The Jackson 5: Sage Donnelly Wins for Women, Dane Jackson for Men at ICF Freestyle World Championships


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No, it’s not the disco band. This Jackson Five goes to kayaker Dane Jackson. The world’s greatest male freestyle paddler and a former junior world champion stole the show on the final day of the ICF Freestyle World Championships in Columbus, Georgia.

American Dane Jackson won his fifth men’s kayak title, his third in a row, and his 10th world title overall in a glittering career stretching over more than a decade. On Saturday he set the bar high early with a ride that could not be beaten, and then, get this, bettered his score on his second trip onto the water.

sage donnellyIn the women’s competition Sage Donnelly, a junior world champion from 2015, upstaged the highly fancied defending world champion from Great Britain, Ottilie Robinson-Shaw, to snatch gold by just 35 points.

Donnelly followed her gold in 2015 with a silver in the same category in 2017, but had not been on the podium since. Her gold on Saturday was the first medal of any colour for the United States in the women’s kayak since Emily Jackson won the title in 2015.

Donnelly came into the world championships with a limited preparation.

“I’ve been working a lot, and doing a lot of creek boating so muscle-wise I’m still really fit and I’ve been on the water a lot, which I think helped a lot in adapting to here,” Donnelly said. “I didn’t really have a big expectation. In the back of my mind I knew if I could get my whole ride, maybe I could medal. I’ve been working on changing my mindset a lot with my competition, and I think it worked out.

“In 2020 I decided to take a break from competition when Covid hit because I realised I wasn’t really happy, and I wasn’t having fun when I was kayaking any more, which was a huge problem for me. But this year has been a great year, and I’m stoked with how it went

world freestyle dane jackson
Dane Jackson in route to his fifth world championships win in men’s kayak.

Robinson-Shaw won her second silver of the week, after winning all three gold medals on her home course of Nottingham last year, while two-time world champion Emily Jackson won her first medal since 2015 when she took the bronze.

Dane Jackson has missed only one kayak gold medal since progressing to the senior ranks in 2013, when he finished second in 2017. On Saturday he was leaving nothing to chance, and despite a high-scoring second ride from his Canadian brother-in-law, Nick Troutman, the gold medal looked his from the outset.

“I’m super fired up, any time you get the chance to come out on top is awesome, but this event, wave worlds, and all the people here, I absolutely just love the competition,” Jackson said. “In the end I just like kayaking, that’s step number one, and it’s all fun. No matter what, when I’m out there, even if I was to get last or first, this is where I want to be, these are the people I want to be with. I enjoy the entire experience of the event, and to come out on top is always awesome.

“But even if I was to lose, I’m still enjoying everything and having a lot of fun, and I’m getting the chance to paddle with all these incredible people.”

Troutman finished second and secured his first world championship medal since finishing third behind Jackson in 2015, while Frenchman Tom Dolle won his first senior kayak medal by taking third spot.

The United States won the trophy for the top nation, finishing with seven of the nine gold medals on offer in Columbus. 



  1. DONNELLY Sage (USA) 445.00
  2. ROBINSON-SHAW Ottilie (GBR) 410.00
  3. JACKSON Emily (USA) 381.67


  1. JACKSON Dane (USA) 1363.33
  2. TROUTMAN Nicholas (CAN) 1213.33
  3. DOLLE Tom (FRA)  818.33

Pics by Peter Holcombe


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