2012 canoe/kayak: Hail Slovakia and Hungary

This morning, my former full-time employers at USA TODAY unveiled their 2012 medal projections, produced in conjunction with Infostrada. It has considerably more technical resources behind it than my old 2004 Virtual Medal Count.

Please do check it out along with mine. Between the two, you’ll get a good sense of what to expect in 2012. Their projection will be better-produced, but mine will include commentary. And the occasional Cheap Trick video:

Which serves as an appropriate lead-in for the canoe/kayak projections, which are relatively easy because the World Championships are held every year. In 2011, we’ll have flatwater (sprint) championships Aug. 18-21 in Szeged, Hungary, and the slalom championships Sept. 7-11 in Bratislava, Slovakia.

No, I don’t know why women don’t race in canoes. Maybe they’re smart enough to know kayaks are far more efficient.

SLALOM

Men’s C-1 (single canoe): For nearly 15 years, this event has been a duel between Slovakia’s Michal Martikán and France’s Tony Estanguet, each with two Olympic golds and a combined seven world titles. Estanguet, who won gold in 200o and 2004, failed to qualify for the 2008 final, leaving the door open for Martikán to claim his second gold 12 years after he won in Atlanta. Estanguet has taken a bit of revenge in the last two World Championships, with Martikán taking second each time.  That’s also the order in the 2010 rankings, with the Czech Republic’s Stanislav Jezek third and British hopeful David Florence lurking in ninth.

2008: Michal Martikán, Slovakia; David Florence, Britain; Robin Bell, Australia

Projection: France, Slovakia, Britain

Top Americans: Benn Fraker reached the 2008 final at age 19 and finished sixth, but he struggled to 24th-place finish in 2010, one place behind teammate Casey Eichfeld. Fraker was ranked 15th after the 2010 season.

Men’s C-2 (double canoe): Slovakians are 1-2 in the 2010 rankings, though there’s a trick to getting more than one boat per country in this event — the second boat would have to come from athletes who qualified in other events. Twin brothers Pavol and Peter Hochschorner are the three-time defending gold medalists and three-time defending world champions. Ladislav and Peter Skantar are ranked second, followed by duos from Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Britain.

2008: Pavol Hochschorner/Peter Hochschorner, Slovakia; Jaroslav Volf/Ondřej Štěpánek, Czech Republic; Mikhail Kuznetsov/Dmitry Larionov, Russia

Projection: Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany

Top Americans: Rick Powell and Casey Eichfeld finished 11th in 2008, but the highest-ranked U.S. team in 2010 is Benn Fraker and Scott Parsons at 140th.

Men’s K-1 (single kayak): Not quite as much dominance in this event, with no medalists from 2009 repeating in 2010. The last two world champions, Italy’s Daniele Molmenti and Slovenia’s Peter Kauzer, are 1-2 in the 2010 rankings.

2008: Alexander Grimm, Germany; Fabien Lefèvre, France; Benjamin Boukpeti, Togo

Projection: Italy, Slovenia, Germany

Top Americans: Scott Parsons finished 19th in 2010 but will face competition for the Olympic bid from Scott Mann, Brett Heyl and Jim Wade.

Women’s K-1 (single kayak): Once again, Slovakians are 1-2, and neither is the reigning Olympic champion, with Jana Dukatová leading Olympic champion Elena Kaliská. World champion Corinna Kuhnle of Austria is third. Britain has two ranked in the top eight.

2008: Elena Kaliská, Slovakia; Jacqueline Lawrence, Australia; Violetta Oblinger-Peters, Austria

Projection: Slovakia, Austria, Britain.

Top Americans: Michelle Kvanli (45th) had the best U.S. finish in 2010. British-born American Heather Corrie finished eighth in 2008 but would be over 40 in 2012.

SPRINT

The distances have changed a bit since 2008. More 200-meter races, fewer 500-meter races. Women picked up one event in the reshuffle (a second K-1 race), while the men lost the shorter C-2 race.

Men’s 200-meter C-1: Long-dominant Russian Maxim Opalev has finally given his countrymen a shot at international glory, and they’ve responded with second place (Nikolay Lipkin, 2009) and first (Ivan Shtyl, 2010). France’s Thomas Simart was second in 2010, followed by a tie for third between Canada’s Richard Dalton and Ukrainian Olympic medalist Yuriy Cheban.

2008 (500m): Maxim Opalev, Russia; David Cal, Spain; Yuriy Cheban, Ukraine

Projection: Russia, France, Ukraine

Top Americans: None

Men’s 1,000m C-1: Vadim Menkov (Uzbekistan) has won two straight world titles; Sebastien Brendel (Germany) has consecutive third-place finishes and took a World Cup win in 2010. Olympic champion Attila Vajda was second in 2010. Menkov also took third at 500 meters in 2010, two places behind two-time defending world champion Dzianis Harazha of Belarus. Spain’s David Cal was a couple of tenths of a second away from the podium in 2010.

2008: Attila Vajda, Hungary; David Cal, Spain; Thomas Hall, Canada

Projection: Uzbekistan, Germany, Hungary

Top Americans: None

Men’s 1,000m C-2: Belarus’ Bahdanoviches followed up Olympic gold with a second-place finish in 2010, behind Romania’s Alexandru Dumitrescu and Victor Mihalachi. The Romanian duo also won the 2010 title at 500 meters.

2008: Andrei Bahdanovich/Aliaksandr Bahdanovich, Belarus, Christian Gille/Tomasz Wylenzek, Germany, György Kozmann/Tamás Kiss, Hungary

Projection: Romania, Belarus, Hungary

Top Americans: None

Men’s 200m K-1: Those British athletes do so well in sports that require sitting — cycling, sailing, kayaking, etc. Ed McKeever is the reigning world champion, followed by Germany’s Ronald Rauhe (the 2009 world champion) and Poland’s Piotr Siemionowski.

2008 (500m): Ken Wallace, Australia; Adam van Koeverden, Canada; Tim Brabants, Britain

Projection: Germany, Britain, Poland

Top Americans: Tim Hornsby reached the semifinals in 2010.

Men’s 1,000m K-1: Germany’s Max Hoff has won back-to-back titles. Belarus’ Aleh Yurenia was the only non-Hoff winner on the 2010 World Cup circuit. British world and Olympic champion Tim Brabants has taken time off to use his medical degree for actual employment, but he took second in 2010 and will be revved up to compete at home. Sweden’s Anders Gustafsson is the 500-meter world champion.

2008: Tim Brabants, Britain; Eirik Verås Larsen, Norway; Ken Wallace, Australia

Projection: Germany, Belarus, Britain

Top Americans: Rami Zur, who also competed in the past for Israel, was the only American to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in any sprint event. He reached the semifinals at both 500 and 1,000 meters. Morgan House was a 2010 semifinalist.

Men’s 200m K-2: Spain’s Saul Craviotto and Carlos Perez, the Olympic champions at 500 meters, have finished second two straight years. Belarussian great Raman Piatrushenka won the 2007 and 2009 titles with Vadzim Makhneu, then won the B final (10th place) with new partner Taras Valko in 2010. France’s Arnaud Hybois and Sebastien Jouve won the 2010 title. Britain’s Liam Heath and Jonathon Schofield were third in a very close 2010 final that saw the top three separated by 0.052 seconds.

2008 (500m): Saul Craviotto/Carlos Perez, Spain; Ronald Rauhe/Tim Weiskötter, Germany; Raman Piatrushenka/Vadzim Makhneu, Belarus

Projection: Spain, France, Britain

Top Americans: Patrick and Ryan Dolan reached the 2010 C final, good for 25th overall.

Men’s 1,000m K-2: German veteran Andreas Ihle teamed up with Martin Hollstein for gold in Beijing and the 2010 world title. They’re the only consistent names from the last three major events. Hungary’s Zoltan Kammerer and Akos Vereckei were a close second in 2010. Third place was tight between Russia and Serbia.

2008: Martin Hollstein/Andreas Ihle, Germany; Kim Wraae Knudsen/Rene Holten Poulsen, Denmark; Andrea Facchin/Antonio Massimiliano Scaduto, Italy

Projection: Germany, Hungary, Russia

Top Americans: The Dolans reached a semifinal in 2010 but finished last.

Men’s 1,000m K-4: France and Belarus have traded the first and second spots in the last two World Championships, followed by each half of the former Czechoslovakia. Only 1.2 seconds separated second from seventh in 2010.

2008: Belarus, Slovakia, Germany

Projection: France, Belarus, Germany

Top Americans: Didn’t compete in 2010 Worlds.

Women’s 200m K-1: Hungary’s Natasa Junics is the three-time defending world champion. The rest of the 2010 podium: Ukraine’s Inna Osypenko-Radomska (500-meter gold medalist in 2008), Japan’s Shinobu Kitamoto.

2008: None — new event.

Projection: Hungary, Ukraine, Japan

Top Americans: Krisztina Fazekas-Zur was fifth in the 2010 B final (14th overall).

Women’s 500m K-1: Hungary’s Kaitlin Kovács has won everything in this sport — world titles all around, Olympic medals in team events — except an Olympic medal in an individual race. She just missed in 2008, finishing fourth. She’s a four-time world champion at 1,000 meters, most recently winning in 2009. As you’ve surely gathered by now, canoe/kayak is dominated by Europeans, but South Africa’s Bridgette Hartley was third at 1,000 meters in 2009. British hopeful Rachel Cawthorn had a World Cup win in 2010 and a successful World Championship — third at 500 meters, fourth at 1,000. Olympic champion Inna Osypenko-Radomska won the 2010 world title at this distance; Germany’s Franziska Weber won at 1,000.

2008: Inna Osypenko-Radomska, Ukraine; Josefa Idem, Italy; Katrin Wagner-Augustin, Germany

Projection: Hungary, Ukraine, Britain

Top Americans: Carrie Johnson was the only American woman to qualify for the 2008 Games. She was the fastest woman not to reach the nine-athlete final. No one competed at this distance in 2010.

Women’s 500m K-2: Hungary and Germany are almost always on the podium somewhere, and 2010 was no exception. Hungary won both the 500 and 1,000, with Gabriella Szabó in each boat. Germany’s Carolin Leonhardt and Silke Hörmann were second at 1,000 and fourth at 500. Russia’s Juliana Salakhova and Anastasia Sergeeva were third at 1,000 and second at 500.

2008: Hungary, Poland, France

Projection: Hungary, Germany, Russia

Top Americans: Carrie Johnson and Krisztina Fazekas-Zur won the B final in 2010.

Women’s 500m K-4: Hungary and Germany are to this event what Rangers and Celtic are to Scottish soccer. The most common third-place finisher in recent years: Poland, which nosed out Spain, Britain and Portugal in 2010.

2008: Germany, Hungary, Australia

Projection: Hungary, Germany, Poland

Top Americans: The USA fielded an entry in 2010 but posted the worst time of the semifinals.

Discontinued – Men’s 500m C-2: China, Russia, Germany in 2008

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