Rio 2016 silver medallist Josef Dostal achieved a long-overdue K1 1,000 metres win at the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Canoe Sprint World Cup in Duisburg today.
Dostal, whose last major international victory at this distance earned him the world title in Moscow in 2014, was stung by a bee shortly after completing his victory.
But it was he who administered the most telling sting of the day in setting off at a fast pace and challenging the rest of the field to match his effort – a challenge none could match.
The 26-year-old from the Czech Republic told ICF his tactic had been insisted upon by his coach, who had been unhappy with his third place at last weekend’s World Cup in Poland, where Portugal’s world champion Fernando Pimenta had taken gold.
“You know what I was most afraid of today?" said Dostal.
“Last weekend I finished third and I thought it was okay, a bronze medal to start off the season.
“But as soon as I reached the dock, my coach was yelling ‘what did you do? this is not what I told you’.
“My coach told me I had to be with Pimenta on top today and not let him go in the first half.
“I said ‘okay coach, I’ll try.
“But maybe I will die at the 500m mark.
“Maybe at the 800m mark I was dying, but the other guys were dying, too.
“Pimenta has been at the top for so long and I wanted to bring him down.”
Olympic bronze medalist, Russia’s Roman Anoshkin, finished second, while Hungary’s Balint Kopasz took third ahead of a tiring Pimenta.
There was a shock in the men’s C1 1,000 metres as unregarded French competitor Adrien Bart moved to victory from lane nine ahead of a field that included double Olympic champion Sebastian Brendel of Germany, Brazil’s Rio 2016 silver medalist, Isaquias Dos Santos and Czech three-time World Championship silver medalist, Martin Fuksa.
“Last week in Poznan, the Cuban guys showed me it is possible to beat these guys,” Bart said.
“They showed me the way and I said okay, I can do that, too.”
Denmark’s Emma Jorgensen triumphed in the women’s K1 200, providing her with a welcome return to the top of the podium.
New Zealand’s two-times Olympic champion, Lisa Carrington, was absent, throwing the race wide open.
Great Britain’s Liam Heath rarely finds himself anywhere but on the top of the podium and it was the case again today as he saw off Spanish world champion, Carlos Garrote, in the K1 200m.
Garrote, who won the world title in Heath’s absence last year, missed last week’s opening World Cup, setting the scene for a showdown in Duisburg.
“I felt as nervous as I feel going into any race, so I just focus on what I’m doing and what I want to do,” Heath said.
Canada’s Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, reckoned by many as the greatest female canoe paddler in the world today, earned another gold medal in the C1 200m – although she almost sank her own chances.
Vincent-Lapointe was violently ill just minutes before the race and later explained: “I think it was a mixture of being super stressed and drinking too much water.”