Josh Bell was the best of the New Zealand contingent on a tough first day of the canoe slalom under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia overnight.
Bell was one of six New Zealand C1 paddlers in action and the 18-year-old posted a clear first run of the junior boys heats to lie in 26th spot, 8.36secs off qualifying automatically for the semifinals.
Fellow Kiwi Jack Egan was 31st and Stewart Bloor 38th after the first runs and the trio couldn’t get past the strong European contingent in the repechage second run, with Bell (15th), Bloor (20th) and Egan (26th) all missing the top-10 that progressed.
Czech paddlers dominated the qualifying runs, with Vojtech Heger quickest in 96.45 and teammate Matyas Lhota second in 96.62, ahead of French teenager Alexis Bobon, who was third in 102.12.
It was a similar story in the under-23 division, where New Zealand’s Patrick Washer picked up four touches in his first run, with a 114.28sec effort leaving him 35th and 10.36secs outside the top-20. James Thwaite and Callum Gilbert both missed gates to lie 51st and 52nd respectively.
Washer also picked up two touches in his second run to finish 20th, with Thwaite 24th and Gilbert 31st.
Czech Lukas Rohan qualified fastest for the semifinals in a time of 92.63, more than a second ahead of leading local hope, Marko Mirgorodsky, in 93.70, with another Czech, Vaclav Chaloupka, third in 95.05. Germany’s Florian Breuer, who is hoping to defend his 2016 U23 world title this week, finished fourth.
Gilbert will be back in action tonight as the sixth-ranked paddler in the under-23 K1, with Finn Butcher and Alex Hawthorne also racing, while fourth-ranked Zack Mutton, Damian Torwick and Callum Aitken will all feature in the junior K1 heats.