Great result for our G1 paddler Michal Smolen. He has become an U23 World champion in Penrith in K1 men category. It was pretty hard to beat all great paddlers who took part in this competition. There is a short interview Michal provided exclusively for us.
You are a champion now. It's a great start of the season. Do you believe in more great runs during the season 2014? What about your secret goals?
Yes, I think that my season is off to a very good start, especially considering this result. Still, I think there is always room for improvement so before I get deeper into this season I have to evaluate everything from these World Championhips. My major goal for this season will be the Senior World Championships in Deep Creek. Having such an important competition at home in the US is a pretty big deal and I'm putting a lot of focus into preparing myself for these Worlds.
Where did you spend winter preparing for Worlds?
In January I was training in the desert in the UAE and in February I was in Penrith for the Oceania Championships. After the winter training, I went back home for one month to qualify for the Senior National Team. Then I came back to Penrith two weeks before the World Championships started. I spent a total of five weeks training on the course in Penrith before the Worlds so by the time the competition started I knew the course very well.
It seems you have been in perfect shape these days..How did you feel in the morning just before the race?
I was feeling quite nervous the morning of the race because there was a lot of pressure to make the final. Last year I was very unfortunate as I made some mistakes in the semi-final which caused me to be eliminated for the final. This time around I was lucky enough to have solid performances throughout the entire race and not just in the qualifications.
Do you have any special warm up performance before the race?
I've been playing around with my warm up routine for a while so that I can figure out what's the best one for racing. Our sport requires a lot of fast movements and fast thinking so you have to prepare your body for these things. Doing some short sprints and fast motions that you would normally perform in the race can help warm up your your muscles as well as your nervous system. This is what I have found to be most beneficial for me.
You have had to beaten many great paddlers to become a champion. What was the most difficult part on the way to the title?
Yes, there were a lot of really good paddlers in these World Championships. Some of them were past U23 Champions and some others have had excellent results in the World Cups and Senior World Championships so I really had to step it up this week. I think the most diffcult thing for me was trying to keep my confidence throughout the whole race. My last year was really rough and I had so many bad experinces due to a lack of confidence. I've been trying to improve myself in this area over the last couple of months and having this result shows me that the work I've been doing has been good.
When did you start to believe you can actually become a champion?
I've always wanted be World Champion or at the very least make it to the podium. I've been really close to the podium in the past, placing 4th at the Junior Worlds in 2010 and 5th at the Junior/U23 Worlds in 2012 so you can imagine the disappointment of being so very close. I'd say that I have always belived in myself but I just needed more experince before I could pull together a winning run in the finals.
Who was the biggest competitor in K1 men category?
Like I said before, there were quite a few really good paddlers here but one of them was really hard to beat. Racing against Jiri Prskavec (CZE) is always very fun and exciting. We actually both had a very similar race as we were the fastest in the qualifications and then we both played it safe in the semi-final. Unforutanely, Jiri had a penalty in the final but it was still an honour to be on the podium with him and my other friend Giovanni De Gennaro from Italy.
Plans for season 2014?
I've already secured my spot on the Senior US Team so I will be competing in the World Cups this summer and then at the Senior Wolrd Championships later in September.
Good luck for all races in season 2014!