Opening Ceremonies for the Bi-Annual World Championships start on Monday night after the last of the training sessions. Typically opening ceremonies consist of an athlete parade with local youth as flag bearers for each country, local government leaders welcoming the world to their city, county, and state, as well as the organizers welcoming the International Canoe Federation delegates (Lluis, Kristine, Terry, Ingrid, and Jon). Lluis, the chair of the ICF Freestyle committee will give the final address and declare the World Championships “open”. Local Cherokee tribe will be providing cultural entertainment, and everyone will be wearing their team uniforms and the feeling that there is no stopping the train, no more training to be had, only show time, tends to flow over most of the paddlers.
Competition is a funny thing. There are no “reruns” or “Wait, I am not ready, can we do this tomorrow?” A random seeding happens, and on Monday, the heat sheets will be done. In the Men’s K1 class, you might go at 11am, or at 5pm.. depends on where your name pops up. Do you like to be in heat one to get it over with, or in the last heat so you can watch others? In prelims that is not your option. However, you can choose to go last in all rounds after the prelims, by winning that round. I like to be in the last heat for the entire competition if possible, and if I get lucky enough to be randomly selected for the last heat in prelims that is awesome, if not, I like to earn the right to be in the last heat by placing top 5 in each round. Of course, to make the finals, on Sunday, you have to be top 5 in Semi-finals. There are SO many awesome paddlers throwing huge scores that making the top 5 in this event will require some awesome paddling by all 5 paddlers.
Choking- this is a term for when an athlete doesn’t paddle up to their potential, having low scoring rides, flushing out of the hole, missing tricks, etc.. Some paddlers rise up to the occasion and paddle well in competition, and some struggle and aren’t themselves. There isn’t much room for choking in a world championships and staying in the competition, even for the best boaters. I find that the paddlers who want to win, more than they want to train and paddle, choke the hardest, while those who genuinely love to paddle, compete, train, and enjoy competing for competing’s sake, choke less.
There are paddlers from 30 countries here competing. Many veteran competitors, and some for their first World Championships. Watching the training, everyone seems to be taking it quite seriously, but still having a ton of fun. Yes, there are some people who don’t handle themselves well, get grumpy, upset, and angry over little things, because they are stressed out and not paddling as well as they wished they were. But they are the minority. Most paddlers know about where they stand before they get here. Some think they are the best in the world and find out otherwise upon arriving and watching others. They tend to struggle more with that realization than those who have a good idea of where they stand. Everyone has a shot at winning, but some have a better shot than others. Anyone who really thought they had a great shot at winning, but decided otherwise after getting here, have some soul searching to do, as it is a hard paradigm shift for anyone.
Luckily for me, I have never been to a world championships where I didn’t have a reasonable shot at winning. However, this one has more people, with higher skill level than I have ever seen. This will be the most competitive world championships yet in the Men’s pro class in a hole. I have no delusions that I am a shoe in for the win. With paddlers like Dane, Jason, Nick, Pringle, Peter Csonka, Matthiew, Sebastian, Peace, to name just a few, throwing consistently awesome rides, with big combos, huge and clean moves, etc.. There is so much talent that whoever wins this event should be very proud of that feat!
The Women’s class doesn’t have the depth of field of the men’s class, but that doesn’t make it extremely competitive as well. The obvious is Claire Ohara, the current world champion from England. However, three medals in three world championships has been earned by Ruth Gordon, including a gold in 2007 at Buseater, silver at Thun, and Bronze in Germany, she can do it too. Courtney Kerin has been training super hard and gets huge air on her moves, while Hitomi from Japan seems to be turning heads anywhere she goes with her awesome tricks. There are many more women poised for the podium as well, but it will all come down to the event.
The junior men are looking very strong this year with Team USA’s Hunter Katich and Alec Vorhees rivaling the men’s pro competitors in scores and rides.
We will also see Junior women, C1, Oc1, and squirt boaters competing. Each with their shining stars.
So the countdown, started with 500+ days on the website, is down to 3. Paddlers are honing their skills for the final time this weekend, hoping that their training and playing will give them the rides they are looking for. Like any competition, there is only one first place, one second, one third… Unlike team sports where one team goes against another, it is one person against 100 others in the men’s class, for example. Somebody will be 1st place and World Champion, and somebody will be 107th place or lower… Hopefully everyone has fun, including the spectators, friends and family that come.
I invite you to come watch, cheer, and have a good time at NOC during this event! So much going on for everyone to enjoy. Live music, parties, events to watch, fun things to do like Zip lines, rafting, kayaking, SUP, etc. etc.. This will be the place to be next week!
OK_ enough writing- I am about to go coach Nick during his Team Canada Session. He has been coaching me as well, very cool!
Here are some videos from past world championships- starting with 2001 in Sort, Spain…
Funny video by Canadians- opening ceremonies 2007 Worlds on Buseater…
My winning Ride- 2007 Buseater…
Thun Switzerland, cool total event video by Nick..
Here is a lead into the 2011 Worlds by nick…