World Rafting Champs Head to Korea
U.S. teams hopes to better its third-place finish in 2005
At the last World Rafting Championships, held in 2005 on Ecuador’s Quijos River, the U.S. men’s team, a group from Vail, Colo., known as Team Behind the Ball, was hoping for the overall gold after wining the sprint and taking fifth in slalom. But they lost it in the downriver, with Russia surging to first overall, the Czech’s second, and the U.S. settling for third. They’re hoping that will all change this year when the World Rafting Championships head to Korea’s Naerinchon River in June.
Before the Ecuador event, the team, which had won four national titles but hadn’t reached the podium in three previous World Championships, re-dedicated themselves to the cause, training on early winter morning runs on the Shoshone section of the Colorado and committing to a grueling weight training program. “We all wanted it bad,” says Todd Toledo of his team, which lists only one paddler under the age of 30. “We suffered together and gave up individual paddling strengths to work as a team.”
The loss in Ecuador only fuels their fire for this year’s event. “They should feel very proud of themselves,” says even co-organizer Mark Joffe. “The Russian and Czech teams that beat them are much younger and better funded. They brought themselves up to another level of racing.”
Adds Chris “Mongo” Reid: “I guess we’re not getting any younger–we’re used to a little higher water so we can take advantage of rapids. The Czechs and Russians just powered through the flats.”
Hopefully, it will be different this year, which, as part of the International Raft Federation’s 10th anniversary, is boasting the biggest scale and worldwide broadcasting coverage ever. The event will be held on Korea’s Naerinchon River in the mountainous region of Gangwon Province, east of Seoul, from June 27 to July 2. The event will pit teams from 42 countries against one another in sprint, slalom and downriver events to determine who has the best rafting team in the world. This year Korea is fielding its first-ever team and is hoping to capitalize on its home-water advantage.
The area is a world-class venue for raft racing due to its mountainous surroundings in UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site Mt. Sorak National Park, clean water, easy river access, swift rapids and breathtaking scenery. The Naerinchon River, a low-volume mountain river which swells during the Monsoon season in late-June and whose 39 outfitters see 150,000 rafters annually, is also the birthplace of Korean traditional log rafting and home to the Korean National Rafting Championships. Info: www.2007wrc.com.