(Lefevre in kayak.)
A day after Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, Md.) placed 4th in the men’s K-1 final, Team USA notched another Top 5 finish when Dana Mann (Washington, D.C.) took 5th in the women’s K-1 final as the 2013 Slalom World Championships concluded on Sunday.
Mann finished her final run in 120.62, including 3 gate touch penalties amounting to 6 added seconds of penalty time. Her time was +4.88 seconds behind the 1st place finisher – 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Emilie Fer of France – and +1.63 seconds from the Bronze medal.
Her previous best finish of the 2013 season was 14th at World Cup No. 2. This was her career-best finish at a World Championships, after placing 8th in 2011 and 11th in 2010 – both for Slovakia.
“My focus this season was solely on the World Championships race,” Mann said. “I decided to skip some of the World Cups and just get prepared for this race. My goal was to make it to the Top 10 and then just enjoy it. Placing 5th in the finals is a great result. … I love racing in Prague. The atmosphere was great, it was very well prepared. The whole U.S. team and coaches were very supportive and I really enjoyed being part of the team. I cannot wait for the next year to race in Maryland.”
WHAT: 2013 ICF Slalom World Championships
WHERE: Prague, Czech Republic
WHEN: September 12-15
WHO: U.S. Senior National Team
Click HERE for complete results. The U.S. hosts the 2014 ICF Slalom World Championships at the Adventure Sports Center International in Western Maryland.
"Dana and Fabien represented themselves, the sport and the United States like champions this week in Prague,” said USA Canoe/Kayak CEO Joe Jacobi. “Their top five placings in the Finals set a great standard as we look forward to welcoming our fellow teams to the World Championships in Maryland next year."
Mann placed 7th in the semifinal with a penalty-free time of 115.44, which was +5.17 seconds behind the round’s first place finisher.
“There are many great things happening with this young program and with [the U.S.] hosting the Worlds in 2014 for the first time in over 20 years, great things are ahead for them,” said William Irving, U.S. Slalom Team Leader. “There are many positives to take away from these Worlds for a program that is still developing and has such young talent.”
Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, Md.) finished 4th in the men’s K-1 final with a time of 97.56, including one 2-second gate touch penalty. Lefevre, a two-time Olympic medalist for France, finished +3.04 seconds behind the first place finisher, or +1.58 seconds away from the Bronze medalist – 2012 Olympian Mateusz Polaczyk of Poland. Local Olympians Vavrinec Hradilek and Jiri Prskavec of Czech Republic placed 1st and 2nd.
“[I] got the time for the Silver medal but one penalty pushed me on the foot of the podium to 4th place,” Lefevre said. “That was a hard race and I am still happy to be part of the top K-1 paddlers this season. [I] really want to thank you all for your great support.”
Competing in his first season as a member of Team USA, Lefevre recorded two World Cup medals and two 4th place finishes on the year.
“Fabien was very close to getting back on the podium today and is still one of the best kayaks in the World,” said William Irving, U.S. Slalom Team Leader. “Fabien has had a good year after taking some time away from the sport. Although he still has a long path towards U.S. Citizenship, he has been a great addition to raise the bar with the U.S. team. As expected, the Czech paddlers were fast on their home course and both paddlers had a huge supportive crowd behind them.”
Lefevre also competed in the men’s K-1 and C-1 team events. Lefevre, Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.), and Zach Lokken (Durango, Colo.) finished 9th in the C-1 team race with a time of 121.16, including 10 added seconds of penalty time. Lefevre, Rick Powell (Parkesburg, Penn.), and Michal Smolen (Gastonia, N.C.) missed a gate en route to a 12th place finish in the K-1 event with a time of 181.91.
Wrapping up the 2013 international slalom season for Team USA, Dana Mann (Washington, D.C.) heads into the women’s K-1 semifinal ranked 24th.
Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, Md.), a two-time Olympic medalist for France, has been practicing the U.S. National Anthem all week. The newest member of Team USA finished 4th in Friday’s men’s K-1 semifinal to qualify for Saturday’s Final.
U.S. Senior National Team tradition stipulates that first-time members must sing at the post-Worlds team dinner. With the final coming up, Lefevre hopes he will be singing the anthem as the U.S. flag is raised to signify a gold medal winning performance in men’s kayak.
Lefevre, who entered the day ranked 7th after Thursday’s heats, turned in a penalty-free time of 96.85, which was +1.43 seconds behind the round’s first place finisher – 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Hannes Aigner of Germany.
“Fabien has been a great addition to the team this year and our team is still working towards achieving levels he has already achieved,” said William Irving, U.S. Slalom Team Leader. “Watching how he approaches training and competition only makes our young team that much better. We all look forward to supporting him in the Finals.”
Powell finished in 104.06, including 4 penalty seconds. Smolen, who ranked 3rd after heats, was fast through the first half of the course but missed two gates en route to a time of 199.24.
“Both athletes are still very young and will be able to look back on this race as a great learning experience and have some valuable takeaways that they will certainly use when they get back into this position again,” Irving said.
Lefevre also competed in the men’s C-1 semifinal, where he incurred a 50-second missed gate penalty to place 29th with a time of 161.46. The tricky course flows at a rate of 16 cubic meters per second with a 3.6-meter drop.
“[It was a] long day with 50 percent of my goals reached,” Lefevre said via Facebook. “I take a spot for the K-1 final tomorrow with a clean run. … C-1 did not go so well. The course already looked hard from the bank and was harder to paddle than it looked. The middle section caused me some troubles and after my run I realized that the road was still long [in my progression as a C-1 paddler].”
In women’s kayak, Dana Mann (Washington, D.C.) overcame a slow 1st run to produce a cleaner 2nd run and advance to Sunday’s semifinal. She finished the day ranked 24th with a time of 106.07, which was +7.98 seconds behind the first place finisher through heats. Ashley Nee (Darnestown, Md.), who is coming off a career best finish at the World Cup Final, placed 43rd with a 1st run time of 114.09, including two gate touch penalties.
Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) and Devin McEwan (Salisbury, Conn.) moved the boat well but couldn’t pick up the speed necessary to advance, finishing +1.11 seconds outside of the Top 20 and a spot in the semifinal. They placed 23rd in the men’s C-2 heats with a penalty-free 2nd run time of 110.98, which was +8.61 seconds behind the first place finisher through heats.
“Today Devin and I raced C-2 and finished in 23rd just a little outside of the semis cut-off,” Eichfeld said via Facebook. “Unfortunately a big time error cost us much more than the one and a half seconds that we were behind. Our paddling felt good, but the Top 20 were packed a bit tighter than usual.”
In addition to the men’s K-1 final, Team USA will compete in the men’s K-1 and C-1 team events on Saturday.
The U.S. hosts the 2014 ICF Slalom World Championships at the Adventure Sports Center International in Western Maryland.
All three U.S. men’s kayaks advanced Thursday in Prague. Michal Smolen (Gastonia, N.C.), Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, Md.), and Rick Powell (Parkesburg, Penn.) rank 3rd, 7th and 12th after heats, respectively, to reach Friday’s semifinal.
The 19-year-old Smolen turned in a penalty-free 2nd run time of 86.24, which was +1.55 seconds behind the first place finisher – 2012 Olympic silver medalist and hometown hero Vavrinec Hradilek of Czech Republic.
"I'm very satisfied with how I raced in the qualifying heats of the 2013 World Championships,” Smolen said. “Now that I have safely qualified for the semifinal tomorrow, I can take some time to recuperate and get ready for the rest of the race. This is my first Senior World Championships and I am really excited to be racing alongside some of the best paddlers in the world."
Lefevre, a two-time Olympic medalist for France, recorded a penalty-free 1st run time of 87.69, which was +3.00 seconds behind Hradilek. He did not run his 2nd run in order to focus on C-1, where he also competes.
Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) missed the Top 30 cut by +0.22 seconds. The two-time Olympian finished with a penalty-free 2nd run time of 98.67, which was +7.09 behind the first place finisher through heats. The 19-year-old Zach Lokken (Durango, Colo.) placed 39th with a 1st run time of 102.02, including 4 seconds of penalty time.
“Sadly I am all done in C-1 for Worlds,” Eichfeld said via Facebook. “I paddled well enough in terms of technique, but those dreaded touches came to bite me. However, Devin [McEwan] and I race C-2 tomorrow. I am stoked to get in the boat with my canoe partner and take another go at the course!”
In women’s canoe, Micki Reeves (Denver, Colo.) and Colleen Hickey (Okawville, Ill.) finished 32nd and 33rd after heats, respectively. Reeves turned in a 2nd run time of 155.16, which was +39.07 seconds behind the first place finisher through heats. Hickey finished in 163.38, including 6 penalty seconds.
“The course was certainly tricky for the C-1 class today and will be even more difficult tomorrow in the semifinals,” Irving said. “Casey and Zach both were moving the boat well, but had just one or two errors that sent both off their race plans. The C1W's had similar difficulties with the course and neither Colleen or Micki were able to complete the course without many touches.”
The 2013 Slalom World Championships are the first since the London 2012 Olympic Games. Many of the athletes in Prague this week are gunning for Rio 2016. But for Oliver Fix, he’ll be watching the action with an eye toward Tokyo, the recently announced host of the 2020 Olympics.
Fix, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist kayaker for Germany, consults USA Canoe/Kayak on its 2020 high performance plan. He is tasked with recruiting, identifying and fostering talented slalom paddlers.
“We have a small cadre of highly talented athletes,” Fix said. “Other countries have huge conveyor belts that constantly deliver talent to the national team coaches. Well, we don’t have that here, so we’re starting a little bit further down in the development.”
Fix lives in Oregon with his wife Gilda Montenegro, a two-time Olympic kayaker for Costa Rica. He believes that desire is a major component for any aspiring Olympian.
“One aspect is to really sharpen the sword.” Fix said. “We have great talents, so how do we facilitate them choosing to be winners? It’s got to come from inside. There are ways to do that, which is what coaching is all about in the high end. How do we stimulate people to take that last leap into the Gold medal performance standards?”
One young paddler with lofty goals is Michal Smolen (Gastonia, N.C.). The 19-year-old kayaker placed 5th at the 2012 Under-23 World Championships and has finished as high as 14th on the 2013 World Cup circuit.
“There are young paddlers that are exciting,” Fix said. “Michal Smolen is probably the prime example in terms of being young and having good potential, showing heart in the racing. He’s going out there and he paddles really well and is determined. He’s showing really great promise.”
Fix maintains that producing Olympic medalists is a slow process. He started paddling at age 8 and he was 23 when he competed in his first and only Olympic Games.
“Building the base is not a fast endeavor, it takes time,” Fix said. “You’re starting with 13-14-15 year olds and it takes 10 to 12 years to show results. Those seeds have to be planted and they have to be planted from a high performance perspective.”
Whether it’s by sowing seeds or sharpening the sword, Fix hopes to see an American Olympic medalist step on to the conveyor belt sometime in the next 7 years.
Smolen will be joined by 9 other U.S. paddlers in Prague. Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, Md.), a two-time Olympic medalist for France, finished the 2013 World Cup circuit with 2 medals and a top 15 rank in the World Cup series standings in both K-1 and C-1. Click HERE for final World Cup standings.
"I am pretty satisfied for my first World Cup season with Team USA - a few finals, one podium in K-1 and a 4th place in C-1,” Lefevre said. “I assume I could do more podiums but some sacrifices had to be made in my training plan to be in shape in two weeks. [I] had enough time with my coaches to figure out how to work personally and with the entire team. … I observed that all the results of the team [events] are better from race to race and that's perfect before starting the World Champs. Now let's focus on the major event of the season."
Female kayakers Ashley Nee (Darnestown, Md.) and Dana Mann (Washington, D.C.) hope to crack the Top 10 after finishing as high as 12th and 14th in the 2013 World Cup circuit, respectively. Micki Reeves (Denver, Colo.) and Colleen Hickey (Okawville, Ill.) will compete in the increasingly competitive Women’s C-1 class.
Both K-1 Smolen and C-1 Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) have finished tops in their fields after the first day in different World Cups. Now they must carry that over into a full weekend of good racing. Young paddlers K-1 Rick Powell (Parkesburg, Penn.) and C-1 Zach Lokken (Durango, Colo.) will look to transition from finishing Top 10 in recent Under-23 World Championships to advancing beyond the heats at the senior level.
Eichfeld and Devin McEwan (Salisbury, Conn.) will seek continued improvement in men’s C-2.
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, USA Canoe/Kayak is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Canoe Federation. It governs the Olympic disciplines of Flatwater Sprint, Whitewater Slalom, the Paralympic discipline of Paracanoe and sanctions Freestyle, Marathon, Outrigger, Wildwater, Stand Up Paddle Board, Kayak Polo, Dragon Boat and Canoe Sailing in the United States. For more information about USA Canoe/Kayak, please visit us on the web at www.usack.org, on Twitter at @usacanoekayak and Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/USACanoeKayak.