London, June 9, 2014: 2014 ICF Canoe Slalom, The 22-year-old put down the quickest run on the tough Lee Valley course ahead of world-class opposition to secure her first victory at international level and ensure a rare trip to the top step of the podium for a member of the Chinese canoe slalom team.
Ecstatic after her victory Li said, “I’m very happy and excited. I focused on ensuring a straight-line. It’s amazing to win a World Cup medal.”
Nanqin Cen (CHN) was the last female paddler from Asia’s most populous nation to win gold after she secured the C1 Women’s title at the 2010 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Prague.
Fox fast but third
After setting the quickest qualifying time the stage was set for Jessica Fox (AUS), the London 2012 Olympic sliver medallist, to go one better on the testing Lee Valley Course. However, the 19-year-old was unable to match the speed of Li and Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle.
Despite this an upbeat Fox was happy with her K1 efforts saying,”I had a good semi and I could hear that the final was a little bit slow, a few mistakes happening, so I think I was a little bit cautious in my paddling. But overall third place. I’m really happy with that.”
Kuhnle, the 2010 and 2011 World Champion, clearly had a point to prove following a disappointment on her last outing in London at the Olympics and a below par performance at the recent European Championships.
“It was a really tough course and I think all the girls had a lot of troubles. I tried to just have a nice and smooth run. I had touches in the end and it wasn’t as nice as I was hoping for but in the end it was enough,”said Kuhnle.
Slovenian Duo Deliver
The talented duo of Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat from Slovenia led from the front after an early start in the final following their eighth place in the morning’s semifinal.
Their target time of 106.57 was electric quick and really applied the pressure on those that followed, including last year’s ICF World Cup series winners, Gauthier Klauss and Matthieu Peche, plus the 2013 World Champion’s David Florence and Richard Hounslow (GBR).
Talking after their victory the Slovenians said, “We had two touches in the semifinal but the final went smoothly. It is easier to be the first on the start, do the job then wait for the others”.
Germany’s Franz Anton and Jan Benzien took silver with a time two seconds slower than the fastest crew. However, bronze was not so clear cut with the slimmest of margins separating the Slovak and French boats.
Eventually it was the Slovaks, Ladislav and Peter Skantar, that just squeezed it as Klauss and Peach set a time point-five-of-a-second slower in their run.
The British duo, who were favourites to win on their home course, left disappointed but pragmatic about their fifth position. Florence said, “It was frustrating to get those little touches but you can’t afford to make those little mistakes. That’s part of it but we were very pleased with the time, which I think is the fastest time. It’s pretty pleasing for this stage of the season.”
The Brit continued, “It’s been an awesome event. We’ve had such a great day from the whole of the British team yesterday. We don’t get a world cup gold medal very often. We would like to have had another today, and we were very close but we’ll be back.”
GB Dominate Team Events
Great Britain made it a clean sweep of the team events being the first nation ever to win all five events over a single ICF World Cup.
After securing gold as part of the K1 Women’s team, Beth Latham said, “Amazing to win the K1 Team event, especially on the home course with everyone to support us. Feels great to be able to deliver when it matters and go home with a gold. You could hear a lot of noise and it’s a great atmosphere to be racing in.
“I’m moving to Lee Valley next Thursday and really excited about it. It’s the best canoe slalom course in the world so it’s an honour to be able to race here and training here.”
Many of the competitors now fly to Tacen, Slovenia for the second of the five 2014 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cups and will return to Lee Valley next season when the course hosts the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.
K1 Women Final
1. LI Lu (CHN) 110.64
2. KUHNLE Corinna (AUT) 111.03
3. FOX Jessica (AUS) 111.18
4. DUKATOVA Jana (SVK) 112.85
5. SCHORNBERG Jasmin (GER) 115.57
6. HILGERTOVA Stepanka (CZE) 116.98
7. KUDEJOVA Katerina (CZE) 118.10
8. GRANT Sarah (AUS) 119.19
9. KRAGELJ Ursa (SLO) 160.00
10. FER Emilie (FRA) 166.27
C2 Men Final
1. BOZIC Luka / TALJAT Saso (SLO) 106.57
2. ANTON Franz / BENZIEN Jan (GER) 108.83
3. SKANTAR Ladislav / SKANTAR Peter (SVK) 109.39
4. KLAUSS Gauthier / PECHE Matthieu (FRA) 109.79
5. FLORENCE David / HOUNSLOW Richard (GBR) 110.04
6. PICCO Pierre / BISO Hugo (FRA) 111.30
7. SZCZEPANSKI Piotr / POCHWALA Marcin (POL) 111.35
8. KASPAR Jonas / SINDLER Marek (CZE) 112.65
9. DAVIES Rhys/ LISTER Matthew (GBR) 116.65
10. KARLOVSKY Ondrej / JANE Jakub (CZE) 133.19. —- ICF