Saturday, June 16, 2012

European Championships 2012 training in Lienz

After a long journey we make it to Lienz

Its strange coming back to the same venue for another major event as we usually move on from place to place but this year we are back in Lienz, Austria for the European Championships on the same feature as the 2010 European Championship event. In 2010 one of the biggest memory’s of this event was the rain! It didn't stop for a whole week so its no surprise that as we draw close the heavens open and the torrential rain begins!!! 3 days in and it finally stops and the sun comes out allowing us to take in the natural beauty of the mountainous alpine town.

Claire O' and the Mountains in the sun

The feature itself is exceptionally tricky, super powerful and fast. It takes every once of energy from you and tests your freestyle skills to the max. The fact that it is so difficult is a challenge in itself. Its a feature you have to learn to use and that you have to earn every single move and point on. Its great, I love it! Its addictive yet at times unbelievably frustrating. I'm glad we've got 2 weeks to figure it out before the event and i'm glad its finally sunny :o)

 Claire and Pringle training for another big comp

James Weight sets up for a big move
Pringle ripping it up in training

Claire O loads up for a Mcnasty

Brandon throws a massive space
Claire O flys in training 

24th - 30th June 2012
European Freestyle Kayaking Championships
Lienz, Austria

Bren's ready for action

First Stop Plattling – 'One Year on'

Almost a year ago to the day

I can't believe its already been a year since I won the Worlds!!! Pretty much one year on I find myself back in Plattling, Germany at the site of the 2011 World Championships. Bare and quiet it is now back to being a typical small town with a river side park that happens to have a great freestyle feature. It's strange being back without the hype and mayhem of the big event but it is also great to remember the memories of last year and even better to be able to share it once more with Den.

Claire and Den celebrate winning 2 gold medals at the 2011 World Championships
Its not long before we jump on the water and quickly test ourselves. Can I complete my old run? The levels higher so its more of a wave but super fun. Its great to try out the old routine and some of the new moves I've learnt since I was last here.

Claire O' goes big at Plattling in 2011
We stop and visit the family I lived with at the event last year and then its time to move on...

Here's a great video put together by NZ team paddler Polly Green showing how much fun we all had at the 2011 World Championships

Air Miles - USA to Europe via the UK

Time to leave the states and head back to Europe.

So the Teva Mountain Games finished on Sunday and I spent my last day in the states at the Six Flag theme park in Denver with Stephen, Clay, Courtney and the Jacksons before flying back to the UK. 

Courtney leads the way at the theme park

Then it was a very quick turn around and busy few days reloading ready to head out to Austria to train and compete at the European Freestyle Kayaking Championships.

John hands over the keys to the brand new VW Transporter to Claire and the VW Van Centre West Yorkshire wish her luck for the forthcoming European Championships

Once again this year I am unbelievably lucky to have the support of the Volkswagen Van Centre West Yorkshire who will be sponsoring me with a incredible kayaking vehicle for my UK and European events. This year the brand new VW Transporter T5 is Olympic blue and has all my new logos, designed by Rob Crowe and printed by Austhorpe signs, across it. It has also, once again, been kitted out with a combi bed and fridge by Exploria making it the perfect travelling vehicle for life on the road. For the next 7 weeks I will be travelling round Europe with my coach Dennis Newton. Living out of the van so this set up is perfect. 

Den loading up the final items of kit for our 7 week adventure
Once loaded, its amazing how much kit you can fit into a Transporter Van, we are on our way. Our first stop is London where we pick up GB Junior Brandon Hepburn who will be travelling with us for the first 3 weeks of our adventure. With so much rain the last few weeks we take the chance to make the most of being in the Thames Valley and fit in a cheeky Hurley wave surfing session.

Claire O' going big on Hurley
Den flys through the air on one of many big moves

Claire O' sets up for a big airscrew

Then its a quick stop to meet my good friend from Nepal Sanu Babu Sunwar and hear about his incredible adventure 'The Ultimate Descent / Everest to the Sea'. Babu and his friend Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa have just climbed Everest, Paraglided of the Summit back to Namache Bazar and then kayaked down to the Sea in India breaking world records and being named the National Geographic 2012 'Adventurers of the Year'. Check out their website to find out more about his incredible adventure.

Babu gives us a sneak preview on the video of his adventures
Babu tells Andy and Graham one of many of the incredible 'histories' / stories 
Then we are on our way to Europe.

Day 4 – 8 Ball!!!

The final day of Teva Mountain Games and it was time for some really crazy action in the 8 Ball race. This no rules, full contact, head to head extreme race is one of the best events I have ever been part of. The aim is to get to the bottom of the race course and across the finish line first in order to progress to the next round and ultimately win. 

Hansel aka Chris charges down the 8 Ball course

The only thing here is that unlike most head to head races, in this race being fast doesn't necessarily help neither does getting the best technical lines. In this race your success depends on how well you take the hits, recover and get back on line. Why? because this is 8 Ball and, in this class 2, 4 paddlers at a time head to head race, the key to success is avoiding / surviving the impacts and hits from the human 8 Ballers.10 or more fully padded kayakers, who will be sitting waiting and ready to pounce, to do everything possible to stop you from completing the course.

Hobbie takes out Dane Jackson and another 8 Ball competitor with a massive hit.

In the heats I got destroyed by 8 Baller Mike Dawson in the first round so didn't make the finals but this didn't matter as instead I was invited to become an 8 Ball!

I'm charging down the course in the yellow Jackson Zen and black full face helmet.
Mike is in the red Zen about to take me out and end my 8 ball journey... next year maybe ill make the finish line!!! 

Nick Troutman managed to excel with some funky twists and turns and win the men's race and Anne Hubner destroyed the 8 Ballers to take the win in the ladies event.

Full contact kayaking... Amazing!!!
It was the perfect finish to a great weekend of whitewater action at the Teva Mountain Games. Especially as in the final no holes barred everyone against the 8 Ballers mass start run at the end; head 8 Baller 'Hobbie' got absolutely destroyed by the competitors and finished the event with a booty beer after a crowd pleasing swim :o)

A parting shot: Pringle takes a green boat in the face as he approaches the finish line.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Teva Mountain Games 2012 Bud Light Freestyle Finals Results

I'm super happy I just won the Teva Mountain Games Freestyle event with highest ladies score of the event 660 ride :o) mcnasty - phoenix - felix -airloop - space

Claire O' setting up for a big mcnasty

Stephen won the mens with a massive 1,190 points and got the first ever 5 move combo in a competition space - split - 4 point cartwheel - split - phoenix insane

Stephen throwing a massive space godzilla
Final results

Ladies 1st Claire O'hara, 2nd Hayley Haley Mills, 3rd Courtney Kerin, 4th Adriene Levknecht, 5th Elaine Cambell

Mens 1st Stephen Wright, 2nd Dane Jackson, 3rd Dustin Urban, 4th Eric Ej Jackson, 5th Greg Parker

Awesome event

Claire O throws down moves as the audience sits close to watch the event
Thanks so much for Teva for inviting me out here and making this whole US trip possible.

Teva 'Live Better Stories'

Claire O and Stephen celebrate the final result.

Thanks to James 'Pringle' Bebbington and Melissa Wright for the photos.

2012 TEVA Mountain Games

Teva Moutain Games Opening Ceremony Vail (Photo (C)

Every year hundreds of athletes descend onto the small ski town of VAIL, Colorado to compete in the TEVA Mountain Games. This massive event is a celebration of mountains, athletes, music and art. The events vary from dog jumping and fishing to kayaking, climbing, slack lining, extreme racing and mountain biking. It is an impressive display of some of the best extreme mountain sports by the best athletes in the world and draws massive crowds to the exclusive ski town.

Teva Athlete swag bag, new shoes, kit and prizes

Day 1 – Home Stake Race

Anne prepares for action on the launch ramp (Photo (C)
This year’s event kicked off on Thursday with the Bud Light Lime Steep Creek Championships known as the Home Stake race.  A 500m Class 5 race down an extremely technical section of whitewater on an impressive creek, 20 mins outside of town. This year due to the low snow pack water levels are extremely low so the creek is even more technical than usual. Described as manky / very manky by competitors there is no margin for error in this race as a pin or flip would be painful and highly likely to lead to an injury.

Mike Dawson flys with an impressive run down the homestake course (Photo (C) 2012 Preston Utley)
The race kicked off early and competitors took it turns to race against the clock. It was a great display of skill and courage by some of the best white water creek racers in the world. There were a few surprise results in the qualifiers with some of the top ranked paddlers, getting caught on rocks and losing vital seconds and just missing the finals cut. In the end it was no surprise in the men’s finals as 4x Teva Mountain Games Home Stake Champion Mike Dawson (NZ) took the lead, White Water Grand Prix Champion Dane Jackson (USA) came in second and Adidas Sick Line Race Champion Sam Sutton (NZ) finishing in third. In the ladies it was a close fought finals with Martina Wegman (DK) taking the win, with Louise Jull (USA) in 2nd and Anne Hubner (GER) in 3rd, with some consistent fast, clean lines.

Slackliner impresses the audience
Day 2 - Freestyle Event Kicks Off

Friday was the start of the main events in town. With events, stands and activities situated all over the ski resort the place quickly came to life as the events began to kick off. First up was the Bud Light Lime Kayak freestyle qualifiers. The freestyle is one of the main event here at the Teva Mountain Games and takes place in an incredible arena in the heart of the town. Two bridges either side of the feature make an amphitheater and 360 degree viewing platform for spectators to watch the athletes perform. 

Stephen and Clay building the hole
This year the event was almost cancelled due to the super low water levels but luckily thanks to a lot of creative imagination, design and hard work by Stephen and Clay Wright, and the help and hard work of a strong team of paddlers in the days leading up to the event, the little flow that was in the river was successfully constricted to create a competition worthy ‘small’ hole. Small, shallow and tricky the feature didn't stop the freestyle athletes putting on an impressive display of aqua aerobatics in the qualifying rounds. In the ladies event World Champion Claire O'Hara (UK) finished in 1st place closely followed by USA paddlers Hayley Mills, Elaine Campbell, and Adriene  Levknecht. They will also be joined in the final by Junior World Championship Silver Medalist Courtney Kerin (NZ).

Adrienne throws some big air

In the men's the scores were lead by the freestyle big air specialist Stephen Wright (USA), 3x World Champion Dane Jackson (USA) and current World Champion James 'Pringle' Bebbington (UK).
Pringle super smooth big moves put him into the top 3 for the semi finals
Over on the other side of town a whole load of other events kicked off throughout the day including the Dock Dogs Big Air Ramp, the IFSC Bouldering World Cup and Gibbon Games Slack line Competition. Finishing off with the very impressive Teva Slope Style Big Air Bike Finals, where  the bikers took it in turn to run the course throwing the biggest most technical tricks possible in an attempt to win the Teva title and massive $3,000 purse. The tricks were massive and the wipe outs were huge impressing the large crowds. World No 1 and UK Teva athlete Sam Pilgrim dominated the event landing a massive back flip superman at the end of his ride to take the win. 
Mounatin Bikers Fly High in the Slopestyle Event (Photo (C) 2012 Preston Utley)
After the event the parties began at once with DJ Juggy appearing out of nowhere turning the slope style course into a massive TEVA party whilst the bikers performed a 30 min big air jam session amidst the partying crowds, only one of the many big parties around town!

Day 3 - Freestyle Finals

EJ watches from his hotel room as Dustin practises before the semi final event
Its an early start for the competitors in Bud Light Lime Down River Sprint who set off on the 4 mile sprint route at 8am!!! Despite the early start loads of paddlers take their massive race length kayaks to take part in the event where any boat!!! is allowed. Next up its back to the Freestyle hole for the mens semi finals. The holes lower again today so the holes even flushier and shallower. Everyone paddles hard but the heats through up some surprising results. Pringle, Mathieu and Nick Troutman all hit rocks hard and find themselves out of the finals. Dane and Dustin throw another set of impressive rides taking the top 2 places with Greg Parker showing massive improvements going into the finals in 3rd place with Stephen and EJ taking the last 2 spots. 
Stephen trys to avoid the rocks as the slackliner tries not to fall
At the moment there is loads happening all over Vail. The freestyle spot has turned into a fly fishing competition feature!!!, the bouldering world cup semi finals, X country mountain bike races and Dock Dogs big air are taking place, the Teva Freeride dual and Gibbon Games Slackline competition is going of in the centre of town and the Eddie Bauer Mud Run has just set off. There are over 23 competitions happening across Vail over the 3 days of the events, its non stop action everywhere. 
Mc's announce all the action, non stop action, noise and music across town
That said i'm chilling in the hotel room trying to regain some energy ready for the freestyle finals which kick off in the fly fishing freestyle hole in just under 2 hours.

What an event :o)