Inside the 2013 Freestyle Worlds with Stephen Wright – Report #6, The Finals.
Day 6 of competition – The Finals.
What a ride it’s been! New champions of the world have been crowned, the snitch has been caught, and everyone is catching our collective breath before the party kicks off. Before you hear about the competitive results, it’s worth mentioning a few less-obvious elements that have contributed to how these athletes have been able to perform.
First of all is a coaching, medical, and support staff that has travelled here with many countries’ teams. For example, Team Great Britain has two or three professional coaches, as well team leaders and other volunteers. They could be seen all week, giving their athletes athletic feedback, running video review sessions, giving free massages to paddlers, and making announcements to the team.
Each athlete was permitted to have one coach at water level on a special coaching platform during their competition to shout advice, encouragement, and give feedback after each ride. These athletes, like most of us under normal conditions, paddle with friends and it can be intimidating to be in a high-pressure, competitive environment with no one familiar around. It’s nice to simply have someone else that they know (and maybe just speaks their own language) in the eddy to talk with as they compete.
Also, the athletes have been affected by their living conditions. Many teams have rented cabins all over the Nantahala Gorge, but there was also free camping available for athletes and staff six miles up the road at the site of NOC’s staff housing. There you could find a sea of tents and happy people cooking, relaxing, doing yoga, spinning fire, and enjoying less expensive living outdoors.
Today was a day of victory, celebration, disappointment, and epic kayaking. If you want the short version of what happened at the event, Team USA took every gold medal except the two that Claire O’hara claimed for Team GBR (Women’s Squirt, and K1 Women).
Many finals rounds changed leaders up through the last rides, so the drama was both tense and exciting for spectators all day long. Clay Wright stepped back onto the top of the podium an claimed the Men’s Squirt gold.
World Championship rookie and local girl Rowan Stuart claimed Jr. Women’s gold in front of a home crowd.Jordan Poffenberger because the dual World Champion in both OC-1 and C-1. Hunter Katich won gold in Jr. Men, while Dane Jackson not only won the gold medal in K1 Men’s, but won two silvers and a bronze for good measure.
After the competition, we had the awards ceremony. These things always remind me of the closing scene of the original Star Wars movie: brass-driven, grandiose orchestral theme music pumping through the speakers, children with medals, and flowers for all. Everything is now primed for a World Championship party tonight here at NOC.
As we all pull our heads up for a breath of air after weeks in the NOC-ICF-WORLDS, I think that many will look back on this event as a freestyle competition with the best energy of any we’ve attended in awhile. The combination of beautiful mountain scenery, a good playspot, tons of friends, and huge crowds made this magical.
What’s next for me? Well, like many here, I desperately need a shower and saw myself in the mirror for the first time in awhile last night. I was shocked to discover that I now have a beard! It’s time to clean up and go kayaking. See you on the river!
Live from NOC,
Watch the Finals Video report here:
Full Final Detailed Results Here:
> Men’s K1
> Men’s C1