The Junior & U23 World Championships in Tacen, Slovenia, turned out to a successful event for USA Canoe & Kayak’s young rising stars. Four medals were earned: a bronze by Ria Sribar in the U23 WK-1 event, a bronze in the junior WC-1 event followed by a world title in the junior WK-1 event by Tokyo bound Evy Leibfarth, and a world title in junior men’s extreme slalom by Kaelin Friedenson.
Day 1 of competition on July 5 featured the men’s and women’s kayak teams final runs for U23 and junior categories and the men’s and women’s canoe teams final runs for U23 and junior categories. The U.S. women’s kayak U23 team came in 10th place. The men’s U23 team came in 15th place.
The women’s kayak U23 heats started the day on July 6, with Ria Sribar finishing 18th in her first run and qualifying for the semifinal. Joshua Joseph racing in the U23 men’s kayak category finished in second after his first run. Wesley Bolyard qualified for the semifinal after his second run.
Later that day, Nathaniel Francis qualified for the junior men’s canoe semifinal after his first run.
Day 3 of competition saw the junior women’s kayakers out on the course, with Evy Leibfarth and Marcella Altman finishing in 6th and 7th, respectively, after their first runs. Isabel Long qualified for the semifinal after her second run. Emma Morgan Joseph experienced her first race on the international circuit with a solid run, but did not progress.
Day 4 began with the U23 women’s kayak semifinals. Ria Sribar finished third behind Angele Hug of France and Elena Apel of Germany, qualifying for the event final. Joshua Joseph finished 20th in the semifinal and did not advance. Later that day, Ria Sribar won the bronze medal for team USA Canoe & Kayak after a great performance.
The afternoon of Day 4 saw Evy Leibfarth take the course once again in the junior women’s canoe semifinal. She finished third only slightly behind Klara Kneblova from the Czech Republic in second place. Leibfarth finished third in the junior canoe final after six seconds of penalties and took home the bronze medal. The Kneblova sisters from the Czech Republic earned the gold and silver medal, becoming the first siblings in the history of international canoe slalom to win those two medals together.
The final day of canoe slalom competition on July 9 featured the junior women’s kayak semifinal. Leibfarth finished in second and qualified for the final later that day. Kaelin Friedenson, who raced in the junior men’s kayak semifinal, just missed advancing to the final after coming in 11th place (only top 10 progress). After a great run, Leibfarth earned the junior women’s kayak world title. With her Olympic debut only 13 days away, this final race demonstrated her talent and ability amongst world class competitors.
July 10 featured the extreme slalom competition. Kaelin Friedenson won the world title in the junior men’s division, and continues to be a promising athlete in the event as it gains traction on the world stage. Extreme slalom will make its Olympic debut at the Paris 2024 Games.
Congratulations to all medal winners and all USA Canoe & Kayak athletes! Watch Evy Leibfarth take the stage again in Tokyo on July 25th along with Michal Smolen and Zach Lokken. Nevin Harrison will compete in canoe sprint (C-1 200m).
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