CANOE-KAYAK: Jessica Fox finally wins a World Cup race and a historic American medal for teen Evy Leibfarth!

New American Canoe Slalom sensation Evy Leibfarth (Photo: ICF)

There was a lot of history made at the third Canoe Slalom World Cup held in Ljubljana (SLO) over the weekend, including the end of a 16-year drought for American women on the podium in the C-1 or K-1.

Frankly, the U.S. isn’t a consistent contender in Slalom and while the men last had a World Cup medalist in 2017 – Michal Smolen’s K-1 silver in Ivrea (ITA) – it was 2003 when a U.S. woman had won a medal: a silver by Rebecca Giddens in the K-1 at La Seu d’Urgell!

So when Australian superstar Jessica Fox finally won her first World Cup race of the season in the C-1 at the Tacen Whitewater Course – extending her streak of seasons with a World Cup victory to seven – it was more a relief than a surprise. But for 15-year-old Evy Leibfarth to close her second-ever World Cup race with two more appearances in the finals and then the bronze medal in the C-1, it was more of a shock!

She finished ninth in the K-1 and then third in the C-1 with a time of 110.69 seconds, despite incurring two penalties. Suddenly, she’s a contender heading into Tokyo 2020.

And since the C-1 class for women wasn’t introduced as a standard event until 2010, it’s the first-ever American women’s medal in World Cup competition!

Fox had a bad Saturday, with a 50-second penalty keeping her out of the K-1 final. But after the win, she said, “It’s been a hard start to the year, and yesterday I was really upset and disappointed with my race in not making the final, so I really wanted to bounce back today and show what I could do.

“There were a couple of mistakes in that run, but overall I’m super happy and super proud. I train to do my best, and strive for excellence in every run, and when it doesn’t happen it’s disappointing. So you do put pressure on yourself, but you have to learn. Everyone is vulnerable.”

The rest of the honors in Ljubljana went to Italy, as Stefanie Horn won the women’s K-1 for her first career World Cup gold and second career medal, Roberto Colazingari won his first World Cup medal of any kind with a victory in the men’s C-1 and Giovanni de Gennaro tallied his fourth career World Cup win in the men’s K-1.

Said Horn, “I think it helps that I am in love with this place, the people are so nice here, you have a great feeling, so I just love paddling. In London I did a great semi-final, and I was convinced I could also do a great final. But I put so much pressure on myself that I missed a gate. Pressure is sometimes too much for me.”

“I have a new coach now, we are working on being more self-confident, and learning that even if you do a small error you can still do a good run.”

Colazingari was delighted: “Finally,” he said. “We worked hard towards this, and this is a result of the hard work we did during the winter. I hope that this is the start, and not the end.”

So does Leibfarth. Summaries:

ICF Slalom World Cup III
Ljubljana (SLO) ~ 28-30 June 2019
(Full results here)

Men/C-1: 1. Roberto Colazingari (ITA), 87.48 (0 penalties); 2. Anze Bercic (SLO), 88.84 (0); 3. Alexander Slafkovsky (SVK), 89.56 (2); 4. Benjamin Savsek (SLO), 91.25 (2); 5. Michal Martikan (SVK), 91.67 (2).

Men/K-1: 1. Giovanni de Gennaro (ITA), 83.10 (0); 2. Peter Kauzer (SLO), 83.15 (9); 3. Jiri Prskavec (CZE), 84.97 (2); 4. Vit Prindis (CZE), 86.29 (2); 5. Bradley Forbes-Cryans (GBR), 87.10 (0).

Women/C-1: 1. Jessica Fox (AUS), 103.06 (4); 2. Viktoria Wolffhardt (AUT), 104.22 (0); 3. Evy Leibfarth (USA), 110.69 (2); 4. Alja Kozorog (SLO), 112.55 (4); 5. Ana Satila (BRA), 115.35 (2).

Women/K-1: 1. Stefanie Horn (ITA), 94.13 (0); 2. Eva Tercelj (SLO), 94.39 (0); 3. Viktoriia Us (UKR), 95.04 (2); 4. Corinna Kuhnle (AUT), 95.08 (0); 5. Veronika Vojtova (CZE), 96.72 (0). Also: 9. Leibfarth (USA), 156.69 (52).