Olympic champions impress as sprint canoeists get first taste of Tokyo 2020 venue

Fierce racing and a serene setting helped contribute to a successful canoe sprint test event at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo. The Ready Steady Tokyo Canoe Sprint & Paracanoe event, organised by Tokyo 2020, saw many of the sport’s top competitors participate.

Sebastian Brendel of Germany, the gold medallist in the men’s C1 1,000m at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, also took the top prize here. “I can leave the city with a smile and hope for fair conditions next year,” he said afterwards. Another Olympic gold medallist, Germany’s Tom Liebscher, also got gold. He accompanied Jacob Schopf to top the podium in the men’s K2 1,000m.

Perhaps the star of the weekend was Belarus’s Maryna Litvinchuk. The 31-year-old has been on the canoe scene for a long time, winning bronze medals at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 as part of four-women crews in the K4. But she showed her flair for solo racing at the Sea Forest Waterway, paddling her way to gold in both the K1 200m and the 500m – before teaming up with Volha Khudzenka to take the women’s K2 500m title for Belarus, too.

Elsewhere, two young athletes staked their claims as ones to watch in Japan next summer. Russia’s Kseniia Kurach, 22, stormed to victory in the women’s C1 200m, while Balint Kopasz of Hungary, also 22, was dominant in the men’s K1 1,000m. Mateusz Kaminski and Michal Kudla of Poland won the men’s C2 1,000m, while Virag Balla and Kincso Takacs from Hungary got gold in the women’s C2 500m. Sandor Totka of Hungary was victorious in the men’s K1 200m, completing a great weekend for his national squad.

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The Sea Forest Waterway also showed itself to be one of Tokyo 2020’s most attractive sites. A new, permanent venue constructed for the Games, it offers lovely views of Tokyo Bay and the Tokyo Gate Bridge.

The field of play is protected from the effects of waves, currents and tides by wave absorbers and two dams. It holds a maximum of 16,000 spectators, has high standards of accessibility and uses solar panels and state-of-the-art technology to help reduce its carbon footprint.

After the Tokyo 2020 Games, the course will be used for international rowing and canoe competitions.

As well as being a great chance for athletes, federations and officials to familiarise themselves with the field of play in Tokyo, the Ready Steady Tokyo event also allowed the organisers to test an innovative way to fight Tokyo’s summer heat: the snow machine. It is part of a series of measures being explored by officials to counter Tokyo’s summer heat and humidity.

“The Organising Committee wants to try all it can to mitigate the heat, and this is one of the ideas that we came up with,” said Taka Okamura, a senior director at the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.