Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 5 - Quarter & Semi Finals - A smashing good round

As I look at the open front of my kayak and see almost all the way through to the inside I can't help but smile and laugh as I remember Jez and a few others that morning telling me before my runs 'to go out there and smash it!'  I must remember in the future not to take it quite so literally! Especially when there is less than 6hrs between rounds.

The damage being undone
It was also great news though as I did smash it and despite taking a huge chuck out of the front of my boat during the first 20 seconds of my first run. I also made it safely into the semi finals.

Loading up for a big Mcnasty
So quarter finals kicked off this morning at 9am. Sitting in 11th from prelims I knew I needed to improve but I wasn't too worried as I knew I had so much more to give and the crazy stomach bug I had yesterday had now gone. Still tired but feeling stronger. I was excited to get back out on the water and lay down some runs. Same game plan as yesterday but more energy we started today with a kick around to try and loosen up my tight mussels from yesterday afternoon. It was alot cooler today which was nicer so it was easier to warm up properly with out over heating in the desert sun. Then it was time to go. Again it wasn't about doing anything too fancy during my rides just getting enough tricks and points to get through to the next round.

Steve O opens up everyday introducing all the tricks to the crowd
So sure enough I went out to start with my base run, not really thinking about anything other than doing enough to make it through. My first run went pretty well despite crashing into the floor, I hadn't noticed the slight drop in water levels. Luckily I had done this a million times in training so I just kept going and didn't think about it too much. Paddling out of feature at the end of the run into the eddy to Den I asked him how it looked and he said with a smile something along the lines of 'oh no worries it doesn't look too bad at all. Don't even think about it its cool'. As reassuring as this was I knew differently though as I had only fixed it a week earlier and I knew there was only 4 layers on there originally and which layer was which and I could see the entire top 3 layers had gone and the base layer was splintered apart. Turns out Den and Charlie had seen it happen and decided the best plan was to just play it totally cool. Actually a great coaching strategy but I was still a little bit concerned. I remember paddling up for my second run leaning back as I paddled up the eddy to make sure if the crack was fully through it didn't fill before I even made the hole. It only had to last the 45seconds in the feature and it would be good but... my focus was gone and my second ride didn't go so well.


and after you can see how my boat has begun to split at the front
Great news though the boat didn't fill with water so the last layer was holding up well and luckily quarters is 3 rides 2 count. So I had one more go. I went into my last ride knowing I needed to score more points to make it through. I felt the pressure and loved it and nailed a much better run.

The cameras capture all the action
Flying high again
Results came in, I was through in 5th place to the semi finals. Top 10 go through. Islay was in 4th so we would get to paddle together in the next round which I always love to do.

Stoked to make it through
So it was 11am in the middle of nowhere Argentina. Semi Finals started at 5pm and I had a badly broken boat. Luckily I have an amazing team of friends who have mad boat fixing skills. Literally as I stepped off the water Lewwy met me and grabbed my boat. 'I've got a plan. Lets get this dried out.' So Lewwy set about drying the boat and sent me to find resin. The gold dust of boat repairs at this event. Flying with resin is tricky so although we had loads of materials (carbon, kevlar, inegra) getting hold of resin out here was a lot trickier. I knew where to go so I ran out to the car park and found Matt Donnnelly. Sure enough he had spare resin back at his air bnb. So I jumped in the car and set off into to town. I grabbed the resin and on the way back to the feature grabbed some new headphones (I had also broken them during the squirt boating event and we all know how important good music is before a comp).

Legend Lewy straight into action
I arrived back to the feature and the boat was dry and lewwy was covered in sweat and fibre glass and was all ready well into sanding down my boat. As he sanded I found Guillaume and Stephen Wright and we worked out what the best layer options would be to make it super strong. Then a team of helpers arrived. Marc Richards and Lewwy sanded and sanded and sanded. Then as others passed by they all jumped in and had a go. It really was a demonstration of how amazing the kayaking community is.  Midway through we were joined by more broken boats the lower quarter finals levels taking its toll on the carbon boats. In the end we had a work shop set up and rallied through fixing everyone's boat that had broken but had made it to the next round. By 3pm it was almost done and Lewwy told me to go home and rest out.

 Marc and Lewy working hard in the heat
Can I say an absolutely massive thanks to Lewis, Marc, Matt and everyone who stepped in and helped this day. This was a huge rally and I couldn't have competed that afternoon without you all.

When I got back to the feature at 5pm the boat was not only dry, but totally fixed. In fact it was the strongest it had been in weeks and was totally ready to go. The boat was ready. I was ready. This was beginning to feel more like a competition. I was stoked and set to go.

I jumped on for my rides. 2 rides. 1 counts and for the first time that week I paddled well. My first ride was good. It was better than any other ride I had done so far but it wasn't enough. The judges were strict and my score was still low.

Flying high but its got to be exact to score
As I went in for the second run I knew that this was it. This was make or break. If I paddled really well I'd have a chance but if I blew it I was out. This was my last chance. The ride went awesome but i'm super critical. I wasn't sure if a few of my tricks were perfect or a little off. Den was the same. He knew it was good but would it all score. The scores came in... kind off. The computers were having a few issues and the scores still showed me in 6th place with the same score but I knew I must have improved on my previous score but was it enough? I was sat there watching all the rest of the girls go not knowing if I was in 6th place and just missing the cut or if I was in the top 5. Ride after ride the girls did awesome but they were all already through from their first runs. The advantage of finishing high in early rounds is you then go in reverse order so you get to know if you've made it and or the score to beat. Emily Jackson had had a bad day and was already out. I though I might be too.

Emily just couldn't get her rides to come together today
Still massive smiles though
Then the results came in but we couldn't hear them everyone was saying congratulations to me but I wasn't sure, neither was Den. Was I in 6th or had I made it through?

The womens Top 5 through to finals are...

Marlene hits two more sweet rides to make finals
Hitomi consistently great rides throughout
Zofia massive talent breaking through on the Worlds scene
Young superstar Dr Islay Crosbie

I got off the water and heard the results for the first time, mid interview. I was through and in 1st place!!! My second run had put me at the top of the leader board. Wow!!! The perfect position for finals. I had done it. I had made the finals and with my best ride of the comp so far, almost double all my previous individual ride scores. I was so stoked and to know there was no way (literally) I could have done it without the help of all my friends was insane. Thank you.

And me :)

In the heat of trying to repair my boat and two rounds in a day I didn't have any idea of what else was happening on the water. Everything was just too much of a rush and too hectic. Luckily everything was captured online and you can still watch it now.

Steve O celebrates his ride

Huge news from the day was definitely Dane Jackson smashing a new world record single ride high score of 1936.67 points. Absolutely insane. Well done Dane.

Rob Crowe and Gav Barker showed exceptional talent
As well as Gav Barker from team GB rocking it out there with some huge ride scores. Gav having a score of 3,300+ during prelims and Rob hitting a 1,700+ point ride during semi finals putting him in second place behind Dane going into the top 5.

Dane - So much talent and years of hard work
The flying lad from Manchester
Rob Crowe styling his way into 2nd place
Here is a great write up from the days action

Lotte Rayner (NZ) flys high during the jnr w semis
The action didn't stop their though. Tomorrows finals would be a floodlit night finals and I still hadn't hit a ride that was on form so as the day turned to night me, Rob, Jez and Den went back to the feature to get in another last training session. The place was empty but the vibe was awesome. The main lights magnifying the feature and then others lighting up the mountains in an aray of colors it was super cool.

Jez and Den freezing but still there with me helping me dial in the last training session before finals

Awesome night training session pre finals
I quickly acclimatized as did Hitomi and Rob and we had a super fun throw down session. I had a new run plan, a fun one with heaps of big tricks in it. I played with the separate parts but didn't do full runs. I was just feeling it out. Jez watched on from the stands as Den coached me from the media island. It was really cool. Then about 10.45pm we called it a night. Time for some sleep tomorrow 'very awesomely' was finals day.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Day 4 - C1 and Womens Prelims

The sun shone bright as we woke up ready for another big day of action. This time it's both me and Jez competing as its C1 and Women's prelims day.

The Frenchies hid from the sun between heats
Jez leaves early as he has an announcing meeting before his prelims and I stay to try get a last few hours rest. The plan is set i'm going to join him half an hour before his runs and help him get ready and coach him through his comp. All is going well for an hour or so and then the dreaded San Juan stomach bug hits. This bug has been going round for a few weeks and has already taken Emily Jackson and Courtney Kerin out of action last week and earlier this week. They are now on the mend which is awesome but as the time draws closer to Jez's prelims there is no way I can leave the house. About 20 minutes before i'm due to meet Jez hes messaging like mad. Where are you? Are you coming? Are you ok?

Jez getting ready to go
With just enough time to spare i'm through the worst of it and I jump in the car and rally to the feature. Jez is there ready and luckily has with him Australian team coach Josh aka 'Singo'. The boys have big smiles and are excited to go. Jez looks nervous for sure but is as ready as he is going to be. The nerves mainly down to the lack of practice at the feature as he arrived so close to the start of the competition and has been working non stop since he landed. Massive thanks though to team Australia and NZ who gave him some extra time during the one training slot he did make.

Jez getting the feel for the feature during training
I watch on as the other C1's go and the standard is super high. Dane, Lucas, Sebastian and others all hitting over 1,000 points. It's going to be a massive score to cut to the semi finals. Team GB's Ibbo goes and hits some sweet rides 986 but i'm not sure it will be enough to make.

Marc (Canada) celebrates his run
Ibbo enjoying being on the world stage
Dane set up ready to go
Young Ben (GBR) flys

Then Jez is ready to go. Loving the music and excited by the crowd he gets himself pumped up and drops into the feature with a sweet entry move, he then sets up for a nice loop and cartwheel. Its after this that time in the feature shows and as he works his way around to try to get his Mcnasty and splits you can just see that the trickyness of 'La Ola' is taking his toll. His second ride is much of the same a sweet start and then he just can't quite get his bigger tricks to go. He celebrates with a fist pump to the sky and the crowd cheers. He might not make the cut but his following here at San Juan and online worldwide is huge. Which shows testament to how much he has put into the sport both as an athlete but even more so into developing the youth and ensuring there is a very strong , enthusiastic and talented band of young paddlers coming through. A little frustrated he realises that with a little more practice in the feature he could have done more but hindsight is a great thing and his priorities here this year have been a little different for sure (ICF committee, worlds head announcer, aussie team coach, chair of the aussie freestyle committee, instructor, full time riot police officer...) So with this in mind he jumps off the water celebrates with a whole heap of high fives and then jumps back on the microphone to continue his role as the lead voice and head of the announcing team. He will continue to play a huge part in every single ride through the rest of the worlds including every single final winning ride.

Jez ready to go - kind of
Nailing his loop
Jez's rides done its time for me to re set and results are in he has finished 16th in the World. A pretty amazing result. Well done Jez.

Jez sets up for a big Mcnasty

Then its time for me to get ready for my freestyle rides. I'm first on in the first heat which is awesome. My favorite position going into prelims. I have done everything I can and all I have to do is just go out there and give it my best shot. Going first means having no idea what others are doing and no listening to the announcers or crowd. It's just go out and do my thing. Other rounds I like other positions but this one this is perfect for me for prelims especially with it also being a mid day and not a super early start. I find Den and we start getting everything prepared. It not long until I go. I'm still not feeling 100% but am way better than an hour or so ago.

Straight off the water and back to work on the mic
Lying down trying to beat the bug before my heats
Today for the women it is a cut to quarter finals which means top 20 go through which is awesome but also means a little but of the pressure is off. Often we cut straight to semi finals (top 10) which is a lot more pressure and less room for error. I notice it as I try to get amped up my energies are super low but i'm totally ready and excited to get out there and throw down. My goal is to make the cut. Not to win but to make it through. I go out with a basic ride plan loop, mcnasty, mcnasty, space, split split... Jez pops down to wish me luck and Den gives me a big smile and high five and its time to go.

High fives before we go. Old and new to this worlds game

The atmosphere today is nice, we have a small crowd, the suns shinning and the musics pumping in the background. I look around take it all in and smile. I get the thumbs up from head judge Josh and drop in for my rides. It's two runs both count so there is no margin for error. My first few tricks go ok. I have some points on the board which is awesome but wow my abs feel like jelly and I have no explosive power. Yey to the San Juan bug. Luckily though its plenty enough to get me through in 11th place to the next round.

Hitting a sweet Space Godzilla
The big question is does it score?
I hold ready to explode on a Mcnasty
Racking together some sweet cartwheel and split wheel ends
Hitomi leads the prelims with some sweet 600+ point rides, closely followed by Emily Jackson and Marlene Devillez. Marlene setting the high score of the event so far with a 707 point ride. Its a great display with freestyle and although there are a couple of upsets most of the top paddlers make it through including all of the GB girls including our youngest senior paddler Heidi who puts down two awesome rides.

Emily Jackson links together some splits
Islay loads up a massive Mcnasty
Islays massive spaces are as big as anyone can
Hitomi goes huge
Celebrating two awesome opening rides
The heats finish early and i'm knackered so head straight home. Grab some amazing food from Jan and Chris's house and then its bedtime. Tomorrow is another massive day. Quarters and if we make it through semi finals less than 6hrs apart.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Day 3 - Mens Prelims

Everyone is here with their own personal goals
Today was the men's prelims. The biggest of all the classes with over 6 and half hours of non stop freestyle. Still exhausted from the Squirt boating event today was my enforced rest day as my freestyle would kick off tomorrow and hopefully run for the next three days back to back. I did however struggle to stay away from the venue so in between rest breaks I spent a couple of hours helping out the announcing team and got to be on the coaches platform to support two amazing athletes. Josh Singleton (Australia) and then the awesome Dennis Newton (Team GB).

Singo flys high during his rides

Dennis has been my coach for almost 8 years and is also my best friend. In this time though we have trained together all over the world. Not always but most of our session we paddle together as well as me being coached. Paddling together I coach Den, as Den coaches me, and this year he made the GB men's team a really difficult feat. As everyone knows  Den is by far one of the best coaches in the world but what a lot of people don't realise is he is also a phenomenal athlete So it was so exciting to be able to be there for him as he took his turn competing on the International world stage for the first time. We had an impressive plan and he went out an executed it really well just getting one unfortunate flush. Amidst all the crazyness of coaching the entire British team as well as managing to train and compete himself. Den finished 23rd in the World. Just missing the top 20 semi finals cut. A super proud moment in both of our lives.

Dennis Newton finishes 23rd in the World

As the day flew by in a bit of a blur i'm going to call on the writers from Kayak Session magazine to tell the story

Big screens and big tricks in the desert

'Dane Jackson shows why he’s favorite to win another freestyle world title

Dane Jackson in action

American Dane Jackson has justified his red-hot favoritism for this week’s K1 event at the ICF Freestyle Kayak World Championships with a dominant display on the opening day of preliminaries at San Juan, Argentina.

23-year-old Jackson is chasing his third senior world title, and made it clear he means business with 3306.67 points from his two runs on Wednesday.

“I’m fired up, prelims is always an exciting and nervous round to see what you can do under pressure, so I’m fired up to have laid down two good rides,” Jackson said.

“I think definitely I’ll have a little bit of a target on the back of my head, but I’m just fired up that there is so many good people.

“So far I know some people have put down some rides I didn’t know they could put down, and a couple of the better people I know can get bigger scores. That’s what’s exciting about it.”

After their runs EJ and Dane join the crowds to cheer everyone on

Great Britain’s Gavin Barker was the only other athlete to crack 3000 points, his 3033.33 putting him almost 300 points behind Jackson.

“I felt pretty confident, actually, I felt like I was well prepared and that I could do that ride, so it was good to do it,” Barker said.

“I think if I nail my big ride, I’ll definitely be in contention. There’s a few more big scoring moves I can fit in there.”

Gav rides were fast, powerful and scored high
Third qualifier was France’s Sebastien Devred on 2993.34, while Spain’s Joaquim Fontane Maso qualified in fourth place.

The Spaniard said he was working within himself in the preliminary round.

“I was a little bit conservative, because I know a mistake here is paying very high, so I just wanted to make sure I made it through to the next cut,” Fontane Maso said.

“My objective for this world’s is to hit the 2000 point mark for one of my rides, so today I had a 1500, so it is getting there.

“I think some people think people at the top don’t feel the pressure, but we definitely feel it in our tummy before the start.”

Local superstars Maxi and Facundo draw in the crowds

The crowd favourite this weekend will be local athlete, Maximiliano Montoya, who led the competition early on Wednesday before eventually qualifying in ninth place.

“This is my area, this beautiful place, and it’s amazing to have the World Championships here,” Montoya said.

“Before I started the competition I felt very nervous.”

Peter Newland (Australia)
Kalem Kennedy (Canada)
Stephen Wright flies into the next round (USA)
Flying high

Tom Dunphy (Ireland)

Hunter Katich (USA)
So many talented athletes
Sam Ward (Uganda) flying high here but also on standby to fly home for the arrival of his first baby any day now

The 2017 World Championships continue on Thursday with preliminary rounds of the men’s canoe and the women’s K1.

Watch the action from Day 3 live here