2021 Canoe Slalom European Championships & Olympic Qualifier

The international season for Canoe Slalom got underway on May 6th with the 2021 European Canoe Slalom Championships. Not only an elite level championship this event also acted as the European Continental Olympic Qualifier, with a single Olympic spot up for grabs in each of the 4 categories being contested at the event. The newly selected Irish Team was filled with proven international performers eager to get into the fight for the final Olympic berths for Tokyo, the full Irish team list can be found here.

The key categories in which Team Ireland was chasing qualification were the K1 Men (Samuel Curtis, Noel Hendrick and Alistair McCreery), the K1 Women (Hannah Craig and Madison Corcoran) and the C1 Women (Michaela Corcoran). Across all the racing in these categories the tightest by far was seen in the K1 Men, with the Olympic spot coming down to the wire between Noel Hendrick and Kryszto fMajerczakof Poland. After a great performance in the qualification rounds Noel Hendrick rose again to the occasion with an even more impressive run the in the semi-finals, laying down a marker for the remaining athletes seeking Olympic qualification to chase. Athlete after athlete in contention for the Tokyo spot came down and finished behind Noel in the standings, with the agonising wait coming to a close with Majerczakof Poland, the last athlete in the running for the Olympic berth, storming down the course to claim the qualification spot. While the ultimate goal of the Olympic games was not reached, it was none the less an extremely impressive performance from the young athlete, making a statement as to his current and future form.

In the Olympic battle for the K1 Women it was the experience of Hannah Craig (London 2012 Olympian) which came closest for Ireland. With Hannah’s final placing of 32nd being just 0.8 seconds away from a spot in the semi final, and a chance to race against Naemi Braendle of Switzerland for the final qualification spot. The C1 Women featured a similar story, with Michaela Corcoran incurring a 50 second penalty to take her out of the running for the Olympic spot in her category.

Outside of the Olympic qualification battle, Irelands already confirmed 2021 Olympian Liam Jegou was top of Irelands C1 Men. Liam showed his hard winter of training with a 10th place in the qualification rounds, going on to suffer penalties in the semi final to finish in 30th overall for the event. The C1 Men team also put up a valiant fight to defend their silver medal from last years Euros, finishing in 5th place in the final, just one 2 second penalty away from a spot on the podium.

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