Inside the 2019 ICF Freestyle Worlds – #4 Competition is Heating Up
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.
Competing at a world championships is hard. Obviously, one must possess an incredible skillset to play on such a stage, but there are many factors that come into play off of the water as well. For starters, at least for a majority of the athletes here, all of the expenses associated with the event are self-funded: flights, lodging, food, coaching, entry fees, etc. This alone can completely prohibit an athlete from attending the event. But beyond the game-stoppers like funding, there are other factors that play into the event that most people don’t really ever think about: like the ICF anti-doping policy. Each athlete must take a two hour online course and pass a test before they are allowed to compete. The course is designed to educate athletes about performance enhancing substances in an effort the keep the athletes healthy and level the playing fields. This is a worthy and important framework, but what happens when an athlete comes down with a cold or infection in the days leading up to the event. Many of the medications that we all use to treat a simple cold, like decongestants, are on the prohibited substance list. This means that the athletes just have to suffer through the symptoms, at least until they pass the drug test immediately following the event.
Then there are intense training sessions, unusual or limited food options, language barriers, different climates, – it’s enough to throw even the healthiest body into chaos. So why is it that athletes return, year after year, one event to the next to throw down with the best from around the globe? Clay Wright, who has been competing on the world stage for decades says that competition is what keeps him pushing his paddling to the next level, year after year. It’s what drives him to go paddle every day, to try something new rather than sticking to the safe and familiar. And I’ll be there first to admit, we have loved learning all about the rivers, food and people of Catalonia.
Today kicked off with 21 men from nine countries competing in the C1 class. The competition was intense and it seems this class is more competitive than ever before. Jordan Poffenberger took the lead in the preliminary round with a combined score of 1487, but Sebastien Devred from France is a close second 1405 combined score. The semi-finals for C1 are going to be a heated battle to see which of these incredible athletes will get to compete for the gold in the final round.
The afternoon kicked off as sixteen junior women from seven countries competed in their preliminary rounds, and these young women (age 15-18) are going huge. McNasty’s, loops, cartwheels, space godzillas were just a few of the tricks they were throwing down. Great Britain’s, Ottilie Robinson-Shaw claimed the top spot, but team USA was hot on her heals with all three of their athletes taking the next three positions: Katie Fankhouser in 2nd, Olivia McGinnis in 3rd, and Abby Holcombe in 4th. Local paddler Silvia Gallego from Spain placed fifth and was definitely a crowd favorite.
The open canoe semi-finals closed out the afternoon with Adria Bosch Roca from Spain taking the top position. The five finalists will battle it out tomorrow afternoon for the title of world champion.