Franklin shows pressure is just a word after perfect world cup opener

The look on the faces of most of the athletes said it all on Sunday afternoon at Lee Valley; the highs and the lows, the anguish, the triumphs and the disappointments left battle-hardened competitors emotionally and physically drained after three days of canoe slalom competition.

Looking more shell-shocked than most were the athletes from the countries where the opening ICF canoe slalom world cup of 2019 was also part of their Olympic selection trials. For most its just the start of the journey, but the pressure is intense.

Among the athletes of the host nation the competition is particularly tough. World-class athletes in every discipline are battling for the single Great Britain Tokyo 2020 position on offer per category, and it’s a testing time for all.

A perfect time for Mallory Franklin, a former C1 world champion, to break through for her first ever K1 world cup win, and to follow up with gold in the C1. For an athlete who sometimes struggles with confidence, it was a dream start.

On Friday Franklin had been less than impressive, but did enough to get through to weekend semi-finals. A good night’s sleep, and the world was back on its axis again.

“Yesterday was a bit of a struggle for me, mentally,” Franklin said after winning her K1 gold.

“I was spitting out alright runs, but not really feeling as in control of the process as I would have liked.

“I didn’t have that greater time at domestic selections, so to come here and have that win going into the World Championships just gives me that little bit of confidence, and gives me a good position to fight out with Fi (Pennie) and Kim (Woods) now.”

2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 1 London Mallory FRANKLIN Great Britain

In both the K1 and the C1 finals, Franklin was the last paddler on the water. In both instances she knew the time she had to beat to win gold. More importantly, she knew the time she had to beat to finish ahead of teammate Woods, who had put down impressive runs.

Coaches and team selectors like to see how athletes cope with pressure. They will have left Lee Valley impressed by what they saw from 24-year-old Franklin.

“Our domestic selection I wasn’t putting down that sort of stuff, and finished third while the other girls were paddling really well, so it’s great to get that win under my belt,” Franklin said on Sunday.

“I was quite nervous, but I’d had a good weekend before this, so I think I just wanted to put a good run together that I could be proud of. Kim’s time was really good, and it was on my mind a bit.”

The British big guns are all set to take a break now, with some of them not returning to world cup action until the final in Prague in September. Franklin acknowledges racing will be tougher away from Lee Valley, where the locals know every drop of water.

“It definitely helped,” she said.

“You can see that from the results that the Brits have been spitting out. There are so many intricacies on it, and so many features.

“We just have an innate understanding of where to push, where to let the boat go. I think it really helped.”

After such an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend, Franklin is heading to Scandinavia for a well-earned break. Surprisingly she rarely finds herself on the top podium, so to win two golds in one weekend will ensure Lee Valley and her achievements of the weekend will be constantly on her mind.

“I don’t have many C1 world cup wins either. In fact I don’t have many gold medals – I keep getting second behind Jess (Fox),” Franklin said.

“But I think I’ve medalled at every work cup since my first one in Augsburg, so I’m just enjoying it at the moment.

“I was quite nervous, kind of an appreciation for me that I’ve never been an athlete focussed on the Games.

“It’s nice to be top British boat at this point, but for me, just remembering why I’m here and why I’m paddling, it’s because I enjoy it. I just need to try and keep the focus on that throughout the day, and the year.”

Great Britain Mallory Franklin K1 women Lee Valley 2019

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