Triple World Champion dreams of an even bigger stage

Ondra Rolenc has achieved almost everything he hoped to achieve in his sport, but there is still one part missing – and his chances of reaching that milestone is out of his hands.

Rolenc last year won his third ICF Wildwater C1 world title, his win in Pau, France, coming off the back of wins in 2014 and 2016. 2017 was a cracker.

“I was happy and still am,” Rolenc said this week.

“It was a dream season. I won a World Championship in Pau, European Championship in Skopje and overall in World Cup.”

Rolenc’s third world title is three more than he thought he would win when he started his paddling career ten years ago, and this year he’ll line up for a fourth when the World Championships head to the Muota River, in Switzerland.

“I was there for the World Cup last year, and I liked it very much,” the 26-year-old Czech said.

‘It is a beautiful but difficult river in a wonderful countryside. And those mountains!

“So I am really looking forward to it. I have achieved my goals and won the triple,
so now I can race just for the pleasure and enjoy racing more.”

Asking Rolenc which of his world titles is his favourite is a ridiculously unfair question, but we asked it anyway.

“It’s hard to compare those races,” he said.

“Each was difficult in different ways. It is said that the first cut is the deepest, and winning the World Championships in 2014 was for me the most difficult I would say. The moment when you realize you will race with the best ones, great racers, that was not easy at all.

“The second title in 2016 was different. People have expectations, you yourself have expectations, so the pressure is higher. I also did not win in 2015 in Vienna, the course did not suit me at all. So after this it was even harder.

“And finally, the Championships in Pau 2017, that was way different. The course is challenging, very technical, variable and difficult. It forces you to push yourself to the limit and risk. But it does not forgive you any mistake, so some luck is needed as well.”

OLYMPICS

So what about this goal that is totally out of his hands? It’s the same dream most wildwater, freestyle, marathon, and ocean racing canoe polo athletes have.

Except Rolenc thinks for his discipline, it is very achievable.

“Getting into the Olympic Games would be fantastic for our sport,” he said.

“It would be great to get wildwater there, especially when slalom is already in, and construction costs of wildwater channel are high.

“The World Championships in Pau last year showed it is possible. And I believe we have all enjoyed it very much. 

“It’s still true that Olympic sport is more supported and even if we try to focus on training children and youth, it’s the enthusiasm of single persons that moves this sport forward.”

In a first, last year’s Wildwater World Championships were held in conjunction with the 2017 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. While the two events had been held at the same venue before, this was the first time their programs were combined.

Rolenc has no doubts it was an enormous success, bringing new fans to the sport and showing how easily it would fit into the Olympic program. And giving him a buzz he still experiences today.

“I really enjoyed Pau very much,” he said.

“It was a wonderful week full of drama, wins and losses in every race. Fans were incredible and gave to the race electrifying and unforgettable atmosphere.

“Even now, when I think about it, I start to be a little nervous again, like I was at the start again.”

At 26, Rolenc still has plenty of years of competition ahead of him. He’s making it a goal to try and improve the popularity of wildwater.

It can boast a growing fanbase in Rolenc’s Czech Republic, but he wants to see numbers increase around the world.

“I would like to contribute to popularisation of this sport as much as I can,” he said.

“I hope it will become more popular. We are trying to attract media to wildwater in Czech Republic and get sponsors. And thanks to good results it’s getting better every year.

“Just the fact that Czech TV is reporting every race is great, and people are getting more familiar with this sport.”

The 2018 ICF Wildwater World Championships will be held in Muotathal, Switzerland, from May 31 until June 3. 

Czech Ondra Rolenc

Wildwater Canoeing
#ICFwildwater