Event: Champions Race 2022
The first ever Champions Race took place late March in Pau, south-west of France. Organized by the Aquasports Park of Pau, the idea of this project was to create a race of a new kind. Shorter race course, challenging gate set up, and invite top athletes to challenge themselves on a new format for slalom racing that could be part of the future of slalom racing.
Slalom kayaking is a popular sport all over the world. It is evolving throughout the year and if the foundations remain, there are always some opportunities to bring innovation and challenge to slalom races. It is with this spirit that the Champions Race was created, first because Pau is famous world wide for its whitewater park, a hotspot for slalom training for teams across the world, but also because many international athletes have settled in the area to pursue their career goals and enjoy the practice facilities. Overall, a bunch of qualitative ingredients to create a very interesting slalom recipe.
The major goal for this race was to preserve the core of slalom racing spirit, with downstream and upstream gates, and penalties, but at the same time offer athletes the opportunity to race on harder moves, where explosiveness and audacity would be key; with this in mind, race designers Janos Peterlin and Jerôme Blanchet did a very good job.
They composed an innovative course of 12 gates which would force athletes to make strong technical choices. They would indeed have to risk it all and stretch their trajectories, send many head-stops, all while staying as close as possible to the poles to hope to take the win.
The Champion Race started with two qualifying heats, and already the level was high. Many international athletes came to the race, as Pau is attractive and also because the format of an extreme and challenging slalom race attracted them. After a general briefing and the handling of race bibs, participants were eager to take part in the race with envy.
C1 women was dominated Czech Tereza Fiserova, who won with a 4 second lead after taking the qualifiers with a 3 second lead. Just behind, the French Angèle HUG takes the second march of the podium, while the Czech Martina Satkova takes the 3rd place. There was some tough competition in the junior category as well, with lire Goni winning the first place, ahead of Adriana Morenova and Olga Samkova.
Mikel Trave took the C1 men gold, ahead of two very experienced French paddlers Jules Bernardet and Pierre-Antoine Tillard. Emilien Courtiade dominated the junior C1, where Marc Vicente and Imaz Markel were second and third.
Just like in the canoe finals, there was a very high level of technicality and performance in the kayak finals. An intense battle between Laia Sorribes, Viktoriia Us and Emma Vuitton really gave the chills to the public, and in the end the Ukrainian Viktoriia US takes on the gold, while in the junior category, Katerina VEHLOV wins ahead of Haizea Segura.
Edgar PRIGENT, local talent in Pau, won the first place in K1 men by completing a perfect run in the final, closely followed by Gelindo Chiarello and David Llorente, who were in a tight battle for the podium as well. In the junior category, it is Lukas Estanguet who ends on the highest step, among top tier European athletes like Martin RUDORFER in second and Emilien COURTIADE in third.
This one of a kind race weekend ended with a podium ceremony where winners were rewarded with prizes from ZuluPack and prize money. Overall, the atmosphere was amazing as it was a place to exchange with athletes, the Champion race organizers and the public, as this event was meant to be a test for an innovative format of slalom competition, to which all participants were very attracted and eager to try. Good vibes, fireworks to close the day at Aquasports Park… it surely was a great time!
See you in 2023!