James McBeath - With thousands of pounds of equipment to carry down the back woods trails of Rock Island’s falls section, the preparations for the 10 am start began at twilight. The gang from NOC brought in their new scoring system and had it all ready to go just in time. With the mist from the incredible falls playing havoc on computer screens, the boyz got the system charged up and eager to receive the scores. As the morning progressed the crowds began to make their way to the park, to the heat sheets and to the rocks, setting up for a classic showdown of 17 countries and over 130 athletes.
The competition for the Women’s Class today was as nerve wrecking to watch as it was for them to compete. The jitters is what I saw from so many of the competitors. Getting a competition like this started in a spot with minimum training water is not easy. There were lots of tough rides that resulted, but there were also some amazing rides being thrown as well!
The water level was consistent at 1,890 cfs and the hole was open for any move that can be thrown. Unlike many holes, the hole at Rock Island plays a lot like a wave, and when people try Loops or Space Godzilla moves they often have a hard time getting their bow under water to initiate those moves. The right hand blunt was a common move for the ladies today and there were some sweet ones thrown. Japan’s Hitomi Takaku threw some night ones today!
Emily Jackson, from the USA, was in the first heat and had a 150 point ride on her first one and followed up with a 310 point ride to almost triple the second place score. Adrienne Levkenecht, also from the USA, took the second spot with a sweet loop on each ride, which was eluding some of the best loopers. Claire O’hara had some good variety in her first ride with a 110 point ride which pulled her through after the low scoring second ride. Nina Csonkova only got 10 points on her first ride but came back with a loop androundhouse on her second ride.
Erin Clancey was 10th and last to make it. She flushed right away on her first ride and then forgot to paddle back in at first, fist pumping and claiming the flush…. Then she remembered that she can get back into the hole before the time was up (about a 4 second brain fart) and she not only got back in at the buzzer, but she got the blunt at the buzzer that put her in finals!
First out was Jessie Stone, so close! The top 10 women will be competing in Semi-finals tomorrow and their won’t be margin for today’s nervousness. Typically the competitors rise up to the challenge and go for it as the cut from 10 to 5 isn’t easy.
The morning heats began with some of the classic names in freestyle: Jackson, Csonka, Kirk, Chapel, the experienced Japanese, The Wright not-so-brothers and a heavy Euro contingent. The wave was the big story this morning as its retention was good, but if you flushed there was no chance at any meaningful points if you try to attain again. The hole opened the book on the entire gammot of moves, entry, loops, blunts, and combos were possible, but the risk sometimes was high. Those who kept technical, focused and didn’t back down on their recovery strokes tended to keep in the hole and rack up the points.
In the early heats the Jackson clan and local boaters all showed the advantage of knowing how to work the wave. Points got as high as 789 from Bartosz who surprised many with a dynamic ride taking the early lead. Dane Jackson had an unfortunate flush the second ride and made his attain from the far side, river left, behind the falls. He recovered nicely with a total of 1002. Spectacular seeing him pop out of the falls and onto the wave for an extra few points. By the middle of the morning, there were clear leading rides with EJ and his 941, Dane and Bartosz leading the way. The last two heats brought together quite the gang of champions, Canada’s Nick Troutman and Canada’s current champion Adam Chappel joined veterans Clay Wright, and Brian Kirk for a cool 2-heat showdown destined to entertain the crowds. They did not disappoint as that last two heats shook up the top 10 in an instant of full 45 second rides (a rarity today).
When the mist/dust settled, it was Nick Troutman at the top with a ride combine of 1260, Dane staying in with uis 1002, EJ in third, Bartosz in fourth and Bryan Kirk in fifth. Top three performed in the new 2013 All Star or Star. The top 20 make it to the quarter-finals.
Event website: www.freestylekayaking2013.com