This year, the World cup of kayak freestyle was in Europe from the 26th of June to the 13th of July. The clash began in Millau, France, during the Natural Games, an extreme sports festival bringing together sport contests and fancy concerts every night! A lot had been planned during those four festive days in Millau: contests, BMX exhibitions, freestyle and extreme Slackline, rock and cliffs climbing, paragliding and last but not least, kayak freestyle! Most of the activities and concerts occurred around the “maladrerie”, the kayak pond, for the greatest pleasure of the kayakers and the spectators. Everyone enjoyed the freshness of the Tarn River. For the first time, the Natural Games received the world cup of kayak freestyle and it was a complete success!
The worldwide best champions were at the Natural Games: the Americans, the Spaniard, the Japanese, the French, the Poles, the Koreans, the English, the Germans and the Czechs… In a boisterous atmosphere we played the finals in front of… a French audience!
The junior ladies opened the ball at 2 pm on Saturday. A little French girl named Guénolé Bourgoin was competing! Loop, 360, space Godzilla…It was a very pretty final during which the Spaniard, Nuria Fontane-Maso, (ranked 2nd during the last worldwide championships in 2013) eventually got a leg up on the American, Rowan Stuart, (the first of 2013 worldwide championship). The English, Emma Winterford, succeeded to grab thebronze medal in front our little French kayaker. She was nevertheless glad of her first international contest!
The ladies make room to the junior men! Fabien Lanao and Thomas Richard (vice worldwide champion in 2013) for France were in competition for the podium! They blasted the scores, coming close with those of the best seniors! Eventually, the Swedish karlson won the gold medal right before Thomas and Fabien. In canoe Sebastien Devred take the second place after Tad and before Jordan.
The atmosphere of the senior finals, at 19h30 was electric! Pressure was at its most when I throw myself into my first final run! When I came close to the wave, the French tribe catch fire. The roar of the drums was deafening…I rushed forward… The battle and suspense lasted until the very last minute. Eventually, the Japanese Hitomi Takaku (vice worldwide champion in 2013) took the first place. We draw in second place with the American Emily Jackson (worldwide champion in 2009). In this case, the second best run decides between both kayakers and ranks me third.
Men definitively set the Maladrerie pond on fire with magical runs! We witness a great battle of Mc Nasty, Phoenix Monkey, Triky Wu and we were pined down! Bull’s eye for the French team since Sébastien Devred took the first place before the American Dane Jackson, worldwide champion in 2013. Mathieu Dumoulin got the bronze medal!
Finals in video here :
On Saturday night, a tempest gave the organizers hard times. The spot have been cleared out under heavy rains and howling winds… Nothing to harsh to demoralize a hundred of freestylers overexcited to celebrate these first medals! Eventually a third final take place at the Golf bar restaurant of Millau. The atmosphere was as warmed as the pond’s banks. We finished this first world cup round arm-in-arm, (due to an arm wrestling contest J) between the Americans, the Poles, the French and the Spaniards at 5 a.m., at least for the less courageous.
On Sunday morning, well, more noon, the French team took the road to Salt, in Spain, for the second part of the World cup. We discover a technical roll lost in the middle of the Catalan fields! After four days of practice, the contest could begin with a fancy worldwide opening ceremony: speeches, official pictures, videos and modern ballet choreography on the theme of kayak freestyle. A parade on Salt’s streets mixing batoucada and pyrotechnic show led all the competitors to the sports center. There, a huge meal thrilled the whole community!
Qualifying rounds, quarter final, semi-final…runs came on and on. Competitors gave the best of themselves every day to reach the Saturday final step! The finals were as highly-charged as in France! The roll allowed to manage many types of figures and scores reached the top! Judges are in at 200% and succeed to grade despite the Spaniards’ “caliente” runs, the French’s huge figures and the Americans’ combo!
For the junior ladies, Nurià Fontane-Maso, originating from Spain took the first place. For the junior men, Karlson took the gold and Thomas Richard the silver medal! In canoe discipline, Dane Jackson established himself before Pat Dénis and Jordan Poffenberger. As far as senior ladies are concerned, Emily Jackson took the gold right under Hitomi’s nose and I took the bronze medal! As far as men are concerned, Dane Jackson wins the round before Mathieu Dumoulin and Quim Fontane Maso.
Finals in video here :
It must be said that pro freestyle, is also a great international bunch of friends! No way to miss an occasion to celebrate those new medals! We all met in our Spanish hostel (an accommodation supplied by the organization for all of the competitors) for a giant “fiesta” which ended on the dance-floor in the city center of Grirone.
To end this world cup on a higher note, athletes take the road again, direction Sort, still in Catluna! Goodbye to the fields and the nice roll of Salt, hello to the “Pallaressa” river. The roll, located in the heart of downtown, offers a perfect show for every Spanish! Kayakers fought against a high-powered roll and the paddles broke for some of us. One must have guts and self-control to master this Spanish body of water! After a tug of war, several French got their tickets for the finals. Junior men and ladies put on the day show with a first place for Rowan and a golden medal for the Swedish Karlson. For the canoe, it’s an American podium with Dane, Jordan and Pat!
It was not until 9:30 p.m. that we’ve been allowed to put the kayaks on the water for the senior final! At nightfall, under the spotlights and in front of more than 400 spectators, we rushed forward in the arena! Giant screens, four speakers who were warming the place, interviews and direct broadcast, the organizers had really put on a great spread!
Athletes gave everything they had to get a medal…Bleachers shook and athletes thrilled under the supports of over-excited spectators. After an amazing show and a total harmony with the public, the wave and the athletes, results fell. I finished second of this last round right after Hitomi Takaky (Japan). Emily Jackson (USA) finished at third place. Mathieu Dumoulin also won the silver medal right below the American Dane Jackson and before Nick Troutman (Canada).
At the open category, I am ranked at the third place of this world cup 2014. The French team counted 12 athletes for this world cup. We are proud of our results since no less than 7 Frenchies reached the final at each round. Knowing that a final is reserved for the 5 best worldwide. They succeeded in every discipline: canoe, kayak, junior and senior.
This world cup was by far the best one for me. Just as much for the medals as for the atmosphere and the team spirit of our great French team! I wanted to say a great thank you to all members of the team and to all the fans on the spot or in front of their screens! “Big up” to you, competitors, organizers and judges who made that world cup outstanding!
Thank's Constance and Maxime for your help! ;)
Photo : tous droits réservés Gilles Reboisson