Hungarians have firm hold on K2 500

0.023 seconds. That was all that split Hungary’s Anna Karasz And Danuta Kozak from New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington and Caitlin Ryan when they locked horns in the K2 500 in one of the canoe sprint races of the decade at last year’s ICF world championships in Portugal last year.

There are not a lot of things you can actually do in 0.023 seconds. You could squeeze in a blink, but not much more. Stick some chewing gum on the front of the New Zealand boat, and the gold could have been theirs.

Next week Karasz and Kozak will look to defend their world title in front of an adoring home crowd in Szeged, Hungary. The New Zealanders have opted not to nominate Carrington and Ryan. They’re not the only team to play cunning next week, but they will be the most noticeable absence.

Kozak is one of the biggest names in international canoe sprint. She is a five-time Olympic gold medalist, has 14 world championship golds, and a whopping 16 European championship titles. Out simply, beat Kozak and the gold is yours.

Except no-one can beat the 32-year-old, in either K1, K4 or K2. After Rio she took time out to have a baby. She returned in time for last year’s world championships, and came away with three gold medals.

One of those came alongside Anna Karasz, herself a way better than average paddler, in the K2 500. Kozak is also the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event, having paired with Gabriella Szabo to triumph in Rio.

So who can beat the world champions in Szeged, in front of their home crowd? Germany always does well, and Jasmin Fritz and Steffi Kriegerstein won bronze at last year’s world championships.

Slovenia’s Spela Ponomarenko Janic and Anja Osterman won both world cups this year in the K2 200, but always said the K2 500 was their main goal. Ponomarenko Janic was back racing just months after having a baby, and plenty of improvement is expected next week. The pair won bronze in this event at the 2017 world championships.

France’s Manon Hostens and Sarah Guyot have been paddling together for a couple of years now, and are getting better all the time. They finished fourth in Portugal last year, but won gold in the Duisburg world cup this year to announce themselves as genuine medal contenders in Szeged.

And the Belgians have struck upon a combination which is seriously fast. Hermien Peters and Lize Broekx have strung together several useful performances against good quality opposition this year.

Anna Pulawska won K1 500 gold in Duisburg this year, and will team up with Karolina Naja in the K2 in Szeged.

RIO 2016 OLYMPICS

Gold: Szabo/Kozak (HUN)

Silver: Weber/Dietze (GER)

Bronze: Naja/Mikolajczyk (POL)

2018 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Karasz/Kozak (HUN)

Silver: Carrington/Ryan (NZL)

Bronze: Fritz/Kriegerstain (GER)

2017 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Carrington/Ryan (NZL)

Silver: Weber/Dietze (GER)

Bronze: Ponomarkenko Janic/Osterman (SLO)

CURRENT 2019 WORLD LEADERS

France

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