Petr Prucha, the former Czech professional ice hockey player whose NHL career was cut short by injury, believes Abu Dhabi is a perfect fit for the latest addition to its international water sport calendar.
Prucha, the ex-New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes forward, was in sparkling form as he won the opening round of this year’s UIM MotoSurf World Cup as the UAE capital welcomed the series into the Middle East for the first time at the weekend.
After eclipsing defending World Cup champion and fellow Czech Lukas Záhorský with back-to-back race wins in Saturday’s men’ finals, Prucha said:
When we found out that the season was starting here we were all very happy because we had heard so many good things about Abu Dhabi.
It’s an unbelievable place, the people are so friendly, and this is the perfect venue to start the series when it’s so cold in Europe.
It’s an ideal destination for the World Cup and a natural venue for racing.
It gives the series a new dimension.
Hosted by Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, with racing taking place the Breakwater Beach, the season opener began with 35 men and 10 women going into action in qualifying.
Záhorský and 2018 women’s’ world champion Aneta Šacherová found themselves immediately under pressure.
Zahorsky (1:22.407) was third fastest in qualifying behind the surprise early pacesetter Vit Limr (1:21.678) who grabbed his first pole position ahead of Petr Prucha (1:21:859).
Sacherova (1:26.221) was second best on the day to Martina Bravencova (1:25.707), with Klara Sitarova (1:28.402) setting the third fastest time.
It was a different story as the first heats of the season got underway the following day with Záhorský in dominant form, winning each of his heats to take the outright lead.
Showing he had fully recovered from injury, Martin Šula powered his way into second place ahead of young Slovakian Filip Sihelský.
After qualifying, I thought it wasn’t the best start of the season.
I just couldn’t put the ideal lap together.
But I’m very satisfied with my performance today, so I’m really looking forward to race again tomorrow and hopefully, I can start the year victorious.
Šacherová turned the tables on Bravencová in the women’s’ heats to forge ahead, with Sitarová ending the day in third position ahead of Britain’s Anya Colley who had been in impressive form but crashed in one of her heats.
Šacherová finished the day in a reflective mood, saying:
It’s typical for me that I never make miracles in the qualifying.
In the heats, I somehow managed to control each round which I am happy about because this will give me a chance to lead all the heats tomorrow and hopefully I can start the season with a win.
But 24 hours later it was all change again as Průcha, who helped his country win the 2005 ice hockey world championship, dominated. He raced away in the men’s finals with a double victory from Záhorský, with Slovakian Sebastian Kubinec claiming third place in both races to take the other podium place.
Šacherová and Bravencová had been largely inseparable all weekend, and so it continued as racing came to a climax.
While Šacherová sensed an overall triumph after clinching the first of the women’s finals, Bravencová fought back to take outright victory by virtue of her win in the second, the results of the last race being decisive in the event of a tie.