Heath is back and hungry to claim back crown

Liam Heath took a year off from his beloved K1 200 in 2018, filling his opponents with hope that he would lose some of his power and passion when he eventually returned to his Olympic gold medal event.

This year he wasted no time crushing the hopes of those same opponents, powering to two world cup gold medals and asserting himself as favourite for another world title at next week’s world championships in Szeged, Hungary.

Heath spent the year away from the 200 trying out in a British K4 500 combination, and also devoting some time to his new young family. His time as a father was much successful than his time in the crew boat, which failed to reach any great heights.

His gold medal at Rio caught many off guard. He’d never raced in a world championship final before Rio, but he had won European gold in Moscow earlier in the year. Since 2016 he has rarely been beaten over the sprint distance.

He was very impressive at the 2017 world championships, and held that form through the world cup season. He also won the European title that year. You get the picture why his opponents were glad to see the back of him in 2018.

And why he was so determined to reassert his authority on his return to racing at the Poznan world cup this year.

“There are always doubts, but every race you do you get a bit more confidence in the work you have done,” Heath said after the win.

“There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, I didn’t take a complete year out, I was still ticking over. But it is reassuring to come back and still be competitive.”

France’s Maxime Beaumont has also been toying with the longer distances, including a couple of outings over 1000 metres. The 200 is where he is most comfortable though, and the Olympic silver medalist is certain to be figuring in the finish next week.

He has a sock drawer full of silver and bronze medals, but has struggled to regain his Olympic form in major international events since Rio. But he broke through for gold at the European Games in Minsk, and will be hoping that will kick-start his run towards the Tokyo Olympics.

In the absence of Heath and Beaumont, Spain’s Carlos Garrote took gold in Montemor last year. It was a career highlight for the flying Spaniard, and added to the European gold he also won last year.

But he has not recaptured the form this year. In Minsk he finished eighth behind Beaumont, and finished fourth behind both Heath and Beaumont at the Duisburg world cup.

Lithuania’s Arturas Seja could well be in the mix for the medals. In 2018 he won silver at the world championships and the European championships, both times behind Garrote. But he was fifth at the European Games, and third behind Heath and Beaumont in Duisburg.

2016 RIO OLYMPICS

Gold: Liam Heath (GBR)

Silver: Maxime Beaumont (FRA)

Bronze: Saul Craviotto (ESP)

2018 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Carlos Garrote (ESP)

Silver: Arturas Seja (LTU)

Bronze: Evgenii Lukantsov (RUS)

2017 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Liam Heath (GBR)

Silver: Bence Horvath (HUN)

Bronze: Aleksejs Rumjancevs (LAT)

2019 EUROPEAN GAMES

Gold: Maxime Beaumont (FRA)

Silver: Balazs Birkas (HUN)

Bronze: Dzmitry Tratsiakou (BLR)

2019 WORLD LEADER

Arturas Seja (LTU)

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