World’s best canoeists give brand new Tokyo course the thumbs up

Japan’s first-ever purpose-built canoe slalom centre came under the spotlight over the weekend as the test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games took place – with world-class athletes giving the venue their seal of approval.

Picture by Getty Images

The Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre, situated on the outskirts of the Japanese capital, is 200m in length, with a height difference of 4.5m from start to finish. It will remain in use after the Games for water sports and rafting.

The state-of-the-art course uses similar technology to the one built for Rio 2016, which allows the volume and intensity of water to be easily adjusted. It will have 7,500 temporary seats during Games time, with the competitions running from 26 to 31 July.

Numerous top paddlers from around the world attended the test, aiming to get a feel for the course where they will compete for medals next   summer.

Germany’s Hannes Aigner and David Llorente of Spain were both awarded gold medals in the men’s K1 after crossing the line with the same time.

“For the first time ever in my career, I can share the win with another athlete,” said Aigner.

The German – and current world champion – was officially the winner after a flawless performance (Llorente picked up two penalties). Felix Oschmautz of Austria got bronze.

There was further kayak success for Germany in the women’s event, as Ricarda Funk took gold in the K1.

“Racing was challenging, but so much fun,” she said, adding that she loved “the vertical and horizontal city of Tokyo… what great training scenery, skyscrapers are rising up in the background, while horizontal bollards and vertical poles are defining the line on the water.”

The Czech Republic’s Amálie Hilgertová got silver, with New Zealand's Luuka Jones third.

Mallory Franklin of Great Britain won the women's C1, with Spain’s Nuria Vilarrubla taking silver and Andrea Herzog of Germany the bronze.

“Super challenging course, fun to try and figure it out,” said Mallory. “[I’m] Really happy to come out on top and do a really good run.”

Switzerland’s Thomas Koechlin won the men's C1, ahead of Cedric Joly of France in second, and Slovakian Benjamin Savšek in third.