THE EXTREME KAYAK WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
For the eight 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 1st and 3rd of October 2015, the world's finest whitewater kayakers meet in Tyrol's longest alpine valley to snatch the much sought-after world championship belt.
Last year, 25-year old Joe Morley from Leeds in Great Britain outpaddled a field full of the best kayakers in the world in his final run, claiming the second Extreme Kayak World Champion title of his career, ahead of Kiwis Mike Dawson and Jamie Sutton. In 2013, Morley had surprised the kayaking community, when he defeated the seemingly unbeatable 3-time adidas Sickline World Champion Sam Sutton from New Zealand. A year later, the slalom specialist returned as defending champion and top favourite and he stood up to the pressure. He put in a commanding final run on the 7°C cold Ötztaler Ache River today, clocking 56:48 seconds, the fastest race time of the day and almost one second faster than second placed Mike Dawson (57:42).
In 2014 the event also saw its largest number of women competitors ever: 15. The five fastest ladies in the qualification rounds battled it out on the Wellerbrücke rapids. 23-year-old Nouria Newman (FRA), known as the best female extreme paddler in the world, unsurprisingly outclassed the women’s field and was crowned as adidas Sickline Queen for the second year in a row. With a total time of 2:06.04 after two runs, Newman finished more than five seconds ahead of Toni George (NZL) and over 10 seconds ahead of Martina Wegman (NED).
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 15 finalists have the chance and the ability to earn a spot on the podium.
ONLY THE BEST ADVANCE TO THE NEXT ROUND
The 48 finalists who race at Wellerbrücke, will compete in a 'head-to-head' format, i.e. the fastest of the qualification will battle the 48th, the second fastest will compete against the 47th 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 48 athletes. Then the Top 26 compete once again in a dual mode. The 13 remaining athletes will then compete for world champion honours, together with two more 'lucky losers', i.e. the two fastest of the eliminated Top 26 athletes. In the final, the fastest time wins. Each of the top 15 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 150 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 MARCH
From 1 March 2015 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.