Pau win signals start of new chapter for Franklin

Coming into last weekend, Pau was well down on the list of Mallory Franklin’s favourite canoe slalom courses.

It had nothing to do with the environment or the atmosphere; what is there not to like about the incredible French venue?

It was more to do with her results over the years. She had never felt comfortable on the challenging waters, and was approaching the World Championship weekend with some trepidation.

Event organisers handed Franklin a huge favour when they scheduled the team race on the opening day of competition. Franklin lined up with Kimberley Woods and Eilidh Gibson to win the C1 gold, in the process exorcising some of Franklin’s Pau demons.

The day after winning team gold Franklin came out and qualified fastest for the C1 semis; but on Friday morning the course won out again, the Brit just sneaking into the final in 10th position.

But with no pressure in the medal-decider, Franklin had nothing to lose, and raced accordingly. She knew as soon as she crossed the line her time of 1:09:09 would be competitive. Deep down inside she probably knew she was in the box seat for gold, despite the presence of triple World Champion Jessica Fox in the field.

“Jess is the one athlete you don’t want always to be waiting,” Franklin said as she nervously watched her opponents.

PRESSURE

But Franklin’s time was weighting heavily on the minds of the rest of the field, not least the Australian Fox. The two-time Olympian admitted after her run that as soon as she touched a gate she knew she was in trouble.

Franklin refused to believe it until she saw Fox’s final time flash up on the big screen. Even then it took some time for the significance of what she achieved to sink in.

Two times she had finished runner-up to Fox at a senior World Championships. She was always confident one day the tables would be turned, but she wasn’t sure if it would be this year.

So when it finally did sink in it was not an unpleasant feeling.

“After quite a tough year, it’s really good,” she said.

“I’m not that great on this course, I can struggle with it. They’ve changed it around so much I can struggle to feel confident on it. So to come out and do that run is really good for me.

“I’ve had some really not very good semi-final runs and had paddle-backs, but I’ve had some good results as well. But to come out and do that at the end of the year is really good for me.”

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What we learned over the course of the Pau World Championships is that there is nothing wrong with being one of the first paddlers on the course in a final.

If anything, the results over the weekend showed if you head off down the course not knowing what you have to beat, it’s a distinct advantage.

Franklin went off first; Fox went off first the following day to win the K1; Ondrej Tunka was the second paddler on the men’s K1 course. In fact, not one winner came from the top five qualifiers.

Even the French pairing of Gauthier Klauss and Matthieu Peche went off third in their victorious C2 final.

“Going off first was really good, you don’t listen to anything else, there’s nothing else going on, you don’t know what’s going to go down in the race, so it’s really good to put a run down and just wait,” Franklin said.

“But it’s really nerve-wracking. To be sat here for nine boats and watch them all come through..”

C1 FUTURE

The other good sign for the future of women’s C1 was the size of the competition. 51 athletes from more than 20 nations took part, and there was a notable rise in the overall quality of the competition.

With another two World Championships before women’s C1 makes its Olympic debut, there is cause for optimism.

“It’s good for the future, there were some really good runs in that final, and I think many people are capable of going even better,” Franklin said. 

Pics by Balint Vekassy

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