THE EXTREME KAYAK WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
For the tenth time in a row, the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship takes place on the legendary "Wellerbrücke" river section in Austria's Oetztal Valley. Between the 5th and 7th of October 2017, the world's finest whitewater kayakers meet in Tyrol's longest alpine valley to snatch the much sought-after world championship belt.
The Wellerbrücke rapids, a section of the glacier-fed Ötztaler Ache River, are solid class 5 whitewater, both technically difficult and dangerous. Any mistakes paddlers may make have high consequences. The well known rapids on the course: Champions Killer (the final drop of the 280-metre long race course) and Champions Killer Minus 1 (the hole above Champions Killer) are both feared and endeared by extreme kayakers, all of whom respect the river as much as they want to conquer it.
Athletes at the event concur that the adidas Sickline is unique. It is different from a lot of other events as athletes of many different kayaking disciplines - slalom racers, extreme kayakers and river expedition paddlers - come together in a race situation. The head-to-head format in the qualifying makes competition fair and extremely close. Any one of the top 16 finalists have the chance and the ability to earn a spot on the podium.
Last year, the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship was once again sold out: 175 athletes from 29 different countries were giving their best to get a slot in the final. For the second time in the history of the race a female world champion title was awarded with a record number of 25 participating women. The five fastest ladies after the knockout semi final round battled it out for world championship honours on the Wellerbrücke rapids. 26-year old Sandra Hyslop, who ranked 5th place in 2015, secured her title with a winning time of 1:08.82, ahead of favourite Nouria Newman from France and Martina Wegman from the Netherlands.
It was the closest adidas Sickline final in history and also the most dramatic; had the final between a hundredth of a second shorter we would have had a different winner. Aniol Serrasolses (ESP) flew down the course in 1.01.70 – his fastest time of the whole weekend. Aniol took his seat in the hot tub and all he could do was watch as World class kayaker after World class kayaker battled to beat his time. Dane Jackson (USA), Alexander Grimm (GER), Zeno Ivaldi (ITA), Antoine Launay (POR) and Hannes Aigner (GER) all had their chance to shift him but couldn’t do so, meaning that with 2 competitors left – Aniol’s brother, the defending Extreme Kayak World Champion Gerd Serrasolses and 3 time adidas Sickline winner Sam Sutton – Aniol was guaranteed at least a place on the podium. Gerd put in a time of 1.02.36 – good but not good enough. Could Sam Sutton, so often dominant here in Ötztal, claim an unprecedented fourth title? His run was almost faultless and as he powered for the line, the crowd screamed their support but it wasn’t enough – Sam missed out on the title by 0.01 seconds.
So Aniol Serrasolses and Sandra Hyslop are the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Champions 2016, with Sam Sutton and Nouria Newman taking silver and Dane Jackson and Martina Wegman claiming bronze.
ONLY THE BEST ADVANCE TO THE NEXT ROUND
The 52 finalists who race at Wellerbrücke, will compete in a 'head-to-head' format, i.e. the fastest of the qualification will battle the 52nd, the second fastest will compete against the 51st and so on. Last year's medallists will be integrated in the racing grid based on a timed run on the qualifying course. The faster kayaker will advance to next round, respectively, together with two 'lucky losers', i.e. the two fastest of the eliminated Top 52 athletes. Then the Top 28 compete once again in a dual mode. The 14 remaining athletes will then compete for world champion honours, together with two more 'lucky losers', i.e. the two fastest of the eliminated Top 28 athletes. In the final, the fastest time wins. Each of the top 16 kayakers has one try to secure a place on the podium. The kayaker with the slowest race time of the previous run will be the first to start. He will then climb the hotseat, the throne of the fastest athlete. His race time must now be beaten. If a kayaker is faster, he can dethrone the race leader. The athlete, who is still sitting in the hotseat at the end, will be the well-deserved adidas Sickline World Champion.
At the famous Wellerbrücke, the Oetztaler Ache River holds one of the most sophisticated whitewater sections on earth, thus the perfect setting to determine the world's best extreme kayakers. For safety reasons, public authorities have closed this particular section of the river. It is only open for the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship. "Safeguarding is vital in our sport and it is somehow a routine job for whitewater kayakers", says Olaf Obsommer, race director and founder of Sickline. "However, there is a huge difference if one is responsible for a small group of paddler friends who all know each other very well or if one is responsible for more than 170 athletes from 25 different countries. Then you have to pull out all the stops."
Water rescue services, mountain rescue services, and the Austrian Red Cross work hand in hand to secure the highest possible safety of the athletes from around the world. The teams are using innovative life saving tools, like ropeways that are built by Mountain Rescue Tirol prior to the event, in order to shorten rescue ways and thus rescue intervals on the extremely difficult terrain and to increase the rescue comfort. The challenging task is also an appreciated practice to train the smooth interaction of rescue forces ashore, in the water and on the mountain.
"The adidas Sickine World Championship gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our know-how and skills on a very difficult terrain", says Peter Veider, MD of Mountain Rescue Tyrol. "We are already looking forward to this year's event." Michael Huber of the Austrian Water Rescue Services Tirol is also enthused about the smooth collaboration between the rescue services and the organisers within the scope of the adidas Sickline Worlds: "Despite having safeguarded at several international events, the size and complexity of this sport event is unique. The readiness of the organiser to create such an extensive safety concept and, what's more, to really implement it, has been new to us. Since safety truly comes first at this event, I consider the adidas Sickline World Championship as exemplary."
Water rescue services, mountain rescue services, and the Austrian Red Cross work hand in hand with the event-own "swiftwater-rescue crew". The riverbanks are virtually littered with extremely qualified safety staff that use innovative life saving tools, like ropeways, and turn the Wellerbrücke rapids - at least for one weekend - into the safest rapid in the world. "I think there are few sports events that pay so much attention to safety", says event director Mike Hamel, MD of the organising agency Planet Talk. "We try to always be a step ahead. We even take out a personal accident insurance for our participants. Fortunately we never had to salvage someone, but these days you often find that the rescued person is not sufficiently insured. That's why we protect our participants by including an accident insurance for the weekend in our start fee. It covers salvage expenses like helicopter flights, rescue and emergency medical services, disability or cosmetic surgery."
ALL-AROUND-SERVICE FOR ATHLETES
Once again the competitors can look forward to an all-around-service for athletes including complimentary physiotherapy at the adidas Reload Centre. "For us the athletes take centre stage, no matter which sport we support," says Axel Burkhardt, Director Outdoor at adidas Global Sports Marketing. "We wanted to create an event for the kayak community and I'm very pleased that the adidas Sickline Worlds are so well-received. I first and foremost would like to thank our top class field of international competitors who turn the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship into such a thrilling battle."
ONLINE REGISTRATION OPENS IN APRIL
From 1 April 2017 onwards, kayakers can register online for the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship. The start fee is EUR 129,- and includes the registration fee, an adidas Sickline event t-shirt, access to the adidas Reload Centre, three dinners (Thursday/ Friday/ Saturday) and two lunches (Friday/ Saturday) as well as an accident insurance for the weekend. Participants have to be at least 18 years old and mastering whitewater level V.