GSF Athlete Highlights - Canoe Slalom

The 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championship

The 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships took place from 19 to 24 September 2023 in London, United Kingdom at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, which is operated by GLL. The championships contributes as the qualification event for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris with 15 quota spots in K1 events and 12 spots in C1 events up for grabs. 5 GSF athletes were competing for Team GB and secured an impressive 7 medals between them! (4 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze).

Great Britain and GSF athletes kick started their campaign at the Championships with three medals from the first four events - gold, silver and bronze! GSF Ambassador Kimberley Woods (Rugby) and her team stormed to gold in the very first event of these home Championships, the women’s canoe team competition. They executed a perfectly clean run through 18 gates for an unbeatable time of 112.45 seconds. Kimberley and her teammates were back on the water just over an hour later to claim the bronze medal in the women’s kayak team event. GSF athletes Ryan Westley (Lee Valley Regional Authority) and James Kettle (Lee Valley Regional Authority) played their part to secure the silver medal in the men’s canoe team event.
After a gold, silver and bronze on the opening day in London, day two was all about the heats and qualification for the semi-finals of the individual women’s and men’s events for GSF athletes Kimberley Woods, Ryan Westley and James Kettle. New world women’s canoe team champion Kimberley picked up where she left off to advance automatically to Friday’s semi-final, finishing in fourth overall with an impressive effort of 96.72 on a windy morning. Ryan Westley, silver medallist in the team event on day one, followed in the men’s canoe heats and navigated the increasingly challenging conditions superbly to qualify automatically in tenth with a time of 87.05. Unfortunately for James, he did not advance despite best efforts in a challenging heat.

The Great Britain team and GSF athletes enjoyed a clean sweep of qualifiers in the women’s and men’s kayak on day three, as the hosts continued to enjoy every inch of the Lee Valley White Water Centre. After progressing in the canoe event on day two, the switch to the women’s and men’s kayak presented further opportunities – something GSF ambassador Kimberley Woods grabbed with both hands as she qualified directly to the semi-finals from heat one, after posting a time of 88.28 seconds to rank fourth overall. GSF ambassador Joe Clarke was made to wait before getting started in heat one following a ten minute delay to proceedings but and, despite picking up a penalty at gate three, looked strong through the top section. Joe went completely clean after gate three and posted a time of 83.28 for that top-30 place overall as he advanced through automatically to Saturday’s semi-finals.

On day four of the World Championships, GSF ambassador Kimberley Woods added an individual medal to her tally, securing the silver medal in the women’s canoe event. Kimberley gave everything with her run in front of a home crowd. She was ahead of her British teammate in the first two splits through 11 gates before crossing the finish line in a time of 108.47, just 0.42 shy of a second gold medal at the Championships. In the men’s canoe semi-finals, Ryan Westley kept a tight line in the middle section of the course as he sought to keep pace for the top ten crossing in a time of 101.29, which placed him eighth. A wait ensued to see if that would be enough for the final and it could have hardly been more tight with Ryan eventually ranking one place outside the top ten in 11th with just 0.07 the difference from being in and out.

GSF Ambassador Joe Clarke produced a performance for the ages as he claimed the gold in the individual men’s K1 for the first time in his illustrious career on day five of the 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. Olympic Champion from Rio 2016, Joe was completely untouchable throughout the penultimate day of action on home waters in London, blitzing his way to a first ever individual medal in the men’s K1 event at a World Championships, with a truly breath-taking run in the final. There was heartache for Kimberley Woods in the semi-finals of the women’s kayak that kick started the penultimate day, as she agonisingly missed out on a place in the final the morning after her superb silver in the women’s canoe.
GSF Ambassadors Kimberley Woods and Joe Clarke were both equally imperious to secure a glorious golden double on the final day, as the British team crowned their best ever performance at the event on home waters. A dramatic final day involving the new Olympic kayak cross event, Kimberley overcame disappointment in the K1 event on Saturday to storm to her first individual world gold with a brilliant final performance in the women’s event before Joe, who 24 hours before won his maiden world title in the K1, showed his supreme class to dominate the men’s. 

In doing so, Kimberley had to come up against British teammate and GSF athlete Nikita Setchell (Lee Valley Regional Authority) in the quarter-finals - a race packed with the kind of drama kayak cross is known for. Nikita stalked Kimberley after the start and went left at the first gate with the pair coming out first and second. Kimberley had some difficulty at gate five which presented Nikita with a genuine chance to push into the top two. There was little to separate the two through the final section of the course with both sprinting for the line as they came through gate six. Such was the closeness of the pair a photo finish was needed with Kimberley just edging it.

GSF ambassador Joe Clarke picked up where he left off in the K1 in the time trial of the men’s kayak cross, setting the quickest time, and kept his composure to navigate his way into the final, especially in the quarter-finals. In the final he was third coming off the start ramp but a combination of pure speed and smart decisions set him up superbly for what would come. Joe went right at gate one and had it to himself, surging around it for a lead that he was never going to relinquish. He was smooth through gates three and four, faultless through the roll zone before tackling gate five with poise, and he powered through gate six and to the line for gold.

It has been a pleasure to follow the hard work of GSF athletes at this competition, a huge congratulations to all who took part!