So the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and the Mavericks the NBA title. Big whoop. The real action is in Plattling, Germany, where 225 of the best freestyle paddlers in the world from 28 countries – including newcomers Slovenia, India, Argentina and Brazil – rip up a river-wide wave on the Isar River for the World Freestyle kayak Championships June 20-20. PL checks in, with a special look at who to watch for…
“Like any sport, World Championships brings out the very best in competitors, even more so for freestyle kayaking since we aren’t yet an Olympic event,” says ICF Freestyle Chairman Lluis Rabeneda, adding that this year’s event includes a spectator-friendly venue, live music, the local Volksfest cultural event, and such other competitions as King of the Wave, Biggest Trick, a Lake Jump Bike Show and SUP race.
But the real question is, who will rise to the top? Will it be Nick Troutman, again upstaging his father-in-law EJ? Will the Jackson family complete a sweep, with Emily and Dane winning their divisions as well? And how will the new wave of carbon fiber boats hold up and affect scores?
Following is an event-by-event rundown of who to watch for.
Two years ago in Thun, the final rounds of the Championships turned into a showdown dominated by Canada and the United States. Canadian Nick Troutman took the title away from his father-in-law and four-time World Champion Eric Jackson. Look for Jackson to throw a dizzying array of combo moves as he tries to take back his title and win an unprecedented fifth world title. Troutman will also be in the crosshairs of Thun bronze medalist and fellow USA teammate Stephen Wright who has won all but one of the major pro kayak events in the western US this spring. Top Europeans hungry to claim the title include 2010 European Champion Peter Csonka (SVK), James Bebbington (GBR), who has been training in Plattling for months, and Sebastian Devred (FRA), who took bronze in Thun as a junior and since then, has been showing some impressive results in senior men’s.
As in Thun two years ago, expect to see a dramatic duel between former World Champ Ruth Gordon Ebens (CAN) and reigning World Champ Emily Jackson. The two women have been trading first and second place finishes at virtually every freestyle event they’ve been at since Thun. Strong contenders to upset the North Americans include Norway’s Mariann Saether, Slovakian Nina Halasova, Russia’s Ekaterina Kulkova and France’s Nouria Newman, who dominated the field on her way to the Junior Women’s World title in 2009.
Junior Men K1
Get used to seeing Dane Jackson, the youngest competitor in the Jackson dynasty, who comes to this World Championship qualified to bid for titles in Junior Men’s K1, Canoe, Open Canoe 1 and Squirt. Jackson brings to Europe an upbroken streak of North American junior men’s kayak wins including the inaugural Whitewater Grand Prix on some of the most daunting rivers in Quebec, Canada, where the 17-year-old was the youngest of the pros invited to compete. Look for possible upsets from 2010 European Champion Joaquin Fontaine (ESP) and home country favorite Michel Hasselwander, the current German Junior Men’s champ. Unfortunately, top seed and defending champ Jason Craig is recovering from a serious back injury and will not be able to defend his title.
Junior Women K1
Defending champ Nouria Newman has moved onto the senior women’s division leaving the field wide open to rising stars like Norway’s Tora Heggem who took second at last year’s European Championships and Germany’s own Anne Rist, this year’s junior champ.
Watch for a trio of western Europeans to battle it out including defending champ David Bainbridge (GBR) and a pair of Germans, veteran competitor Marcus Hummel and Philipp Hilzigrath, this year’s German champ.
Open Canoe (OC1)
Defending champ Jeremy Laucks (USA) comes to Plattling eager to defend but look for Stephan Patsch (GER) to try to take back the title Laucks took away from him in 2009. Among others, Patsch will be joined by countrymen Fabian Krummreich and Tobias Huther.
How long can Great Britain maintain its dominance in squirt? Find out next week when reigning World Champs James Reeves and Claire O’Hara attempt to fend off challenges by some of their own compatriots as well as some very strong paddlers from elsewhere in the EU (Germany in particular) and North America.
Schedule of Events
Monday, 20 June:
7 pm: Opening Ceremony
Tuesday, 21 June:
9 am-7 pm: Prelims Squirt Men, Squirt Women, Kayak Women (K1W), Canoe (C1)
Wednesday, 22 June:
9 am-7 pm: Prelims Open Canoe (OC), Kayak Men (K1M)
Thursday, 23 June:
9 am – 2 pm: Prelims Kayak Junior Women (K1JW) and Kayak Junior Men (K1JM)
3 pm – 7 pm: Quarterfinal Kayak Women (K1W) and Kayak Men (K1M)
7 pm – 8 pm: King of the Wave event
Friday, 24 June:
9 am – 2 pm: Semifinals Squirt Women, Semifinals Squirt Men
11 am – 12 am: SUP-Race side event Prelims – everybody is invited to compete
12 am – 3 pm: Semifinal Open Canoe (OC), Kayak Junior Women (K1JW), Canoe (C1)
3 pm – 4 pm: Lake Jump Bike Show
4 pm – 7 pm: Open Canoe (OC), Squirt Women, Squirt Men
7 pm – 8 pm: TEVA Biggest Trick Contest
Saturday, 25 June:
9 am – 12 am: Semifinals Kayak Junior Men (K1JM), Kayak Women (K1W), Kayak Men (K1M)
12 am – 1 pm: SUP-Race side event Finals – everybody is invited to compete
1 pm – 3 pm: Finals Kayak Junior Women (K1JW), Canoe (C1)
4 pm – 7 pm: Finals Kayak Junior Men (K1JM), Kayak Women (K1W), Kayak Men (K1M)
7 pm – 9 pm: Medal Ceremonies