Day 1: Thursday – 5 October 2017: opening ceremony
Sun’s out, guns out! It’s getting busy on the race course. The water level dropped and everyone wants to get their last training laps done. I just went for a quick session in the morning and tried to relax a bit and dry my gear in the sun before going to the safety check (helmets and PFDs) and registration. As it was the tenth anniversary of the race, the evening kicked off with a ‘walk of nations’ parade through the town of Ötz. 175 competitors (143 males and 32 females) of 33 nations took part in the event. The Brits seemed to be the biggest nation competing, so they won the parade together with the American Athletes.
The mandatory race briefing and the welcome pasta party followed the parade. Former downriver world champion Uli Knittel who was once again doing a great job feeding all those hungry athletes during the event served the food.
Day 2: Friday – 6 October 2017: qualification
Qualification day means that all athletes have to do one mandatory training run to prove their confidence on the race course followed by two runs that will be combined for the final qualification result. The qualification course starts in the lower part of the final race course and contains the rapid called Minus One which was something in between a breaking wave and a hole as well as the Champions Killer drop before it continues on class 2 rapids. The fastest time of the men’s was 1:12:68 min by Antoine Launay from Portugal and the fastest time of the women’s was 1:17:79 min by Nouria Newman from France.
I had a good start in the competition and pulled out a sweet first run with 1:19:65 min, which put me in the second position. My second run wasn’t that fast but still fast enough to stay in second place after qualification. Team Palm’s Martina Wegman from the Netherlands went through to semi-finals as well in fourth position. In the afternoon, all paddlers who made it into the next round had to go for a practice lap on the final race course and do their interview for the finals on the next day. In the men’s competition, Team Palm’s one and only Bren Orton made it to the next round in 30th position, beaten by team paddler Ian Salvat in 29th position by 0.12 sec. Eddy Mead just got into quarter finals in 50th position.
Day 3: Saturday – 7 October 2017: Final Race day
The day started off with a mandatory training run again. This time on the final race course. Quarter finals and semi-finals were held in a head-to-head competition. In the men’s quarter finals, the 52nd from the qualification had to race against the leader of the qualification. Bren Orton had to race against former winner Gerd Serrasolses and simply kicked ass. Unluckily, he had to race against Dane Jackson in the semi-finals who just smashed it in that round with a new course record of 53:80 sec. Next one up was Eddy Mead who got kicked out by Michele Ramazza followed by Ian Salvat who was killing it in his quarter final run but unluckily got also kicked out by Michele Ramazza in semi-finals later that day. Next ones up were the top eight female paddlers having their semi-final head-to-head race. Martina Wegman was flying through the course nailing the second fastest time in the women’s semi-final. As my contender, Bety Brabcova from the Czech Republic did get injured during her mandatory training runs and I was the lucky one who only had to make it to the finish line to proceed to the next round.
Finals kicked off after the lunch break. Women went first. For me, it’s been a nerve-wracking waiting time. I had to go first and for the first time my seal launch didn’t work well. I got pushed to the right too early and had to fight to make it through that first little slot. Also in the TNT Cataract, I didn’t make it to the dry line so I lost my speed and got pushed towards the eddy on the left after Minus One. Not a good position for having a clean Champions Killer descent in the end. When I saw my time after the finish line I already knew that this will not be enough for taking home a medal. But as I was the first one to race I had to take place in the hot seat and it was fun to watch the other ladies racing their final runs. In the end, the unbeatable Nouria Newman won her first title followed by Team Palm’s Martina Wegman.
Unlucky for me, I took home fourth place beaten by Jennifer Chrimes from the UK by 0.44 sec. Marieke Vogt finished in fifth position. Kiwi Sam Sutton claimed his fourth title to win the the men’s compeition, followed by 2016 champion Aniol Serrasolses and 2009 champion Alexander Grimm.
Photos: Sickline, Jens Klatt, Daminao Benedetto, Christian Waldegger