Inside the 2015 Freestyle Worlds With EJ – Ep1, Opening Ceremony
Let the Games Begin! The 2015 World Championships are declared open!
By: Eric EJ Jackson
Today the small town of Beachburg, Ontario, really outdid itself by organizing one of the most awesome opening ceremonies we have seen in any FReestyle World Championships. This was « Smalltown Canada » style at the local ballpark, but with the VIPs and the international scale of a World Summit. Firetrucks built in 1923, big farming equipment for the parade, local entertainment, including kids doing square dancing. This was perfect for what the organizers wanted to showcase. Paula Troutman (mother of Nick, the 2009 World champion) lead the organizing of this event and she nailed it!
Every two years freestyle kayakers have the opportunity to compete to make their National Teams, and then, if successful, attempt to become the next World Champion in their class. Freestyle Kayaking is an amazing sport because it can be held on almost any kind of water, even flatwater. The World Championships is, however, designed to find out who the best freestyle athlete is at this moment and is held on one of two primary types of water features- a Wave, or a Hole. Holes are easier to find and have been where most of the freestyle competitions have been held, but waves are often considered to be the choice of the top freestyle athletes, due to the locations where you train for wave competitions, and the locations you compete in them.
The following is a list of official World Championships that have been held and what type of feature they were on:
- Ocoee River, TN- Hole (1993)
- Augsburg, Germany- Whitewater Park Hole (1995)
- Ottawa River, Canada- McCoys Rapid- Hole/Wave- paddler’s option (1997)
- Taupo, New Zealand- Wave (1999)
- Sort, Spain- Hole (2001)
- Graz- Austria- Hole (2003)
- Penrith, Australia- Wave/hole (2005)
- Ottawa River- Buseater- Big Wave (2007)
- Thun- Switzerland- Wave (2009)
- Plattling- Germany- Hole (2011)
- NOC, USA- Hole (2013)
- Garberator Wave- Ottawa River- Wave (2015)
Twelve World Championships and only 4 of them were held on waves, making this event a special event as some athletes are good on waves, some in holes, and some in both. It will be clear, after the dust has settled, that the best freestyle kayakers are competitive on a wave, or in a hole, but it will also be clear that when held on a wave, the top 10 list will look much different than if it were held in a hole. Countries that don’t have many waves, but have good whitewater parks, for example, will have a harder time than countries that have good waves.
For most of the athletes, training, playing, etc.. at the world’s site doesn’t really feel like a World Championships until the Opening Ceremonies. Getting all 212 of the World’s best from 29 countries together in one place, flying their flags, wearing their team uniforms, and going through the opening ceremonies process puts a real stamp of authenticity on the moment. Like the U2 line from Zoo Station- “time is a train…. makes the future the past.” Everyone has the sudden realization that the event is underway, that there is nothing they can do about it, and that in a few days they will be the next world champion, or they will not. The train of time is not stoppable.
There are always some great stories worth noting for any world championships- rivals, top paddlers that have always been close, but never winning, etc… Some of the ones to watch are:
Peter Czonka, Dane Jackson, Nick Troutman: while there are other names on my list of those who CAN win, these are three guys who have a real story and have lots of skin in the game. Peter, from Slovakia, has three silver medals in the past 4 world championships (I only have two of them, making him the silver medal king). Dane Jackson, my son, is the current World Champion, and is paddling arguably better than anyone, making him the target for everyone. Nick Troutman is the Beachburg local who won every round of the 2007 World Championships here on the Ottawa River’s Buseater Wave until I took the finals, and is amazing on the Garberator Wave, his favorite. Nick also won the Worlds in 2009 on a wave, giving him a gold and silver in his two World Championships that were held on a wave.
Claire O’hara, Emily Jackson, and Adrienne Levkneckt: Claire is the current Women’s World Champion in kayak and while Emily is both a past (2009) World Champion and came in second to Claire in 2011. Emily is known for her Wave skills, winning both the Junior Worlds and then the Senior Worlds back to back on waves. Claire has won two worlds, but both in holes. Claire is also an amazing wave surfer and has her title to defend. Adrienne has been training hard and beat Emily in USA Team Trials this year at the Glenwood Wave and is here to win as well. While there are other awesome competitors that can do really well, this is a trio that promises not to disappoint
Junior Kayak- Men’s and Women’s: I am not going to mention names for the juniors in this article as I want to let the results speak for themselves. Few juniors are returning, other than Bronze Medalist, Alec Vorhees making a prediction just based on what I have seen in training. I will tell you my junior opinions in a few days. Watch for Sage Donnelly and Alec Vorhees, however…. 🙂
C1: Safe money is on either Jordan Poffenberger, or Dane Jackson (they won the past two world championships) but there are many talented C1er’s wanting their share of the gold!
Squirt: Let’s wait and see how the squirters do tomorrow. There are some that you should be watching, of course- Clay Wright, Dane Jackson (past two world champions) as well as Claire Ohara (last two world’s champion) and Hitomi from Japan, who won the silver at NOC…
OC1: OC1 on the Garburator wave is very difficult. In a nutshell, whoever gets the opening moves to stick consistently will win…. Let’s see what happens as everyone is a contender in this event as a fast wave feature tends to automatically levels the playing field in OC1.