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2023 Opening Sprint and Paracanoe World Cup

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Lithuanian K2 Champions Mindaugas Maldonis and Andrej Olijnik during their silver medal race at the 2022 World Championships in Halifax, Canada.

Olympic, Paralympic and world champions will headline a big field of competitors for the opening International Canoe Federation World Cup for the 2023 season in Szeged, Hungary.

The skills of five-time Olympic champion Lisa Carrington of New Zealand, Lithuania’s surging men’s K4 crew comprised of brothers Simonas and Mindaugas Maldonis, Ignas Navakauskas, and Arturas Seja, and Hungarian K1 1000 Olympic champion Balint Kopasz will be on display during the kayak sprint competition, starting Thursday May 11.

In paracanoe Australia’s three-time Paralympic gold medalist, Curtis McGrath, and Great Britain’s power trio of Emma Wiggs, Charlotte Henshaw and Laura Sugar, all triumphant in Tokyo, will be begin their tilt for Paris qualification in Szeged.

Szeged will be the first of four major ICF canoe sprint events this year. Athletes will race in the second world cup in Poznan, Poland, later in May, before heading to Duisburg, Germany, for the world championships and Olympic qualifiers in August.

The final event of the season will be an Olympic test event and world cup on the Paris course straight after the world championships.

The final athlete line-up for Szeged includes not just Olympic champions, but many of the reigning world champions from Halifax last year, alongside some of the most exciting young paddling talent on the planet.

The premiere individual races are once again shaping up as highlights, with all the medalists from the men’s K1 1000 set to lock horns again. Hungary’s Kopasz and Adam Varga, gold and silver in Tokyo, and Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta, will resume a rivalry which has thrilled canoe fans in recent years. Lithuania’s Andrej Olijnik, a K1 1000 specialist and Olympian from the 2016 Games in Rio, is a darkhorse contender and one to watch. Olijnik is coming off a strong winter training season and would like nothing more than to bump one of the event’s favorites from the podium.

Also in the field will be Olympic finalists Josef Dostal of the Czech Republic, Australia’s Thomas Green and China’s Dong Zhang.

One of the most fascinating duels in the women’s K1 500 could be between New Zealand teammates Carrington and Aimee Fisher. The pair had a hotly contested qualification series at home, with Carrington winning out to earn world championship qualification.

Denmark’s Olympic bronze medalist, Emma Astrid Jorgensen, and Tokyo finalists Linnea Stensils of Sweden and Alyce Wood of Australia will be among the biggest threats to the New Zealand duo.

The new men’s Olympic events of K2 and C2 500 will add an intriguing element to Szeged. In Tokyo and Rio the K2 and C2 were both raced over 1000 metres, but the shortening of the distance has meant a reassessment by teams of the best combinations.

Lithuania’s dynamic duo of Mindaugas Maldonis and Andrej Olijnik are set to return to the starting line after an emotional silver medal finish at the 2022 World Championships in Canada. Australia’s reigning K2 1000 Olympic gold medalists, Thomas Green and Jean Van Der Westhuyzen, have stuck together, but the only other crew remaining from the Tokyo final is China’s Tingkai Bu a d Congkang Wang, eight placegetters in Japan.

Similarly in the C2 500, only two of the crews from the Tokyo C2 1000 remain together. Seventh and eight placegetters Poland (Wiktor Glazunow and Tomasz Barniak) and Spain (Cayetano Garcia and Pablo Martinez) will be hoping the shorter distance will put them in the mix for a medal in Szeged.

The men’s K4 500 will once again be a highlight, with the top three finishes in Tokyo – Germany, Spain and Slovakia – having made only minimal changes since the Olympics. By contrast, all the women’s K4 500 crews from Japan have undergone substantial changes, making the event one of the most open in recent years.

The 5000 metre races have attracted several of the world’s best marathon races, including Hungary’s Vanda Kiszli and Denmark’s Mads Pedersen, who will both be certain to challenge for medals on the final afternoon of the world cup.

The ICF Paracanoe and Canoe Sprint World Cup begins on Thursday May 11 and runs through to Sunday, May 14.

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