By Eric Jackson
Official Program for the 2017 World Freestyle Championships Starts Tomorrow!
Today is the final day of open practice for the World Championships here in San Juan, Argentina. Starting tomorrow the day is divided up by National Teams and practice is limited to 1 hour/group. Official Registration opens tomorrow as well and we’ll have a complete count of the number of countries competing as well as athletes. It looks like around 25 countries.
The quality of the competitors is at an all time high with the competition being in a good hole, which is a more prominent river feature than a good wave for the athletes around the world. European countries tend to compete better in holes as most of their home spots are holes, while North American paddlers, or pros that travel to Africa, Canada, and other wave filled rivers have the advantage on waves. Of course, the best paddlers are good on both.
This hole is a great combination of easy to do moves, and just flushy enough to keep people on their feet. It doesn’t forgive poor technique often and produces flushes that send you far downstream and kill your ride. The balance between going big, going fast, linking moves, and staying retentive is one that every paddler must find. The most precise and experienced paddlers can push the boundaries further by combining all of those elements (Speed, Big Air, Linking moves, and Retentiveness).
As you can expect, in the senior classes, some of the regulars at the top of the podium are paddling really well and will be a threat to the podium here. Emily Jackson (USA- Current World Champion), Zofia Tula (Poland), Claire Ohara (England) , Hitomi Kataku (Japan), Marlene Devillez (France), Nina Czonka (Slovakia), Courtney Kerin (New Zealand) are all throwing great rides and you will see some of these names in the medals.
In the Men’s class many of the faces you would expect are paddling extremely well and preparing for an amazing showdown . Dane Jackson (USA- Current World Champion), Nick Troutman (Canada- Current Bronze Medalist), Alan Ward (England), Peter Czonka (slovakia), Hunter Katich (USA- Junior world champion- 2013) Sebastian Devred (France), Tomasz Czaplicki (Poland), Quim Fontane (Spain- Catalunya) is fast and furious and when clean is amazing and a threat to gold; and there are a bunch of others paddling really well from the USA and around the world. Oh yea, mark me down as a wildcard..
The Junior men and women this year are looking better than ever. Some of the Junior women are throwing the big moves and there are two that seem to be pushing this class forwards in 2017- Ottie Robinson-Shaw (England) seemed to have a commanding lead in practice for the past couple of weeks, throwing massive moves and being quite consistent. However, Sage Donnelly (USA- current Junior Women’s Champion) has been training hard and working on upping her already strong game and has added a couple of key moves to her repertoire and I really can’t tell who is paddling better now. Luckily we have a World Championships to let them throw down. There are lots of other amazing junior women competing that could take top honors as well, but these two seem to be paddling in the senior women’s league.
In Junior Men it will be hard to differentiate between the juniors and seniors based on the rides of the top boys. Tom Dolle (France) has been throwing every move and combo in rapid succession, while Hayden Vorhees (USA) has been getting huge air and consistently high scoring practice rides. Two brits, Alex Walters (England) is throwing every move but is hot or cold, while Harry (England) seems to have the fast paced, linking style down and consistent putting him in good position for a really high score. The Kelloggs boys Kenny and Daly (USA) are paddling very well also and while they are not super consistent yet, they threaten the top spots and have another week of training to get consistent. They tend to compete well and when on their “A GAME” they are hard to beat.
The C1 Class is small as usual, but it has some incredible talent in it at the top! Dane Jackson (USA- current C1 World Champ) is paddling super strong here in C1, but isn’t training much for it right now, so it is hard to gauge. Jordon Poffenberger (USA) is having amazing rides with on and offside moves that are hard to differentiate. Lucas (Slovakia) is a big guy in a little boat and bosses it around in amazing ways getting air on Lunar Orbits, Trickywoos, etc.. Tad Dennis (USA) is paddling very well and getting better everyday, but still working a couple offside moves. Seth Chappell (USA) is also killing it and can throw a winning ride when things click for him. He gets stuck on moves sometimes, but when it flows it flows fast. There is a Spanish C1er I have been watching that is also getting in there with a majority of the key moves and is getting better at this feature quickly. (I don’t know his name).
There is also a squirt boat competition here, but people are just starting to arrive and train for it. The number of competitors is always really small and getting a big enough class to compete is always a challenge, especially for the ladies. It looks like they got the minimum number now and it will be an official event again this year. The location of the squirt event is between the main hole and the just above the next hole. I haven’t seen people training to know who is doing well, but I assume that Clay Wright, Stephen Wright, Claire Ohara, Motoco and others brought their squirt skills to the event! I’ll be doing the event for fun in a MixMaster.
Keep an eye on Jackson Kayak website for updates, etc.. This will be a great place to keep track of the World Freestyle Kayak Championships for 2017!