The winter part of training for season 2012 is over and Slovenian canoeists eagerly await selection races for the teams that will participate at the most important races of the season. Olympic Games in London are in the spotlight but there are also World and European Championships and World Cup Races.
Slovenian canoeists and kayakers revealed their wishes and expectations for the season 2012 at the press conference and round table on canoeing organized by Slovenian press agency (STA) in Klub Maxi in the city centre of Ljubljana. The most important sporting event of the season will undoubtedly be the Olympic Games in London. Two of Slovenian athletes already ensured themselves places at the Games, Špela Ponomarenko Janić in sprint canoeing and Peter Kauzer in slalom, while other slalomists still have to fight for the Olympic places won at World Championships in Bratislava. Kauzer just returned from a weeklong training camp in London. He was very satisfied with the conditions: “The weather was unusual for England; we had 20 degrees and sun. The course is very well prepared and wild, so you don’t have a second to rest. They didn’t make many changes on the course, but those they did are positive, so the water doesn’t stop anymore.” Kauzer will train in London before and after the European Championships in Augsburg in spring and he’ll also take part in World Cup series. Firstly he planned to start at all World Cups prior to Olympic Games, but as it looks now he’ll skip the third race and prepare himself for the Olympic slalom at home.
While Kauzer already has a secure place in team for London, the paddlers in other categories still need to win the spot for London. The first selection races will be in April and if the competitors fail to qualify then, the best result at European Championships will count. “The same as majority of paddlers I spent six weeks in Australia. The training camp was excellent, so I am very satisfied. The selection races are approaching and they’ll show the real state of form. My goals are clear, I want to go to Olympics and I hope I’ll be able to show at selection races what I made during the winter and that all the hard work will pay out,” said Urša Kragelj, who will be besides Eva Terčelj the main candidate for representative in women’s kayak event.
Canoeists also have high goals for the season and they as well expect hard fight for the only place in Olympic team. Jure Lenarčič is optimistic before the selection races in April: “Expectations are high with Olympics at stake. But it will be hard for sure, because the colleagues are also very fast. If I’ll paddle at selection races the way I want, the hard work will pay off, but in any other case it won’t be the end of the world.”
Another interesting selection races are expected in men’s C2 where Luka Božič and Sašo Taljat will have strong opponents in Dejan Kralj and Simon Hočevar who made a big step forward from previous seasons. “We don’t hide that our main goal are Olympic Games and everything is subjected to this,” pointed out Sašo Taljat while Luka Božič added: “We spent five weeks in Australia and we did a good technical part of training there, so we are satisfied with our preparations. We also had a good training in Augsburg. There we prepared for European Championships. In case we fail to get Olympic tickets at four selection races, we’ll have to win our spot at EC.”
Andraž Vehovar, silver medallist from Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta, also joined paddlers at this gathering and revealed the receipt for success at Olympics: “ I think everybody sitting here know very well how to get an Olympic medal. For sure the thing that makes the most difference in comparison to other races is psychical preparation because the burden there is much heavier. The most they can do is to enjoy and be relaxed, because this will be one of the nicest moments in their careers. If they’ll be relaxed, the results will come as well.”
Meglič is returning after the injury
Jure Meglič has a bit different goals than his colleagues. He doesn’t have a chance anymore to get an Olympic place because of the rule of one competitor per nation in category and besides that he experienced health problems after the last season: “I had a spinal discus herniation surgery and then I had to recover from it. My trainings were different than usual. In February I paddled on white water for the first time and also did a training camp in France. There I gained first feelings for white water. I train with full strength now, but I lack the paddling on white water for some time. I manly occupy myself with getting the right feelings and with the fact how to get into competition rhythm. The main goal of this season is to get to the level I used to be on before and to compete as best as possible at World Cups and other races.”
While slalomists got all Olympic quotas at World Championships in Bratislava, sprint canoeists returned from Szeged with only one quota won by Špela Ponomarenko Janić. All the others will have another chance at European Qualifications in Poland, with Lovro Leban and Rok Kuk in men’s K2 being the most serious candidates for achieving this goal. “We are thinking about Olympic Games, but the road there will be hard, because we need to win the European Qualifications in Poznan. We don’t burden ourselves with that much, but we’ll try to paddle the best race we’ll be capable of. The preparations so far have been very good. Two month training in Australia put our form into higher level than we had in previous seasons,” said Rok Kuk. Their coach Ingolf Beutel is also satisfied with the work they’ve done: “They both made a big step forward, but it is hard to evaluate at this moment, because we’ll have to wait for competition to see what others did and at what level their form is. They have a serious chance of getting to Olympic Games, but they’ll have to fight and it will be hard since they’ll have to be first.”
The peak of the season for whitewater downriver canoeists will be the World Championships in Bourg St. Maurice. Among the main favourites for the World Titles will be Slovenian athletes, with Nejc Žnidarčič – Sprint World Champion – the main candidate for great success. “Downriver canoeing unfortunately isn’t an Olympic discipline so we need to be satisfied with World and European titles. The winter training was good. I didn’t go abroad, because we had good conditions at home with mild winter, expect for three weeks of very extreme cold. At that time we trained very well in fitness. On Sunday we’ll begin with selection races on Sava River. I’ll start at the first race, but miss the second one on Wednesday, because I’ll go to Bourg St. Maurice to train there for a week. They had enough snow in France which is melting now and there is enough water,” said Nejc Žnidarčič.
Besides previously mentioned competitions, also younger competitors will start at the most important races of the season. In 2012 they’ll have an opportunity to start at two championships held in Slovenia. Solkan will firstly host European Junior Wildwater Canoeing Championships and a week after that also European Junior and U23 Slalom Championships. Another competition awaits members of Junior and U23 slalom team – World Championships in USA. This will be the first ever U23 Slalom World Championships.