World’s top canoe slalom paddlers praise London 2012 Olympic whitewater course |

World’s top canoe slalom paddlers praise London 2012 Olympic whitewater course

Bob Campbell
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Whitewater Parks International Contributed photoThe scene at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre at the 2012 London Olympics.

Following two days of intense qualifying competition, the Olympic canoe/ kayak slalom medal rounds finally got under way recently at the London Games’ Lee Valley White Water Centre.

A disappointed Team USA wasn’t able to advance any boats through to the semifinals, but several other international teams arrived with paddles in hand – eager to tackle the challenges of a much harder finals course and compete for their chance to stand on the Olympic podium.

Whitewater action on this most dramatic of world stages provided one of the most exciting spectator viewing experiences of any of the London Olympic venues.

The stands rise some 75 rows high and offer 12,000 cheering fans and amazing, close-up perspective of almost the entire 1,000-foot long race course from any seat in the house.

For the athletes, there were no easy solutions for grabbing gold.

Gate placements were rearranged from the qualifier course to ensure that only the most resolute and adaptive paddlers would finish the course in medal contention.

Tony Estanguet, 34, from France, won his third gold medal in the men’s single canoe (C1) event, following previous triumphs in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis paddled his way to the silver medal and defending Olympic champion, Slovakia’s Michal Martikan, took bronze – his fifth Olympic medal in the event since his first in 1996.

“I had the best balance between the speed and precision,” remarked Estanguet after his final run. “It’s really hard on this course to find this kind of balance.”

The winning Frenchman’s teammate, Gauthier Klauss, who qualified in first position with his men’s double canoe partner Matthieu Peche, said: ‘It’s a great course. It’s quite hard, as there is a lot of movement, but it’s excellent.”

– Bob Campbell is managing director of Whitewater Parks International, the Glenwood Springs-based firm that designed the Olympic whitewater course and whose role on the London Olympic Authority’s planning team included consulting on the venue’s competition layout. Campbell is in Britain for the Olympics.

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