COVID, Schmovid: Dane Jackson, Great Britain’s Robinson-Shaw Take World Freestyle Kayak Crowns

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Even COVID-19 couldn’t keep kayak phenom Dane Jackson from winning his fourth World Freestyle Kayak Championship.

British freestyle paddler Ottilie Robinson-Shaw completed a record-breaking world championship clean sweep, and American Dane Jackson confirmed his status as the greatest male freestyle athlete of all time on a thrilling final day at the ICF canoe freestyle world championships in Nottingham.

Robinson-Shaw finished almost 500 points ahead of the next best kayak athlete on her way to her third gold medal of the week, and then Jackson defied the odds to win his fourth K1 freestyle kayak title in front of an exuberant crowd.

Robinson-Shaw had a perfect ICF world championship week on a whitewater course literally on her doorstep. The 20-year-old smashed out a record score in the women’s squirt, won the first ever women’s canoe gold, and then shattered the world championship record score for a single ride on her way to kayak gold.

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The USA’s Abby Holcombe…

She also became the first athlete to win three senior gold medals at a single world championships, and after a week of holding together her composure, finally let her emotions flow over.

“I’ve been holding it in all week, my big goal was to win all three and now that has happened it’s all coming out now,” Robinson-Shaw said. “I’ve had my heart set on this, I’ve lived for this for the last few years. I don’t live in a small, smelly cold van for nothing, it’s to be here and be the best. I feel so loved. I had my family, my friends, my schoolfriends, my dog – everyone that I could possibly dream of. I feel so loved and supported and so grateful to live this life, because without those people I wouldn’t be here today.”

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Germany’s Tim Rees throwing down en route to winning the Junior Men’s title…(Photos courtesy Bence Vekassy/ICF).

Reigning world champion Hitomi Takaku of Japan took the silver, while France’s Marlene Devillez added a bronze to the silver medals she won at the previous two world titles.

A Case of COVID

Reigning world champion Dane Jackson caught Covid on his way to Great Britain for the world championships, fresh after racing in Idaho’s North Fork Championships, and was forced to isolate and miss the main training week. After squeezing through the preliminary round and the semi-final, the 28-year-old shot to the top of the leaderboard with his third and final ride.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect, just coming here and getting to paddle and getting to compete, I was just stoked to be here, and to make the final was already a big enough shock for me, I was just stoked to be in the top five,” Jackson said. “I got my first ride on this feature the day before prelims, so I was definitely learning as I went. Luckily before I came to the event I was feeling good, I feel fine, nothing long-term, by the end it was just a different experience having to learn the hole during the event.

“To save my best score for my final ride in the finals, that’s all I’ve got.”

Poland’s Tomasz Czaplicki took the silver, and Great Britain’s Harry Price the bronze.

Teenagers Tim Rees and Abby Holcombe won their first junior freestyle world titles, with Germany’s Rees surviving a nervous wait and American Holcombe overcoming a zero on her first ride to land their crowns.

16-year-old Rees, who trains mostly on flatwater in Germany, had to watch on anxiously at British paddler Ben Higson tried to overhaul his score of 1386.67. When Higson fell just 44 points short the gold belonged to Rees.

“I’ve had this dream in my mind since I was a small child, and to know finally achieve this dream, I’m so happy – probably the happiest person on earth right now,” Rees said.

“I was watching Ben’s ride, and I was really shaking until the last second. It was a pressure moment for me.

“I’ve been here training for a month now, and I figured out the ride, and I put together the ride. I’ve been working on that ride, I’m so happy that I landed it on the right time. It didn’t go perfect, but it was still enough, so that’s really great.”

In 2019 in Sort, Spain, 15-year-old Abby Holcombe began her first ever junior final with a zero, before recovering to finish fourth. On Saturday she had the same problem, but then landed a score of 506.67 with her second ride, a score that couldn’t be overhauled.

“My improvement in the past couple of years has been incredible, and it just feels surreal to be at the top today,” Holcombe said.

“Ironically I did the same thing in the finals in Spain, my very first ride was a zero, so I was thinking maybe this is my thing and I’m just going to go with it. My rides got better in Spain so I’m sure they’ll get better today, and they did.

“Before my semi-finals I was really nervous and I wasn’t feeling it, but today I felt super calm just like I did in prelims, and it worked out.”

Silver went to Great Britain’s Niamh Macken, and bronze to American Makinley Kate Hargrove.

RESULTS

WOMEN’S KAYAK

  1. ROBINSON-SHAW Ottilie (GBR) 1216.67
  2. TAKAKU Hitomi (JPN)    726.67
  3. DEVILLEZ Marlene (FRA)  680.00

MEN’S KAYAK

  1. JACKSON Dane    (USA) 1633.33
  2. CZAPLICKI Tomasz (POL) 1501.67
  3. PRICE Harry (GBR) 1390.00

JUNIOR WOMEN

  1. HOLCOMBE Abby          (USA) 506.67
  2. MACKEN Niamh         (GBR) 346.67
  3. HARGROVE Makinley Kate (USA) 306.67

JUNIOR MEN

  1. REES Tim           (GER) 1386.67
  2. HIGSON Ben (GBR) 1343.33
  3. OKAZAKI Nanase (JPN) 996.67

Pics by Bence Vekassy

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