Thailand's Koetsuk upsets big-name nations at Youth Olympic qualifiers

A Thai paddler who one year ago was part of a talent identification program for new athletes has celebrated his 16th birthday with victory in the boys’ C1 slalom obstacle race at the International Canoe Federation’s Youth Olympic Games qualifiers in Barcelona on Saturday.

Welsh 15-year-old Lili Bryant won the girls K1 event, on a day when athletes from lesser known canoeing nations dominated.

Underlining the growing global reach of canoeing, athletes from every continent, including Africa, Oceania and the Americas, were represented in the semi-finals of Saturday's competition.

Piyanath Koetsuk was new to the sport of slalom when he took part in a Talent Identification Program in Thailand in 2017.

But he looked every bit a seasoned campaigner as he stormed to victory over New Zealand’s Finn Anderson in cold and wet conditions on the Barcelona course.

Both Koetsuk and Anderson had ground to make up after the sprint section of the competition on Thursday, when they finished 50th and 40th respectively. The results of both competitions are added together to give each athlete their overall ranking.

Bryant was 58th after Thursday’s sprint in the girls K1, but felt much more comfortable in the slalom event, beating American Ria Sribar in the final.

Sribar was only marginally better in the sprint, finishing 51st.

15-year-old Bryant now has to front up for the girls’ C1 slalom on Sunday, one of the few athletes to do both disciplines.

“I had no expectations, I certainly didn’t imagine I would finish top eight or even win,” Bryant said.

“The (K1) sprint wasn’t the result I wanted but it was still fun. I wasn’t too happy after my sprint, but I wasn’t really bothered about it because I had a good time today and I had a good time doing sprint as well.”

Unlike Koetsuk, Bryant was introduced to paddling at a young age.

“My dad’s a paddler, so almost since I was born I was straight in there doing slalom,” she said.
“Sprint though, not at all. A few months maybe?

“I went better than I thought I would in the canoe sprint, so tomorrow I’m just going to try my best and see how I go. I didn’t fall in and got through to the second round.”

Bryant’s British teammate, Lois Leaver, finished fourth, beaten in the race for third by Slovakia’s Kristina Durecova.

The top five for the girls featured three Europeans, an American and China’s Li Shumei, while the boys’ top eight featured three athletes from Asia, two from Europe, and one each from Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

SATURDAY RESULTS

Boys’ C1

  1. KOETSUK Piyanath    (Thailand)      1:21:46
  2. ANDERSON Finn    (New Zealand)  1:28:88
  3. SARAMANDIF Terence (Mauritius) 1:25:56

Girls’ K1

  1. BRYANT  Lili     (Great Britain)  1:16:58
  2. SRIBAR  Ria      (USA)                  1:20:08
  3. DURECOVA Kristina (Slovakia) 1:14:00
Canoe Sprint
Canoe Slalom
Wildwater Canoeing
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