Joe Morley (GBR) wins his second adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship title in a row
He did it again!
Oetz (sgh) – After a weekend of intense racing on the legendary Wellerbrücke rapids in Austria’s Ötztal valley, 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.
Nouria Newman (FRA) is still the fastest woman on the Wellerbrücke
Last year, Morley surprised the kayaking community, when he defeated the seemingly unbeatable 3-time adidas Sickline World Champion Sam Sutton from New Zealand. This year, 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). “On my final run everything went well, I’ve been going faster and faster all weekend,” says Morley. “That way I knew exactly what I needed to do, so I just went down and did it! I was a bit worried, because Gerd Serrasolses had been super quick all weekend like he had been on a mad run, so to go in front of him and everybody else is a bit of an achievement - again. It feels pretty good to win twice in a row. Now I’ve got to do at least two more wins, eh! In theory I think there’s still stuff to squeeze regarding time on this course; I can always be fitter and I can always be stronger on the flat. I know it’s ambitious to try to beat Sam’s record of winning the adidas Sickline three times, but I would like to come back and get another title obviously and keep going for as long as I can.”
For two-time adidas Sickline runner-up Mike Dawson, it’s already the third silver medal at the Extreme Kayak World Championship after 2009 and 2011. “It’s so good to get back on the podium here”, Dawson says. “Last year - or even this year – I had surgery. I broke my back the year before, so it’s pretty rad just to be paddling again. Every year it gets harder and harder, there are more guys making this their core thing, their core sport and they’re training hard all year. There are other races popping up that are really good and challenging everyone, so when they come here for the pinnacle event of the year, everyone is just there to win and that’s pretty hard when you’ve had success in the past with all these young fellows nipping on your heels and wanting to take your podium spot, so it’s really tough, but a lot of fun.”
While Sam Sutton, who nailed the fastest time in semi finals (56:50) had trouble finding the perfect line with the low water level of only 1.82 m, his younger brother Jamie successfully defended the family’s honour, winning the bronze medal with a time of 57:50. Jamie Sutton’s course record of 55:73, which he had set last year, wasn’t touched today. „I’m pretty happy that my course record didn’t get beaten today. I was watching Gerd and Sam come pretty close and I was getting a little bit nervous. I was kind of hoping to beat my time myself, but since I didn’t do it, I’m glad nobody else did. I’m pretty stoked to be in third place, this is the highest I’ve ever been. It would have been nice to be up there as well, but I think I was just meant to be in 3rd today. I’m a little bit disappointed for Sam, because I thought this was going to be his year again, it would have been awesome to see him back up on top. But I’m also super stoked to be here with Mike as well, and Joe is a good friend, so I’m pretty happy, it’s a good podium this year I think.“
Gerd Serrasolses, who dominated the qualification yesterday with a lead by 2.5 seconds, showed his best run of the day in the quarter finals, clocking a time of 56.58 seconds. In the semi finals, the Spaniard had to compete head-to-head with Sam Sutton. Setting a top mark with 0:56.77 seconds, many expected that Sutton, who only had a 0:57.97 in the previous round would fall short of the finals. But the Kiwi knew when it’s time to deliver and edged out over Serrasolses with the fastest time of the day thus far (0:56.60), while Serrasolses advanced to the final as lucky loser but only placed 4th in the end.
“I’m a bit disappointed, I was paddling pretty good these days, yesterday I was first and today I clocked some good times”, Serrasolses says. “But it seems like the final is always something I can’t cope with. Both last year and this year, it was the same story. In my final run I started pretty bad. I touched a rock, so I didn’t start as relaxed as I had been doing up until then. The whole run was some kind of a battle, I touched too many rocks and I didn’t get into a rhythm. Actually, I changed several of the things that I had been doing in a certain way until then and that was also reflected in my final time as it increased by a couple of seconds compared to my previous runs.”
The battle of generations in the semis was also a battle of father vs. son with Freestyle World Champion, Dane Jackson (USA) competing head-to-head with kayaking legend and multiple Freestyle World Champion, Eric Jackson (USA). Was it fatherly love or the ravages of time? Dane Jackson beat his father by almost a second and placed 5th overall at the end of day.
One of the biggest surprises in the knock-out rounds, however, was the defeat of last year’s bronze medallist and top contender Egor Voskoboynikov (RUS). The 28-year old Russian powerhouse nailed the second-fastest time in the qualification and quarter final round, but had to pay tribute to a number of small mistakes in his semi final run. Canadian Joel Kowalski outpaddled Voskoboynikov by one-hundredth of a second.
“I am very disappointed, because I expected much more of myself”, Voskoboynikov says. “My first run was the best proof that I can win this race, but luck wasn’t on my side today. I will analyse my mistakes and come back next year to win.”
The event 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).
“I’m really happy about the race”, Newman says. “I only did small mistakes and it’s a river were you can do big mistakes and brush, so I had a good day. I’m not racing against people, I’m just trying to race against myself and get in that mode were I’m in the perfect flow with the river and today I’m happy to be first, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the way I paddled. That’s still a little bit frustrating, but it’s good. I mean it forces you to get better.”
Over 130 of the world’s finest whitewater, slalom and freestyle paddlers from no less than 25 different countries met up in the picturesque town of Oetz to compete for world championship honours on the legendary Wellerbrücke rapids, a section of the glacier-fed Ötztaler Ache River that is considered to be one of the most difficult whitewater sections on the planet.
The Wellerbrücke rapids 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.
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