Canoeists training on the course in the Deodoro Complex ©Rio 2016

French legend Tony Estanguet has praised the "beautiful" Olympic canoe slalom venue in Deodoro along with Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman and the city's Mayor Eduardo Paes.

Its official opening came as 122 of the world's best paddlers compete in the Olympic Games test event, due to continue until Sunday (November 29). 

Also present was former International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive director Gilbert Felli, now the liaison between the IOC and the Organising Committee, as well as Rio State Governor, Luiz Fernando Pezão and officials from the Ministry of Sport.

Estanguet, an IOC Athletes' Commmission member and International Canoe Federation (ICF) vice-president, won Olympic gold medals at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and London 2012.

“This place is fantastic, really beautiful,” the now-retired star said after becoming one of the first to negotiate the 280 metres-long course.

"I couldn’t have imagined it when I came to visit two years ago and they showed me the place.

"Now I can see the final result and it’s marvellous.

"It is what the best canoeists want - demanding and challenging.

“Every five metres the course presents a different challenge.”

French canoeing legend Tony Estanguet with Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman at the venue ©Rio 2016
French canoeing legend Tony Estanguet with Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman at the venue ©Rio 2016

The venue was one of many around the Deodoro area where concerns were high that construction would not be completed in time.

Organisers, therefore, deserve praise for completing their work over eight months before the Opening Ceremony. 

Some have also speculated how the course could be neglected after the Games, but the ICF claims it will create a "superb legacy" for the sport, with the venue due to host the 2018 Canoe Slalom World Championships.

Italy's London 2012 K1 champion Daniele Molmenti also praised the tough nature of the test provided, claiming it "requires a lot of work mentally because you cannot rest, you have to maintain your focus during the entire course".

Athletes from 26 countries are due to compete at the test event.

Other leading entrants include Czech Republic’s Jiri Prskavec, winner of individual and team K1 world titles this year, France’s London 2012 women's K1 champion, Emilie Fer, and Slovakia's three-time Olympic gold medal winnng brothers Peter and Pavol Hochschorner in the C2 event. 

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