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USAís Cole Moore fights the current in his heat Wednesday during Day 1 of competition at the 2012 International Canoe Federation Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships in Wausau. Moore finished 38th in the Menís Junior Kayak single and qualified for Fridayís semifinals. / Dan Young/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

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Michal Smolen wasn't overly concerned with qualifying for the U23 semifinals.

The 18-year -old paddler, however, wasn't taking anything for granted at the 2012 International Canoe Federation Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships on Wednesday at Wausau Whitewater Park.

"The whole point (of today) was to make the cut," Smolen said. "The real race will be Friday and Saturday. I was expecting to have two solid runs and get in the cutoff. It's important for me to think about doing things that I do my way and trying to do the best I can."

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He did just that, covering the 250-meter course in 102.45 seconds to have the top seed for Friday's semifinals.

Smolen was one of many racers using the first race day on the course to get any jitters out. The top 40 advanced to the semifinals in the men's single kayak (K-1). The top 30 make the semis in the men's single canoe (C-1) and the women's single kayak, while the top 20 advanced in the women's single canoe and the men's two-person canoe (C-2).

"This is my first world championships, so it is really great to be at this race," said Moriah Heaney, a 17-year-old from Washington, D.C. who is seeded 15th for the semifinals in the women's junior C-1. "My two runs went pretty well. I had one spot on both that wasn't perfect. But I made all the gates the way I wanted to in one of my runs, so I felt like I could do this course."

Smolen, originally from Poland but trains out of Charlotte, N.C., was in sixth place after his first run. After talking over his run with his coaches, his second time down the river was flawless.

"My first run I was not too happy with having two penalties," Smolen said. "I knew I could improve on that a lot. I improved quite a bit in the second run.

"The fact that I got first today, I am trying to keep that out of my head because I don't want to get too excited or have my expectations too high going into the semifinals. That is going to be a completely different race."

The other top qualifiers from the day were: Australia's Rosalyn Lawrence (U23 women's C-1), Germany's Robert Behling and Thomas Becker (U23 men's C-2), Slovakia's Jakub Grigar (Junior men's K-1), Australia's Jessica Fox (Junior women's C-1) and the Czech Republic's Lukas Rohan and Adam Svoboda (Junior men's C-2).

Casey Eichfeld, who will race in the upcoming Olympics for the United States, takes part in the men's U23 C-1 event today, while fellow Olympian Caroline Queen will take to the course in the women's U23 K-1 race.

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