Three of the biggest names in men’s canoe slalom paddling are set to go head-to-head for the C1 title in front of their home crowd this weekend as the International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Cup season heads to Bratislava in Slovakia.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Michal Martikán, Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Matej Beňuš and reigning ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup champion Alexander Slafkovský will be looking to bounce back after an uncharacteristically low-key start to their campaign at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre in London last weekend.
Martikán and Slafkovský both missed the final, while Beňuš squeezed in as the slowest qualifier and eventually finished fourth.
Slafkovský also revealed on the eve of the three-day event that he has been battling illness but is confident he will soon return to full health as the competition heats up for the sole men’s C1 Olympic position for Slovakia.
Slovakia has won an Olympic medal at every Games since Atlanta 1996.
Five of those have been won by Martikán, including two gold medals, while Beňuš continued the streak at Rio 2016.
There is added pressure for both Martikán and Slafkovský, possibly taking part in their last Olympic qualification campaigns.
Five-time Olympian Martikán, who won his first gold medal at Atlanta 1996, is now 40-years-old, while Slafkovský is 36.
By contrast, Beňuš, who made his Olympic debut at Rio 2016, is 31-years-old.
More than 200 athletes from almost 40 countries are set to take part in this year's second ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup at Čunovo Water Sports Centre.
Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin and Joe Clarke, and Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis, who shared the four gold medals up for grabs last weekend, are sitting out the three-day event in Bratislava, but the Czechs and the French will be at full strength.
As was the case with competition at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre, some teams will be using this weekend’s event as part of their Olympic selection process.
Australia's Jessica Fox, the reigning C1 and K1 world champion, claimed two bronze medals at the season opener and is looking forward to the second round.
"You earn your victories with good paddling and last weekend wasn’t my best paddling," the current word number one said.
"I had an amazing season last year and it’s hard to back that up, but I’m feeling good and paddling well.
"Even though I didn’t show it to my potential in London, I’m still pleased to come away with two medals and I look forward to Bratislava and having another go."