Benjamin Savšek won for the fourth time at selection races and qualified to OG in London.

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Slovenian slalom paddlers finished the selection race series with a fifth and final race that was held in Tacen. The selection races gave us answer who will be part of senior slalom team and as well served as the selection races for Olympic team. In Olympic selections only canoeist Benjamin Savšek reached the high standards with four wins and joined Peter Kauzer as member of the Olympic team. In the remaining two categories the spots for Olympic Games remain empty until the European Championships.

The selection races for senior slalom team haven’t been so tense and exciting for quite some time now. The competitors were very equal in all categories; therefore the final of the race in Tacen brought final decisions in many cases. After the semi-final it was clear that only Benjamin Savšek still has an opportunity to win an Olympic spot after selection races held in Solkan and Tacen, because Luka Slapšak and Urban Jarc won in C2 semi-final which meant that Luka Božič and Sašo Taljat won’t win at least four times in selection race series, which was necessary for direct qualification for London Olympics. Savšek also paddled a bit worse in the semi-final but concentrated in final run and won for the fourth time, which was enough for winning a ticket to London OG.

“We’ve had a very tiresome week. I am extremely happy that I paddled well, so I am really looking forward for Olympic preparations and paddling at the Olympics at the end. That’s crazy! This is my first event on such a big scale in my career. Maybe things will get a bit easier now, because the last month was really nervous when we all prepared for these selection races and didn’t know who will get an Olympic spot. I’ll have two days of rest now and then I’ll set a new goal. The conditions for qualifying for the Olympics were very hard, because we needed to win four times, and there’s always some competitor who sets a great time,” said Savšek. “It seems I really improved my mental preparation this year, so I was able to hold on with all the pressure,” he added. Anže Berčič, who finished second in the final of the last race, and Jure Lenarčič will join Savšek in the team for European Championships, while fourth placed canoeist at selection races ranking – Blaž Cof – gets the opportunity to start at World Cup races. Italian Roberto Colazingari finished in third place of the race in Tacen, Blaž Cof was fourth, Jure Lenarčič fifth and Andrej Črepinšek ninth.

Far more complicated is the situation in men’s C2 where Dejan Kralj and Simon Hočevar won on Saturday, while Luka Slapšak and Urban Jarc set the fastest time in semi-final of Sunday’s programme. This meant that Luka Božič and Sašo Taljat lost all the chances of direct qualification for Olympic team. Božič in Taljat were second in the final of the race in Tacen and were the best Slovenian boat in the last selection race, but this was their third win at selection races, while they should win at least four times for London Olympics. The final decision who will get an Olympic spot in this category will be known after the European Championships in Augsburg. The better placed boat (Božič – Taljat or Kralj – Hočevar) at EC will go to the Olympics. Italians Masoero – Benetti were the fastest duo in Tacen, Božič – Taljat were second, Kralj – Hočevar third and Slapšak – Jarc fourth. The previously mentioned Slovenian C2s also got a place in the senior team that will compete at EC and World Cup races.

The placement at European Championships in Germany will also be important in women’s kayak event where Urša Kragelj and Eva Terčelj will fight for only empty spot. After a bit reserved start in the selection races, Urša Kragelj paddled the best at the last three selection races. “It was dramatic and hard. This was one of the hardest competitions in my life. I had to fight with myself and the water, because it just didn’t go as I wanted. Not even one of the runs was good enough, although I really wanted to succeed, but it is as it is. Now we’ll go to Augsburg for training and I hope to have a good day. The conditions and demands they set were very tough. Kayak slalom is a sport where ups and downs in runs and results are normal, so it was hard to expect only wins,” said Kragelj, who still found something good in stressful races: “I think it’s good you compete with full strength before the most important competitions and you try to show the best runs possible.” Besides Kragelj and Terčelj also Nina Mozetič ensured herself a place in the senior team. Clara Giai Pron (ITA) was the best in the final, Urša Kragelj was second, Nina Mozetič third, Eva Terčelj fourth, Ajda Novak 5th and Neža Vrevc 9th.

In men’s kayak event the selection races didn’t count as Olympic selections because Kauzer pre-qualified for the OG already last September, but they were still very exciting and important for the remaining places in the senior team. After the last race it became clear that Jure Meglič and Janoš Peterlin will join Kauzer in the team at EC, while Martin Albreht finished fourth and will compete at World Cups. The final of the race didn’t bring medals for Slovenian competitors, with Jure Meglič finishing 4th, Janoš Peterlin 7th, Simon Brus 10th and Peter Kauzer 11th (he received 50 penalty seconds). Kauzer left for the airport right after the race – he’ll prepare in London until May 3rd. Daniele Molmenti (ITA) was the fastest kayaker in the final, Thomas Bersinger (FRA) was second and Ricardo De Gennaro (ITA) was third.

The first important competition of the season will be European Championships in Augsburg May 9th-13th, while the World Cup Series will start in Cardiff on June 8th, Pau and La Seu d’Urgell will be next and after the OG the last two World Cups in Prague and Bratislava will follow.

Slovenian senior slalom team:

K1m – Peter Kauzer, Jure Meglič, Janoš Peterlin, Martin Albreht*

C1m – Benjamin Savšek, Anže Berčič, Jure Lenarčič, Blaž Cof*

K1w – Urša Kragelj, Eva Terčelj, Nina Mozetič

C2 – Luka Božič – Sašo Taljat, Dejan Kralj – Simon Hočevar, Luka Slapšak – Urban Jarc

*- World Cup races