. "The real race starts tomorrow, with the semi-finals
and the final."
The fastest time of the day belonged to Great
Britain's David Florence, who bounced back from posting the seventh
fastest first run, with a blistering 82 second second run that has set a
new benchmark for this course.
Germany's Jan Benzien also made his
point by being the only other paddler to cover the course in less that 85
seconds with an impressive clear second run.
Czech Republic ace
Stanislav Jezek also put his hand up with two solid and fast runs that
kept him at the top of the leaderboard until he was trumped by the speed
of Florence and Benzien.
Defending Olympic champion Tony Estanguet
was nervy and hesitant on the first day of competition on what was widely
regarded as a fair and manageable course set on the powerful 17 cumecs of
water. After a jittery first run he posted a far more convincing second to
finish the heats in sixth place.
Martikan made his intentions clear
from the outset with a clinical and aggressive first run, with his
trademark fast glide and speed on the upstream gates allowing him to post
the fastest first run time.
With Spaniard Ander Elosegui and
Russian Alexander Lipatov also posting fast clear rounds, Australian Robin
Bell found himself sixth, after a sluggish top section of the
Further down the field Japans Takuya Haneda, Poland's
Krzystof Bieryt and Croat Emir Mujcinvic all picked up two second
penalties for touching gates, sending them into the bottom four on the
leaderboard, where they faced the risk of not qualifying for the
They were joined there by South African "Master" Cele,
who was a bundle of nerves, and had to twice Eskimo roll after capsizing
on the top half of the course. He then accumulated a fifty second penalty
for missed a gate in the lower section, effectively sealing the end of his
dreams of reaching the semi-finals.
Bieryt bailed himself out of
trouble with a fast second run which saw him depose Canadian into
thirteenth place, and out of the semi-finals
The C1 slalom event
will conclude on Tuesday when semi-finals will decide the eight finalists,
who will then contest the Olympic medals.
Combined times of first and second runs
2.Jan Benzien GER 170.50
3.David Florence GBR
4.Stanislav Jezek CZE 172.09
5.Ander Elosegui ESP
6.Tony Estanguet FRA 176.08
7.Robin Bell AUS
8.Christos Tsakmakis GRE 177.54
9.Alexander Lipatov RUS
10.Benn Fraker USA 179.44
11.Liming Feng CHN
12.Krzystof Bieryt POL 183.29
13.James Cartwright CAN 184.63
14.Takuya Haneda JPN 186.32 DNQ
15.Emir Mujcinovic CRO 189.31
16.Siboniso Cele RSA 262.93 DNQ