Suddenly a race that looked over is on again

The women’s C2 500 will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year, and up until a couple of months ago, engravers had already chiseled in the names of the likely first gold medalists.

But that all changed in Duisburg, Germany, at the second ICF canoe sprint world cup, when the previously infallible Canadian pairing of Laurence Vincent-Lapointe and Katie Vincent suddenly found themselves wearing silver medals.

It was a major shock. Sure, there wasn’t a lot riding on the event, but Vincent-Lapointe and Vincent always pride themselves on the 100 per cent effort they give every time they race, be it a world championships, world cup, or local race.

The damage was caused by Hungarians Virag Balla and Kincso Takacs, a pairing that has always looked menacing and, up until Duisburg, the pair most likely to win silver in Tokyo. They won silver behind the Canadians at the 2018 world championships.

To put everything into perspective – Vincent-Lapointe and Vincent had not been beaten over C2 500 for a long time… if ever. World champions in 2017 and 2018, and often by several seconds.

One swallow, of course, does not make a summer, and no-one would dare suggest that the one result in Duisburg signifies anything other than a blip on the Canadian radar. But it does set the scene for an exciting clash at next week’s ICF world championships in Szeged, Hungary.

Balla and Takacs, pushed along by the most animated and vocal fans in the canoe sprint world, will look to wrest the crown from Vincent-Lapointe and Vincent in the most important race of the year. To do so less than one year from the sport’s Olympic debut would be an enormous confidence boost for the young Hungarians.

But the Canadians will have learned from their Duisburg experience. For the first time, they tasted what it is like to be beaten, and they did not find it pleasant at all.

Perhaps, after the monotony of winning every time they took to the water, the memory of how they felt sitting exhausted on the pontoon in Duisburg is all they need to push them to even greater heights than before. Which is more than a little frightening.

Outside the Canadians and the Hungarians, the other medal challengers will come from Russia and China. Russia’s Kseniia Kurach won the C1 500 world title in Portugal last year, and with partner Daria Kharchenko won U23 C2 500 gold in Romania earlier this month.

China’s Wenjun Lin and Luqi Zhang are already ICF world cup C2 200 gold medalists.

2018 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Vincent-Lapointe/Vincent (CAN)

Silver: Balla/Takacs (HUN)  

Bronze: Makarchanka/Klimiva (BLR)

2017 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Vincent-Lapointe/Vincent (CAN)

Silver: Andreeva/Romasenko (RUS)

Bronze: Nazdrova/Bobr (BLR)

2015 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Kastsiuchenka/Bobr (BLR)

Silver: Kazakova/Romasenko (RUS)

Bronze: Takacs/Lakatos (HUN)

2019 WORLD LEADERS

Canada

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