Inside the 2019 ICF Freestyle Worlds – #10 Freestyle Worlds Finals Live Video
by Kathy Holcombe
Everyday during the 2019 ICF World Freestyle Championships, Kathy & Peter Holcombe are sending us their views on what is going on in Sort (Spain) where the worlds are taking place this year. Follow along each day as they recap what they see from the river bank.
The stands are packed, the lights are on, and the arena is so packed with spectators that they spill out all the way down to the riverbank. The athletes are geared up and focused: some are intently listening to music while others are pacing the shore in anticipation of what is about to go down. Finally the voice of the announcer pierces the night with “Are you ready to RUMBLE!?!?!”, and the ensuing roar of the crowd electrifies the night.
Zofia Tula from Poland drops into the feature and sets the pace for the evening with a respectable 357 point ride. Hitomi Takaku from Japan follows and takes lead with her first ride. Marlene Devillez from France and Zofia both up the anti on their second rides and take the lead momentarily. But Hitomi is undaunted and drops in for her second ride and throws a burst of arial antics that earn her the gold with 646 points, followed by Marlene in second and Zofia in third. When the announcers interviewed Hitomi immediately following her victory lap, she uttered a single exuberant word, that beautifully summed up the whole experience, “HAPPY!!!”.
Next up was the men’s K1 competition. Sebastien Devred from France was the first to compete, and threw down a massive ride coming in at 1212 points which had him at the top of the leaderboard…until Dane Jackson from the USA reset the bar in his first ride with a whopping 1407 points. Juaquim Fontane from Spain was explosive in his second ride leaving the crowd breathless as judges tallied his score on the live feed montors as a heartbeat pulsed over the loud speakers, but was unable to best Dane’s first ride leaving him in second with 1260 points followed by Sebastien in third.
Following the event, the crowd migrated from the whitewater arena to the outside of a local pub for an impromptu street celebration, where snippets of victory and defeat echoed down the sidewalk into the wee hours of the morning. These athletes came to Sort, to see how they measure up, and some walked away champions. But beyond the champions, there are many heroes that have emerged in this event, some because of their paddling and others because of their spirit. This morning, the glory and triumph is just a little less vivid and the days that follow will be a slow settling back into normal, back to work and responsibilities, and local rivers where the whole process will begin again: the eternal quest for excellence that keeps these athletes coming back year after year.