Katarina Macova

With 7 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze medals, canoe slalom is by a considerable margin Slovakia’s most successful Olympic sport. Due to a good infrastructure around the sport and careful work with the talented youth, the five-million country seems to be dominating even in the competition of much bigger countries with a deeply-rooted sport tradition. While it is indisputable that countries like France, Great Britain or Australia have, to say the very least, caught up in the recent years, it is safe to say that canoe slalom is one of Slovakia’s national sports.

Katarina Macova, 28, while relatively unknown even in her home country of Slovakia, belongs to the world’s elite in the newly established dicipline of Women’s Single Canoe. She has been an active International Canoe Federation competitor since mid-2000s, with medals from both European, as well as World Championships. Even though the ICF World Series does not usually begin until June, practice sessions on the whitewater have to start as soon as early-March, which in central Europe often means going on the course in a nearly freezing temperature. And then it becomes a routine of various types of exercises: fitness-oriented, technical practice or rehabilitation. This photo story provides a unique peek behind the scenes of such routine.