Ken Wallace is back at the top of Australian kayaking but it’s anyone’s guess which boat he’ll be paddling in at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Wallace, the 2008 Beijing gold-medallist, was Australia’s star of the canoe sprint world championships in Moscow, defending his K1 5000m title and also taking a surprise silver in the K2 1000 with Lachlan Tame.
Sprint specialist Tame was only partnered with Wallace just before the Moscow event due to the 31-year-old Gold Coaster being beaten to his pet K1 1000 event by Murray Stewart.
The new combination led for more than half the K2 final but were overtaken by Slovakia before holding off Serbia to win their silver.
Wallace admitted they fared much better than expected and wouldn’t rule out his own switch from the solo boat.
“A bit of training and who knows what could happen,” Wallace said.
“After the heat and the semi, it almost made us a little nervous that we thought we might go alright at this.”
Wallace underlined his enduring talent by beating off German powerhouse Max Hoff in the long-distance race in 20:12.981 – his seventh win from his last eight international 5km races.
“It means a lot to me, it is a very tough race,” he said.
Unfortunately for Wallace the K1 5000 is not an Olympic event, and no longer is the K1 500 he won in Beijing.
He will start 2015, a pivotal qualifying year for the Rio Games, battling against Stewart for selection in the K1 1000.
Stewart missed the final in the blue-riband event at the London Olympics but impressed on this year’s World Cup circuit, taking silver behind Hoff in Hungary last month before finishing fifth in a personal best time on the weekend.
There’s also some pressure on Stewart’s priority, the K4 1000, as Australia’s defending Olympic champions bombed in Moscow by missing the final after a late seat change backfired.
Canoeing Australia has admitted they will review the crew of Stewart, Tate Smith, Jake Clear and David Smith in their build-up to Rio.
The women’s K2 crew of Jo Brigden-Jones and ironwoman Naomi Flood showed promise in their first season together but could only manage seventh in the final on Sunday night (AEST).
West Australian Alana Nichols missed the final of the K1 500 but won the B final.