Nouria Newman took a giant step towards an inaugural Whitewater XL overall crown on a poignant day for the French team at the new Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today.
Newman collected the women’s K1 title in the canoe slalom finals, with only her favoured boatercross to come as the wildly successful four-day event draws to a close.
Her 0.39sec win over Australia’s Rosalyn Lawrence, despite a 2sec touch, proved a happy end to a tough day for her teammates after they learned one of their physios had died in an accident in France overnight.
“It was hard to get the news this morning and a bunch of emails this afternoon and I was definitely thinking of him when I was racing,” Newman said. “My run got better and better and I knew I had good moves, then I crushed gates 8 and 9 and that gave me confidence. I was so grateful to have the French boys running down the course cheering at the end because I was so tired.”
British paddler Lizzie Neave was third, ahead of Martina Wegman, with home-town favourite Luuka Jones gutted not to deliver a win after clipping three gates and finishing fifth.
The Rio Olympic silver medalist announced this week she’d be pursuing C1 towards the Tokyo Olympics and could at least draw comfort from her results in that class this week, adding a second behind Australian Rosalyn Lawrence tonight.
“It’s been an awesome few days of racing and there’s a lot to take from it, especially with the way my C1 went,” Jones said. “It is tiring doing both and it adds a different element to racing but it’s a positive one and I was really happy with my C1 run today.”
The international paddlers again dominated the finals, with Newman and Lawrence joined by German Franz Anton (men’s C1) and Czech Republic star Ondrej Tunka (men’s K1) atop the victory dais.
Anton continued his epic battle with Slovakian Matej Benus, the silver medalist in Rio, with the pair separated by 1.01secs in the final, ahead of Frenchman Cedric Joly.
Tunka’s win was the closest of the evening, however, after another German Stefan Hengst put down a clean 84.79sec time early in the final.
“I heard Stefan’s time before I raced and knew I had to risk everything to be better and I’m so happy to win,” Tunka said, after clocking 84.65 in his run. “I was pretty tired after a hard week of racing but this has made everything feel great!”
Mike Dawson’s hectic schedule caught up with him in the K1 final, picking up a 2sec penalty and finishing seventh in 95.41, just ahead of fellow Kiwi Finn Butcher who continues to match it with the world-class field.
After a shoot-out win last night, Tunka is also in a great position to win the overall Whitewater XL title with just the boatercross to come tomorrow, while Newman is also fired up.
“The boater cross is going to be a proper fight with all the fast river racers turning up, like Nikki Kelly and Sandra Hyslop. The slalom paddlers will also be fast and I bet Luuka will crush it and be right up there. It’s a gamble and maybe my strategy will be to not hit anyone and sneak in between people rather than punch them!”
Whitewater XL canoe slalom final results:
C1: Rosalyn Lawrence (Australia) 109.97secs 1, Luuka Jones (New Zealand) 119.95 2, Noemie Fox (Australia) 120.54 3, Kate Eckhardt (Australia) 122.69 4, Alex Broome (Australia) 149.79 5.
K1: Nouria Newman (France) 99.57 1, Rosalyn Lawrence (Australia) 99.96 2, Lizzie Neave 101.06 3, Martina Wegman (Netherlands) 102.69 4, Luuka Jones (New Zealand) 104.87 5.
C1: Franz Anton (Germany) 89.92 1, Matej Benus (Slovakia) 90.93 2, Cedric Joly (France) 91.07 3, Edern Le Ruyet (France) 94.67 4, Callum Gilbert (New Zealand) 100.52 5.
K1: Ondrej Tunka (Czech Republic) 84.65 1, Stefan Hengst (Germany) 84.79 2, Vit Prindis (Czech Republic) 85.54 3, Joe Morley (Great Britain) 89.80 4, Tim Anderson (Australia) 91.77 5.