Saturday, September 12, 2015

Gold, Diamond and Bronze.

So here I am sat on the banks of the Ottawa river 5 days after the worlds finals and I feel great. The high pressure, high adventure, high excitement event has ended and I am left shattered but very content.

What a week it has been. It is hard to believe it has already been and gone. It feels like a dream. But it was real and its memories and experiences will be with us forever. A worlds that I for one will always remember.

The Opening Ceremony

Where it all began

The event kicked off almost two weeks ago with the opening ceremony in Beachburg. A celebration and festival that showcased not only freestyle and its athletes who had travelled in from all over the world but also the incredible history and culture of the local community who have opened up their town and valley to host the event.

The events comes to the small town of Beachburg, ON Canada
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)

The ceremony started with a parade and the streets were packed and lined with people. My mum somehow found her way into a 1952 MG one of the many old classic cars that led the parade from the front. Local kids, athletes, celebrities all showcasing their talents and skills. Cheered on by family, friends and spectators from all around the world.

Mum leads the parade in a 1952 MG
(photo by Arthur and Lori)

Jez getting into the party spirit with Team Australia

Parading through the streets with Sooty and Lindz

Den finds his way into the parade with the sheep
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)

Beautiful traditional boats
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)

Old fire trucks

and a combine haverster!!!
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)
The action then moved to the Beachburg sports arena where an array of music and dance, flags and colour opened the event. Young kids danced, sang and cheered whilst the older generations spoke welcoming kind words and opened the event.

Athletes fill the stands

All 29 countries and 200+ athletes had their limelight moment as they were welcomed into the event before a local / young athlete lit the torch and officially opened the event.

The event is official opened let the
2015 ICF World Championships begin
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Then everyone gathered for a massive roast dinner banquet, creating an opportunity for the community and athletes to meet.

Good Luck to everyone competing
Here is the 2015 awesome GB Team 

Day 1 : The Squirt Worlds

A Gold and Diamond Day

So today not only did I win gold. I also won Diamond from my best friend Jez.

(photo by Dave Worltey)

The moment Jez popped the Big Question
(photo by Peter Holcombe)

If I was to describe my perfect competition day I could not even have imagined a day as good as this one.

A full squirt boating event in one day. Banks lined with people cheering everyone on. Everyone their specifically to watch the event. So many of my friends and family there with me cheering me on.

The banks and rocks were lined with supporters
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

The 2015 ICF Squirt Boats worlds took place at Smoothie one of the best squirt boating spots in the world. An epic downtime spot with a good eddy situated on the banks of a a small island in the middle of the Ottawa river. Guarding the entrance to McCoys rapid, the biggest of all the rapids on the main channel of this famous whitewater river.

Everyone there had to get there by boat yet the banks we're lined with people. Hundreds of spectators there to cheer the athletes on. There was music, announcers, judges, spectators, athletes everywhere you looked. All hidden amongst the trees in the natural amphitheatre on this beautiful Island. The atmosphere was immense.

Judges sat ready to track the athletes tricks
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Film crews, judges, spectators the atmosphere was immense
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

The event kicked off early at 8am and from the very beginning ICF and World records were smashed. By 10am new Men and Womens ICF Mystery records had been set and by 4pm the 2015 ICF Squirt World Champions had been crowned with rides that I am sure will not be beaten for a very long time.

It was amazing to watch as the sport of squirt boating was truly showcased. The battle of the day not just between the athletes but with the sport itself. Every athlete wanting to blow away every standard ever set before. There were new moves, new sequences and new bonuses. It was insane.

Everyone talking tactics on the bank
(photo by Dave Worltey)

The standard of everyone who competed would have made previous world finals with the standard of the Top 10 in each class being high enough to have easily podium'd in the last ICF event!

Competitors wait out there turn
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Matt Hamilton showing some serious skills
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

In the mens Stephen Wright finally made his ICF Squirt worlds debut and styled his way through to the win. His prediction from the start that you would need a 20 second + mystery to win was so true. The standard was so high that all the podium rides needed to include a 20 – 30 second mystery move (Clay Wright hitting a massive 31 second ride during his finals run) plus a sequence of flat water routines involving not only the highest scoring moves on the score sheet but those moves performed in a special artistic way with bonuses that doubled or tripled their score for an athlete to even have a chance.

Clay gets ready to take the drop
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Announcing the event with Corey Volt and Val
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)
Clay Wright, former World Champion from the USA and 2015 Silver medallist, performed hand paddle tricky wu's seemingly effortlessly ride after ride. Whilst Ben White, former World Champion from Great Britain and 2015 Bronze medallist, nailed clean screwing around sequences.

Ben White cleaning the screwing around sequence to take the bronze
(photo by Linsey Spicer)

But it was Stephen Wright who managed to link the mystery with a massive flying fish exit move (airscrew performed using the energy you get as you resurface from a mystery move to give you the pop) followed by new moves such as changing around sequences and clean tricky wu's. Toping the podium to become the 2015 World Champion, smashing the former 1,300 point world record in the process by breaking the 2,000+ point mark not once but twice, to win the event.

Steve O celebrates as he is crowned World Champion
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

In the ladies it was Hitomi, Jen Mc Gauley and myself who really stood out. Hitomi opened up the event with a 19 second mystery move right of the mark to win the prelims round. Waking up not only the athletes but also the crowd.

Hitomi takes her last breathe before getting a massive mystery move
(photo by Alex Edwards)

In the semis I woke up a lot and seemingly blew the competition out of the park. Hitting a 1,850 point ride over 500 points more than my former personal best and world record score and the highest score of the event at that point. I hit a head under mystery, then immediately popped up, paddled back in to the eddy and went into a super complex flatwater routine. Making it up as I went I just felt the flow as I started wracking off a ridiculous mix of crazy complicated tricks. Tricky wu's with switch wheels, super clean split wheels linked together with heli spins mid split, switch screwing around sequences, It just flowed and I loved it. It felt great.

On hearing the score and knowing that was it, the ride I wanted and had trained for, and that I was safely into finals in 1st place.

Crusing up for the mystery
(photo  by Dave Wortley)

I chatted to Den and switched to hand paddles and goggles for my second run. Hitomi had opened up the event by setting the new mystery ICF record and this was my chance to challenge it. I had one thing on my mind and that was going deep.

Taking that last breathe
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)

I dropped in for the mystery as the clock started for my second run and hit a 10 – 12 second mystery not quite managing to get the deep drop. Knowing I could do better, I resurfaced and cruised back up the eddy line again. Resetting my mind and refilling my lungs I hit the seam in the perfect spot. I dropped deep, spinning, cursing, working the eddy line. I was in the perfect place deep below the river surface and just had to stay calm and ride it out. Over 21 seconds later I re surfaced to hear the roar from the crowd. Then it was Hitomi's turn again :)

Hitomi racks out the ends with hand paddles
(photo by Alex Edwards)

The semi finals flew by and we still had the finals to go.

Happy to have nailed some epic rides
(photo by Dave Wortley)

Junior freestyle kayaker and young superstar Jen McGauley opened up the finals with some incredible smooth, technically perfect flat water work. Reminding me of how incredible this sport is that if the hard work is put in no matter how young or old or big or small you are you can excel and really do well. And excel she did, young Jen was sitting in 3rd place all the way until the final round.

Jen smoothly moves through a complex routine of tricks
(photo by Dave Worltey)

Watching and learning from the staging blocks
(photo by Lindsey Spicer)

Its amazing to watch and see the progression of the next generation
(photo by Dave Worltey)

But with a finals stacked full of legends and pros in the sport she would have to wait another few years to get her podium spot. Former World Champion Val Bertrand and squirt boating legend Motoko raised the bar once more in their final rides with Motoko making it onto the podium in 3rd place.

We all watch on as young Jen pulls out some incredible
flat water performances

Then in true form Hitomi nailed ride after ride of solid mystery's and complex routines to win her second squirt boating silver medal to huge roars of support from the crowd and I got some more epic rides nailing another 20 second plus mystery (this time with a paddle) in my first ride followed by another massive flat water routine to take the gold medal win before finishing off with a no paddle hand only mystery move to close out the event.

In the zone I drop for 20 seconds to start the run
(photo by Linsdey Spicer)

Leading into a screwing around sequence
(photo by Dave Worltey)
Cleaning thing s up
(photo by Dave Worltey)
Heli spining to add more points to each trick
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Claiming it as I paddle back into the eddy
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Top 3 Womens Squirt Boaters
Claire O'Hara (GB), Hitomi & Motoko (Japan)
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

What an event
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Gold with a Diamond on the top

But that was not it yet. As I made my way back up the eddy to celebrate and have an interview with Jez. I found myself amid a moment that will change my life forever. As Jez finished up my worlds interview he got down into the water up to his knees and asked me if I would be his wife!

The moment I said yes
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Everyone seemed to be in on it
(photo by Dave Wortley)

The crowd went wild. What an incredible end to a perfect day and what a way to start off the 2015 ICF World Championships and the next chapter of our life.

Celebrating with friends
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

On and off the water
(photo by Dave Wortley)

Celebrating with family
(photo by Dave Wortley)

What a Day!
(photo by Thomas Fahrun)

Day 2 & 3 : Freestyle Prelims

The Freestyle event kicks off

So that was just day one of the world champs, the freestyle had yet to begin and we were already winning. No matter what happened the rest of the week. To me, Jez and my family and friends this had already been an incredible event.

Luckily and rarely with the squirt boating a stand alone one day event it meant I now had two full days off. Perfect as I was exhausted from the excitement and madness of yesterday. So I had the chance to enjoy watching and coaching the other athletes and my friends.

Jez's OC1 Heats

Up first in the freestyle was Jez in the OC1. After being so sick only 2 weeks ago it was amazing just to see him out on the water and ready to compete. He had trained hard during the week and had his routine set. Excited and ready to go paddle the event kicked off and Jez nailed his rides super sweet.

Jez drop in of MDR
(photo by Phillip Robert)

Looking for a roundhouse to start things off
(photo by Phillip Robert)
But... something had happened in the last year … the standard of OC1 wave boating had gone through the roof! Like the squirt boating event runs that would have previously won or made the podium, this year, didn't even let you make the first cut. The lads were throwing Pan Ams, Back Pan Ams, Mc Nasty s and Helix's. It was ridiculous. Two rides down (4 rides: 2 count format) we had to change strategy and try to go for something big. Jez tried several times to set for a Pan Am and Mcnasty but having never tried either of them before in an OC1 couldn't quite pull it off. But with some new personal best scores for a wave worlds event (although a little disappointed to be the bubble boy and just miss the cut) he was happy to place 6th in such a strong event.

Andrew (Canada) going for a pan pan am
(photo by Phillip Robert)

Brad (USA) going for an over vertical Pan Am
(photo by Philip Robert)
The Brits

The junior mens and junior women classes were up next and the young Team GB athletes did incredibly well with everyone making it through the first cut. With Hugo Scott sat in first place.

Hugo Scott flying into finals in 1st place
(photo by Dave Wortley)

Charlie Brackpool hitting some massive moves
(photo by Dave Wortley)

A full day of mens prelims then passed and I watched incredible ride after incredible ride as all the worlds top men battled for a top 20 spot. It was hard to stay calm and relax with all the excitement and with the standard again so crazy high it was difficult for all the men to make the cut.

Theres a big team behind every athlete at these events
(photo by Dave Wortley)

Massive thanks to Dennis Newton and Jacko Jackson, Sutty Sutcliffe,
Bruce and everyone else who worked so hard all week
to get us to our best for the event
(photo by Dave Wortley)

Team GB's Bren Orton and Alan Ward did amazingly well to make it through. With Bren in second place!!! Pringle, Dougie and Gav Barker also putting down some amazing rides with Gav being the bubble boy fo the day just missing the quarters cut.

Gav may not have made the cut but he did massively
 impress everyone with his huge rides.
(photo by Dave Wortley)

I was now getting very exited and was feeling ready to get back out on the water again.

Huge huge thank you to everyone who took photos
throughout the event.
Especially Dave Wortley, Jez Jezz and Peter Holcombe
(photo by Phillip Robert)