Olympic champion Joe Clarke laid down the gauntlet to his gold medal successor Jiří Prskavec, insisting he is back to full fitness and ready to knock the Czech paddler off his perch.

The Stafford & Stone star picked up K1 gold at Rio 2016 but did not defend his title before suffering a shoulder injury in 2019 and a wrist injury at the start of January. 

In Clarke’s absence, Prskavec has reigned supreme, winning Olympic and European gold. The Brit wants his scalp, particularly at July’s World Championships in Munich.

"Jiří is the one to beat, he is the one leading our sport at the moment, but 100% I can beat him," said Clarke.

"In 2019, we were neck and neck, and then when I was putting down my best performances, he'd openly admit that he didn't think he could beat me because I was at my best. 

"I have had some ups and downs since then, and he has obviously kept on doing what he is doing, so it will be interesting to see this season when I get back to my best where we are at. 

"I think there are weaknesses in his game that are strengths in mine and vice-versa, so we have completely different styles in a lot of ways, but it depends on the course.

"It's not a grudge match. I get along with the guy, so that is quite nice, but certainly, he is the one to beat.”

Clarke leads the ten-strong British slalom team into the first international racing season of the Paris 2024 Olympic cycle, following a competitive selection event over Easter weekend. 

The Olympic canoe slalom programme will grow at Paris 2024 to include extreme slalom, an event Clarke picked up gold in during the 2021 World Championships in Bratislava. 

And he believes that if he gets back to his best, he can challenge Prskavec on every front. 

He added: "It is almost like he is pioneering the way for the sport because he has now won the Olympics, he has won the worlds, he has won the European champs, so he knows exactly what to do, and he goes out consistently and performs every time. 

"The style he paddles, I would not be able to paddle that style, so it is not like I can just copy what he is doing and be as good as him or better.  

"I can certainly take a few things out of his game, but it is about strengthening my game to work to my strengths so I am able to beat him. 

"And I know that If I get back to that place, then it is going to be a good race."

British Canoeing is the National Governing Body for paddlesports in the UK. If you’ve been inspired by Bradley and want to try paddling, visit the Go Paddling website https://gopaddling.info