On Sunday afternoon, Ricarda Funk was sitting in front of the organizing center, wearing sunglasses and a pink hat. The conversation lasts about a minute when it is interrupted. “The Germans couldn’t have won so many medals,” says a gentleman in a black suit. It’s Thomas Konitzko, president of the ICF World Canoe Federation. A couple of days earlier, Funk was already sitting in the same place, but with one small difference: now she holds the title of “world champion in kayak on the homeland.” Andrea Herzog and Cediris Tasiades should do the same on their Canadian singles on Sunday.
Funk once described canoe slalom as dancing on water. On Saturday, the last day of kayak competitions on the Augsburg Ice Canal, she asked to dance herself. “My sense of rhythm is like: It goes like this,” Funk says. “I danced like a little girl, but maybe I’d better end up doing slalom with a canoe.” No doubt. In the final, Australian dominating the scene, Jessica Fox, delivered a superb time that local champ Elena Lilik could not jeopardize; She ended up in third place. So the backdrop was set for Funk: the 30-year-old Olympic champion from 2021 in Tokyo, was the last to start and threw herself into the challenging goal groups of the 280-meter canal. At first, when she was still seated with her back to the audience, “It was so loud, I said to myself: Let me drive the first gate first!”
After 101.14 seconds she had passed all 25 goals and “when I saw the green, I didn’t care”. It is also possible that the spokeswoman in the Ice Channel was overshadowed by a cry of victory – in English. We should note one detail in particular: he pronounced his last name in a way that no longer sounded like a world-class German canoe, but like Afro-American dance music: like funk or “funk.”
The tempo at the World Cup was set by the fans, and there were a good 7,000 on Saturday, who banged drums loudly on billboards along the canal, and the balcony system echoed did the rest. “It’s great here,” said Funk, who’s not used to that kind of attention even as an Olympic champion. However, her triumphant career began there: in Tokyo 2021, with Germany’s first Olympic gold medal in canoe slalom.
Australia’s top candidate Jessica Fox doesn’t envy Funk’s win: “Ricarda can do special things on the water!”
Funk doesn’t just associate good memories with Tokyo. At the same time, her house, located in the Ahar Valley, was flooded. “Ahr has reached a point you can never imagine,” Funk said. Her parents and sister Teresa, who also attended the ice track, helped set it up. “And then this year you get pictures of the house where there is not a drop left in the river.” In the lead up to the title fights, Lech was also low, and the organizers were only able to keep their fingers crossed a day before the official start of the World Championships. Funk said she didn’t really realize title fights had been on the brink for so long, but she does know: “Climate change is there, it’s remarkable, it’s actually crazy.”
Funk says she tries to ride the bike as often as possible. However, she also understands that her sport cannot always be sustainable. In winter, the German team prepared for the island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. 2020 in Australia. That was her most extreme experience, the pre-season in Penrith, an hour’s drive west of Sydney. At the time, the Germans were rowing at 48 degrees, Funk says, and the water was clearly no longer cooling. “I won’t do that today either.”
But even at these temperatures, notable canoes are formed, and above all: Jessica Fox. The superstar of her sport did not disappoint after her silver medal in Augsburg, but praised Funk: “Ricarda can do special things on the water!” She wanted to win you anyway if she couldn’t win by herself. Funk emphasized that they were friends, “We sometimes meet at a barbecue.”
If the dress code of “WM-Medals” had been written on an invitation to the joint barbecue, other Germans should have joined the illustrious group by Sunday at the latest. Andrea Herzog threw her travel plans upside down after winning the World Cup in a canoe: Instead of going straight home towards Leipzig, she would “have a beer or two, we Germans can party tonight”.
And Sideris Tasiadis rushed across the restaurant reel (yes, that’s the name of part of the road) to gold in the Canadian singles seat. The guy from Augsburg of Greek descent probably knows the track better than anyone else this weekend. “I grew up in Augsburg-Hunstetten, just a few kilometers from the track,” he said at the weekend, and in 2012 he became the European champion here.
Augsburg is as slalom as Wimbledon is.
Even his dog, Milo, is now Augsburg’s local champion. While training before the national qualifiers in April, she ran all the way alongside Tasiadis, as a noble cheerleader, so to speak, now has her own credential and is more respected than some athletes. In order to escape all the attention after the World Cup, Tasiadis loves to drive a Vespa again. “I don’t realize it,” says Swabian Tasiadis, “I’m sure.”
After five gold, one silver, and three bronze medals in ten races, it is expected that the Germans around Funk, Herzog and Tasiades will be honored more often in the city in the future. “Augsburg is a slalom like Wimbledon tennis, or like Wembley football,” said FIFA President Thomas Konitzko.
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