Why They’re Worth Watching: David Florence began his Olympic career at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, taking silver for Men’s C1 Slalom. Tipped as a favourite to take C1 Gold at London 2012, David was knocked out during the semi finals thanks to some uncharacteristic mistakes, but the plucky Scot still managed to take Silver in the Men’s C2 alongside team mate Richard Hounslow.
David has continued to break new ground in canoeing, becoming the first Brit paddler to win both C1 and C2 World Titles. 2016 will see David become the first GB slalom athlete to attend 3 successive Olympics. At the Rio Games he stands a great chance of taking home another couple of canoe medals and maybe even his first Olympic Gold.
Odds: 6/1 for C1, 8/1 for C2
Richard Hounslow – Great Britain
Event: C2 Slalom
Why They’re Worth Watching: Like his C2 team mate, David Florence, Richard Hounslow started out competing in two different canoe disciplines. 2015 saw Hounslow hang up his K1 slalom paddle to concentrate fully on C2 where he and Florence have become a force to be reckoned with.
Following Silver at London 2012, where Gold went to GB team mates Timothy Baillie and Etienne Stott, Hounslow and Florence have continued to take home canoe medals at both a European and World Championship level. Training together since 2009 the British pair are a well oiled machine who work incredibly well together. As the new top British C2 paddlers and with Hounslow’s recent refocusing on C2 another team canoe medal seems likely.
Liam Heath – Great Britain
Event: K1 200m, K2 200m
Why They’re Worth Watching: Liam Heath is another double threat athlete for Team GB. Competing internationally in both K1 and K2 200m sprints heath is regularly in contention for kayak medals at most tournaments he enters.
Boasting a Bronze in K2 200 from London 2012, earned with the help of his long term partner in crime, Jon Schofield, Heath will be hungry to add to the three golds, two silvers and bronze the pair have already taken at both European and World Championships.
On an individual level Heath turned heads in June this year taking the K1 200m title in the Moscow edition of the European championships. At Rio he will face stiff competition from Olympic favourite, Canada’s Mark De Jonge, who edged Heath out of Gold position in the ICF World Cup Racice in the Czech Republic by just 0.033 seconds. Chomping hard at the heels of Rio’s likely champion and with a solid K2 track record Liam Heath seems to be in with a good chance of a podium finish in at least one event this summer.
Odds:10/3 for K1, 4/1 for K2
Jonathan Schofield – Great Britain
Event: K2 200m
Why They’re Worth Watching: As the other half of Team GB’s K2 200m sprint entry for Rio 2016, Jonathan Schofield has already picked up more than his fair share of kayak medals.
Racing alongside Liam Heath since 2010, Schofield has a solid history of wins on the international circuit. The pair have won Bronze at London 2012, three European Championship Golds and have numerous World Championships and World Cup titles under their collective belts.
Coming from a wild water racing background, Schofield’s power and tenacity are unquestionable. Now heading into his second Games as part of a tried and tested Olympic team Schofield looks like a shoo in for a top three finish in the 200m doubles sprint.
Peter Kauzer – Slovenia
Event: K1 Slalom
Why They’re Worth Watching: Introduced to kayaking at just 7 years old by his father, Peter Kauzer has had an almost lifelong love affair with the sport.
Hailing from Slovenia, a land packed with stunning waterways. Kauzer has had an amazing playground in which to develop his passion. Riding both slalom and extreme river kayaking Kauzer is already an accomplished international kayaker and Red Bull team athlete.
Although Kauzer has 7 Golds across European and World Championship competitions he has yet to take an Olympic medal. He was hotly tipped in both the 2008 and 2012 games, but finished 13th and 6th respectively in those two competitions despite impressive times in their earlier rounds. Coming into Rio Kauzer is the firm bookies’ favourite which means this could be the year not only for his first Olympic kayak medal but also for his first Gold too.
Jessica Fox – Australia
Event: K1 Slalom
Why They’re Worth Watching: At her Olympic debut in London 2012, Jessica Fox took Silver in Women’s K1 Slalom and since then she hasn’t looked back.
In the London games Fox has taken 6 World Championship Golds across both C1 and K1 slalom events. Fox comes from strong canoeing stock, her mother took Bronze in K1 slalom at the 1996 Atlanta Games and 8 World Championship Golds during her career while her father bagged ten World Championship golds, represented Britain at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and currently serves as both the vice president of the International Canoe Federation and the head of Australian canoeing’s high-performance programme.
With such a solid foundation behind her and a truly impressive run of form over the last couple of years it’s no wonder Fox is the odds on favourite to take home the K1 slalom Gold at Rio 2016.
Lisa Carrington – New Zealand
Event: K1 200m and K1 500m
Why They’re Worth Watching: Lisa Carrington is a Kiwi kayaking legend. The 27 year old paddler first came to everyone’s attention in 2009, taking Bronze in K2 1000m at the World Cup regatta in Szeged, Hungary. Carrington rode doubles for a couple of years, becoming one of the first New Zealand athletes to recah an ICF final, before going solo which is when things really took off for her.
2011 saw Carrington win the first of five World Championship gold medals in K1 200m sprint, making her the first New Zealand woman ever to win a canoeing World Championship title. Since then she’s gone on to take Gold at the London 2012 Games making her the reigning Olympic champion at K1 200m and everyone’s top pick to win Gold again this year.
Odds: 1/6 for K1 200m, 2/1 for K1 500m
Rene Holten Poulsen – Denmark
Event: K1 1000m
Why They’re Worth Watching: Rene Holten Poulsenis a kayak medal winning machine. With 18 international kayak sprint medals to his name the 27 year old Dane is a regular podium star across both mid and long distances.
At just 19, Poulsen took Silver back in the 2008 Beijing Games in K2 1000m but since then he has primarily focused on K1 events. In 2015 he became only the 6th athlete in the world to be hailed double world champion in both K1 1000m and K1 500m disciplines. Enjoying strong form last year though with no medals to his name yet in 2016, Poulson still looks like a very strong candidate for a sprinting Gold at Rio.
Li Qiang – China
Event: C1 200m
Why They’re Worth Watching: Men’s C1 200m at Rio 2016 is shaping up to be a tightly fought battle, but with Belarus’ Artem Kozyr and local hero Isaquias Queiroz in the mix, Chinese athlete Li Qiang is just edging ahead in the odds.
Despite only a handful of international canoe medals to his name and a dearth of information available about him the 27 year old athlete is China’s top pick for the Games and the bookies’marginal favourite to win. With just one gold at international level, earned at the 2014 Asian Games, and a single Olympic appearance at Beijing in 2008 we’ll just have to wait and see what Li Qiang’s secret is when he takes to the water in Rio.
Mark De Jonge – Canada
Event: K1 200m
Why They’re Worth Watching: Having competed across both long and short distance sprints, Canada’s Markk De Jonge is incredibly comfortable on flat water.
At 31 De Jonge is one of the more mature competitors in the relatively new field of K1 200m racing. Coupled with his high level of experience De Jonge has a tenacity that saw him fight through injury to qualify for the K1 at London 2012 where he brought home Bronze for his country. With a roster of 8 international kayak medals under his belt De Jonge claimed to be happy with his third place finish in London but riding a current wave of good form the stocky Canuck looks to be preparing for an even happier 2016.
Sebastian Brendel – Germany
Event: C1 1000m
Why They’re Worth Watching: If odds are anything to go by, Sebastian Brendel looks like he could fall asleep in his canoe and still take Gold at Rio.
With 30 international canoe medals to his name the German seems virtually unstoppable on the water. In 2012 the Olympic champion took Gold in the C1 1000m race while 2014 saw him set a new world record in the 1000m sprint, clocking in at just over 3 minutes 44 seconds.
At 28 years old Brendel is at the peak of his canoeing career with the perfect mix of strength and experience to defend his Olympic title.
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