Clouds engulfed Christ the Redeemer statue on Friday, overlooking the worlds fastest canoe/kayak sprint athletes as they began pursuit of their Olympic dream.
Four classes competed and advanced top athletes in their respective classes to Final A (medal races) and Final B.
On Saturday, Final A athletes will have the opportunity of a lifetime as 11 Olympic champions will be crowned in four events.
Men’s Kayak Single 200m
The top five of each of the three heats, plus the athlete with the sixth best time made up the two semifinals lineups on Friday, which would then decide the Final A lineup for Saturday.
Friday was a perfect example of how anything can happen in a 200-meter kayak sprint, favorites can fall and lesser-known athletes can become stars in a moment’s time.
Canada’s Mark de Jonge, the gold medal favorite, almost became the latter in the semifinal on Friday. Three one-thousands of a second decided the Olympic fate of the London Games bronze medalist and ultimately saved him to see the light in Final A to compete for gold on Saturday.
In the first semifinal, after a longer than usual timeframe for official time results to come in, it eventually showed de Jonge finished in 34.775 and Serbia’s Marko Novakovic finished in 34.778, this eliminated the Serbian from Final A and for a chance to compete for an Olympic medal. With this result, medal favorite, Petter Menning was also knocked out of Final A after finishing in 34.995.
To put in perspective, the London gold medalist in this event, Great Britain’s Ed McKeever – who failed to qualify for the Rio Games – held the Olympic best time of 35.087. Great Britain’s Liam Heath broke McKeever’s record on Friday with 34.327, but many others also finished under McKeever’s time.
France’s Maxime Beamont, also a medal favorite, advanced to Final A and will face the likes of de Jonge and Heath in Saturday’s final.
Men’s Canoe Double 1000m
When C2 1000m paddlers lined up in their heats, it was the goal of everyone on that start line to be the first to cross the finish for an automatic spot to compete for gold in Final A.
That was the case for Brazil’s Isaquias Queiroz and teammate Erlon de Souza Silva on Friday. They won their heat in 3 minutes 33.269 seconds – the fastest finishing time of the day – and advanced to Final A. Queiroz, who already won silver and bronze at the Rio Games, could add one more piece of hardware to his collection on Saturday.
Germany’s Sebastian Brendel, who won gold and defended his title in the men’s canoe single 1000m in Rio, along with teammate Jan Vandrey won their respective heat and automatically advanced to Final A. The German duo may be the Brazilians biggest threat.
The Hungarian pair of Henrik Vasbanyai and Robert Mike, who have won a medal of some kind at each of the last three world championships, will also be in medal contention on Saturday.
Women’s Kayak Four 500m
Belarus and Hungary automatically advanced to Final A after winning their respective heats on Friday.
From 1985 up until last year’s World Championships, every major competition in the women’s K4 500m was won by either Germany or Hungary.
Belarus broke the streak last summer and this year in Rio the Belarusian quad is in line to disappoint the Germans and Hungarians once more.
Germany and Hungary are also favorites to stand atop the podium, with Poland and Ukraine lurking as outside contenders.
Men’s Kayak Four 1000m
Unlike the women’s big boats, the men’s field was wide-open, with five nations vying for gold.
Friday proved just that – with one exception.
Slovakia, Czech Republic, Australia, Hungary, and Russia all headed into Friday’s heats and semifinals as strong contenders for gold. However, Russia was the only big boat to not advance to Final A.
The rest will compete for the title of 2016 Rio Olympic champions.
Czech Republic and Germany automatically advanced to Final A from their respective heats, while the rest had to clinch their spot in the semifinals.
Germany has two Rio gold medalists on their squad, Max Rendschmidt and Marcus Gross, who won the K2 1000m gold medal on Thursday. They are joined in their quad by Tom Liebscher and Max Hoff.