Olympic selection now down to World Championship performances in September
Rugby’s canoe star missed out on gold by just 0.63 seconds in the ICF Canoe Slalom London World Cup on Sunday.
Kimberley Woods had set a very impressive time in the women’s C1 event at Lee Valley White Water Centre, the venue for the 2012 Olympics.
But her team mate Mallory Franklin, who was last to go in the final, posted an outstanding run of 106.82 seconds to nudge the Rugby Canoe Club member into the silver medal position. Australia’s Jessica Fox was third.
It made it double gold for Mallory, who had also won the K1 event, where Kimberley finished fourth.
After narrowly missing out on the K1 bronze, Kimberley had been determined to make the C1 podium and with an early fast run in the final she laid down the gauntlet leaving the others to chase her down.
She said: “I am thrilled, although it’s a bit bitter sweet losing out on Olympic points to Mallory, but it’s been two years since I have been on a World Cup podium with a few fourths since then.
“So to come out with a really good run when I wasn’t really feeling it this morning and make it through to the final and get through those emotions in the two hours in between makes me really proud of myself and my team for helping me through that.”
Kimberley, 23, had put down a solid run in the K1 final, but a couple of touches meant she was less than half a second off the podium.
“It’s always a gutting place to finish in fourth place,” she said. “The fact I had two touches makes it harder to deal with but I’m going to refocus and put this race behind me, but I’m more than happy for Mallory to take the gold and it’s great for Britain to have a gold medallist on that podium.
“We’re on a par in training so I know I’m capable of winning especially on our home course, but I knew with the touches I had to get my lines right and I did, but it came down to those touches,” said Kimberley who won her fourth European C1 team gold in France earlier this month as well as the individual C1 bronze.
The previous day Kimberley had stamped her authority on the K1 race to win the first heat, and was satisfied with her performance.
Speaking after the heats said: “It is definitely good to get off to a good start and having the crowd supporting me it all came together.
“I missed a couple of bits of my plan, but I kept a cool head to finish with a quick run.
“My arms were dead coming out of the last upstream and I thought just don’t miss the last gate and I had the crowd cheering me on which was what it was like at the World Championships here in 2015.”
With precious Olympic selection points also up for grabs this weekend, the World Cup result puts all three British K1W contenders level going into the final selection event.
“I’ve got two second places now which is a bit annoying but it gives us all the same points leading into the last race so it is going to come down to the World Championships in September.”
Those championships in La Seu d’Urgell in Spain, September 24-29, will be Great Britain’s third and final selection event for Tokyo 2020, which began in April with the team trials. There three paddlers in each class won places to represent the country this year.
Slalom paddlers are accumulating points in each race, with the best two performances to count.
There will also be a range of bonus points on offer for World Championship success. The athlete with the highest points score in each class will be nominated to the British Olympic Association for selection.
The team is likely to be announced in early October, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 canoe slalom test event.
Competing in Tokyo has always been Kimberley’s ambition and her excellent results in 2018 showed she is more than capable, but with just one boat from each country in each class, winning a place is extremely tough.
Last year she was in Great Britain’s C1 Team which won both the World and European Championships.
She also won K1 Team bronze at the World Championships.
And in her last Under 23 World Championships she took C1 silver and K1 bronze.