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White-water world class in Augsburg
In 1972, canoe slalom celebrated its Olympic premiere as a new sport at the Summer Games in Munich. The world's first artificial whitewater course was built for this purpose at Augsburg's Eiskanal. Almost exactly 50 years later, the Eiskanal is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – and with the support of KUKA, the venue for a spectacular world championship.
A total of 33,000 enthusiastic visitors were drawn to Augsburg at the end of July. There, some 300 athletes from 51 nations competed for victory in ten medal events. "It's really hard to find superlatives for this great World Championships," says Thomas Schmidt, former Olympic canoeing champion, technical organizer of the World Canoe Championships in Augsburg and Sales and Proposal Engineer at KUKA. "Practically half the canoeing world was there, including many alumni from the 1972 Games. We had guests from Australia, England, France, Poland or Belgium. And the audience was great and cheered everyone on, no matter what nation."
Among the guests were celebrities like Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. In the end, the Augsburg canoeists raced to gold several times on their home course. Of course, KUKA was also present at the "WM at home" and was prominently represented as a sponsor. But KUKA employees such as Thomas Schmidt also supported as volunteers with the organization, were spectators or took part directly in competitions as canoeists, like Christos Tsakmakis from KUKA, who has already competed in the Olympic Games and celebrated international successes in canoeing.
Climate change jeopardizes World Cup
The event had to contend with numerous hurdles – and in the end was almost on the brink of collapse. For example, the facility was renovated for a total of two years and was only completed shortly before the World Championships. And then drought and persistent heat left athletes and organizers trembling. The title bouts were probably the first World Championships "to be on the brink of collapse because of the climate crisis," World Federation President Thomas Konietzko told Deutschlandfunk radio in advance.
"We were on the verge of having to cancel everything," Thomas Schmidt recounted. Weeks of drought caused river levels to drop unexpectedly. "Nobody had it on their radar that it would get this bad. But we pulled out all the stops and found a solution." Structural measures such as an improvised water backwater eventually saved the World Championships.
A canoe premiere on the ice canal
And 50 years after the Olympic premiere, spectators once again experienced a premiere on Augsburg's ice canal: the new discipline "Canoe Slalom Extreme", sponsored by KUKA, took to the starting line, a combination of white-water slalom and race in which four canoeists race against each other simultaneously.
This made for spectacular scenes and high viewing figures and shows that the sport on Augsburg's Eiskanal has lost none of its fascination even after all these decades.
Did you know...?
The Eiskanal used to serve as a bypass channel for drift ice so that it would not damage the turbines of the waterworks at the Hochablass in winter. The name has remained until today.
The route is particularly sustainable: it does not require electrically powered pumps and therefore has low operating costs.
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