The newly minted GoPro Mountain Games got off to a wild start Thursday as almost 50 kayakers from around the world plunged down a high-flowing, Class V Homestake Creek outside of Vail in the Bud Light Steep Creek Championships.
Mike Dawson from New Zealand claimed his third straight victory in the men’s race, while Martina Wegman of the Netherlands defended her title against a strong field of women. Dane Jackson took a swim in the creek but was unhurt.
Dawson, a 2012 Olympic slalom kayaker navigated the highly technical creek with the three fastest times of the day, finishing his third and fastest run in 1:45.82. Bryan Kirk of Charlottesville, Va., finished in second place and Nick Troutman of Rock Island, Tenn., took third in the finals.
“Homestake was an awesome race this year,” says Dawson. “Juicy water levels made it faster and a lot more fun. It turned the run into two rapids — he top to the middle pool and from there to the bottom — meaning any mistakes would make it pretty hard to save the run.”
“I had two sick runs,” he adds. “I was stoked because I hadn’t been able to paddle my Bliss-stick Tuna for six months so I wasn’t sure how I’d go in the race. I wasn’t really focused on racing but trying to run some smooth lines and not crash and burn. In the end it worked out pretty good.”
The win marked the fourth time Dawson has won the race since 2009, and third in a row. “I blew chunks in 2010,” he says.
In the women’s race, returning champion Martina Wegman from Schoorl, Netherlands, had a tough first run, but then dialed in her lines and scored the fastest women’s run of the day, 1.58.91, on her second time down the creek. In the finals, Wegman’s time of 2:00.11 beat out Natalie Anderson of Fort Collins, Colo., who finished in second, and third-place finisher Adrienne Levknecht of Greenville, S.C.
A full list of results is available here.
The GoPro Mountain Games are the nation’s largest celebration of mountain sport, lifestyle and music, featuring top professional and amateur athletes from around the world. The event regularly brings more than 3,000 athletes to Vail’s mountains and rivers to compete in eight sports and 24 disciplines for over $100,000 in prize money.
More info: www.gopromountaingames.com .