Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I did it! Double World Champion again...

I have just doubled the double and it feels unreal. This weekend I competed in the ICF World Freestyle Kayaking Championships at the NOC in the USA and defended my two World Champion titles.

Double Double Champion

In the Squirt Boating I had some of my best performances in competition by far smashing my previous personal bests in every round and setting the highest overall ride score of the event (mens or womens) in the semi finals with a massive 1,257 point ride.

All smiles as the competition starts

Claire O begins to flow the moves together

In the finals I lead from the start with a massive 1,153 point opening ride and had two victory laps where I threw down routines that incorporated some of the new crazy bonus combination moves I have been working on. Hitting my first super clean heli split wheel in competition, a screwing around sequence with a switch wheel start (not 100% on purpose) and several tricky switch wheel and split switch wheel combo's. In my final ride after an almost perfect flat water routine I missed my mystery multiplier which would have taken me well over the 1,300 point barrier breaking my personal record again but it wasn't to be this time.

Screwing Around with a Switch wheel

But I had already done more than enough to win my 3rd consecutive Squirt Boating World Champion title. In 2nd place was my good friend and squirt boating specialist Motoko from Japan, who also got several personal best rides during the event, closely followed by her team mate Yoshiko also from Japan.

Motoko, Claire and Yoshiko 

After one exciting and emotional win I grabbed a bit of rest before heading back to the water for my second final, the K1 womens event. Having already got a personal best score (810 points) during the prelims - one of my goals for this World Championship event was to put down some awesome runs that showcased what I had learnt and can do in both boats- my focus moved back to my other goal, my ultimate goal, of defending both world titles.

Loading up a McNasty during Semi Finals
Loading up for a Phoenix during the heats

Last up, I got to watch the others perform and couldn't help but be very impressed and proud as I saw Hitomi from Japan lay down an awesome 650 point ride. The second highest score of the event so far. Instantly I knew that the challenge was on and winning this title again would not be easy.

Setting up for a move

Cameras everywhere capturing the action

I went into my first run calm, collected and ready to perform. I missed a few big tricks but still got a solid routine giving me a 556 points. It put me straight into 2nd place but not 1st! Suddenly my nerves started to go as I realised that to beat Hitomi, I would have to not mess up anything and would have to lay down a massive ride.

Huge loop

Setting up for a McNasty

Mid run action

We all took our 2nd rides and the scores remained the same. I was on the medal table but in 2nd not in first. The 3rd rides went and I was last to go. Sat in the eddy Den spoke to me and helped me prepare for my final ride. 'What if I don't win' I remember asking him. ' Then you don't win. Nothing else will change.' It was then that I realised that what I had always believed could happen was about to happen. I was about to be beaten by an awesome ride and only then did my mindset change and nerves disappear. If I was to loose the World title today it would be to Hitomi, a well deserved competitor who had trained very very hard, improved massively in the last few years and just put down a very impressive ride and that would be, ok. I would be beaten by a world class athlete and a world class performance, a new World Champion. Fair play.

Den the legend
I looked up at Den and he said 'You can do it. Just do what you do.' I looked around and for the first time in the finals took in the wonderful view. Banks full of spectators, family and friends all cheering, smiling and enjoying the show. I looked one more time at Den and smiled. Got the thumbs up and smile from the Head Judge Sneak Pete and set off into the hole. What happened for the next 45 seconds I couldn't tell you. I knew that I threw tricks, lots of them. Landing some, missing others. I knew it was better than my first two rides. But was it enough. I did not have a clue.

Keeping things moving looking for more points

Loading for a massive space godzilla

The buzzer went off. It was over. My world championship journey had finished. I had done it. I had given my all into training for the last two years to be here today to give it my best shot at defending my world title. I looked at Den he smiled and gave me the thumbs up. I looked at my family and friends all around. Had I done enough? I had no idea. Could I have done anymore. No. That was my best, that was all I could give here today. I threw one last sweet back loop as I left the hole. Everyone was buzzing, but no one had a clue on the score. We waited and waited and waited as the judges double and triple checked the scores.

Hugs all round as we wait on the results 

Then they announced it... The World Champion is...     Claire O'Hara!!!

We'd done it!

I had done it. I had doubled the double!!! With 708 points I had snuck back into the lead and won my 5th World Champion title. I had moved back up to first. I was the reining world champion again. Hitomi had the silver and local boating superstar Adrienne had the bronze.

Competitors and Friends


Celebrating on the Island

Hitomi, Claire and Adrienne

I had achieved my ultimate goal. I had won both golds!!!

5 x ICF World Champion Claire O'Hara

Other highlights from the day had to be; coaching and watching Jez from Australia win the bronze in the OC1 event, watching Kim a super young talent from the UK win the bronze in the Junior women, watching Ben Aldred and Alan Ward from the UK both compete in the first senior world finals, seeing Jordan Poffenburg, C1 genius, win his double gold taking the C1 and OC1 titles.

Dane, Jordan and Jez take to the podium for OC1

Watching local junior rippers Rowan Stuart and Hunter Katich take the Junior titles, supporting my great friend Clay Wright as he broke the1,300 point barrier and re claimed the Squirt Mens World title (his first was in 1997) and off course watching the phenomenon that is Dane Jackson step it up in his first year as a senior to win the mens K1 title and take the final gold.

Clay v's Claire ICF Squirt Boating World Champions 2013

What an event. What a year.

Check out all the footage, results and a whole load of write ups and photos online by following the link below to the www.freestylekayaking2013.com website.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible all the organisers, officials, staff, volunteers, friends, family, athletes, sponsors and supporters. This was a World Championships that will not be forgotten.

Celebrating with my mum

But most of all I would like to say a personal massive thank you to my coach Den, my Mum and Dad, Arthur and Lori Tribble, Jez, Islay, Jason, Lisa, Laura, Mary, the GB team and all my friends here and at home who supported me and shared this experience with me. Thank you x

Thank you everyone for your support

Thank you also to Green River Photography, Nantahala Outdoor Centre, Chris McEnriy, Rhona Dempsey and Tom Zacks for the amazing photos.

Mission Accomplished