The freestyle kayak World Cup event opened in Sort this year – with two great events, which brought back great memories of the classic event in 2014 there. This year’s World Cup was very successful for Zofia and I. Zofia took silver in the first event and gold in the second. I started to celebrate my 30th birthday pretty early winning gold in the first event and again in the second (on 7th July on my birthday). We had an amazing time and probably the best day of my life so far. The World Championships will be in Sort in 2019, so here are a couple things you need to know about the venue …

The Sort playhole is located on the Pallaresa River about 200 metres downstream of the bridge close to city centre. Access is pretty easy from both sides of the river. Above the freestyle feature is a natural kayak course with one small but really nice hole which reminds me a little bit of the one in Millau (France). The main hole is powerful and allows huge loops, Space Godzillas and McNasties. If you find the right spot you can fly really high. During my practice runs, I was doing some of my biggest loops and Space Godzillas. It’s also possible to do all the vertical moves like cartwheels, Lunar Orbits but it’s easy to flush. Overall, I like the spot but it can be challenging. During the competition, the water level was around forty to fifty cumecs and the left side was a little bit more flushy but really nice for big loops. Overall it’s challenging playspot but I like it.

World Cup #1

Zofia and I came to Sort on Sunday morning right after Natural Games. We only had a day to prepare for the competition so we spent many hours on the water trying to figure out how to do moves in that huge hole. We knew that won’t be easy but somehow we felt that it would be OK. Prelims were pretty hard for me. I advanced to semis in 7th place but my first run was a nightmare. The second run was a little bit better but still it was like a horror movie (but with happy end). Alan Ward made the cut with solid 4th place.

Zosia did a good job going to the next round with 2nd place. Anne Hübner and Lowri Davies also made the cut. In the juniors, Harry Price advanced to the semis. So all the Palm team paddlers made the cut and were looking forward to going to the finals and to fight for medals.

In semi-finals, I knew that I needed to improve my runs and I was super focused. I started to paddle much better. In the semi-final, I made the cut and advanced to the top five from 2nd place just behind Dane Jackson. I made in one run more points than in combined score in prelims. Zosia, Anne and Lowri all advanced to the ladies’ finals so before the final rides we knew that we will have at least one medal. Harry made the junior final too.

Squirt boating was an opening categories of final day (4th of July). Zosia and I competed in our freestyle boats and it was a good warm up before the K1 finals. I placed 2nd behind Alex Edwards who uses a proper squirt boat. Zosia took 5th place but our main goal were K1 finals. We already had one silver but it was just a beginning of day.

The junior women’s finals were completely dominated by Ottie Robinson-Shaw who took the gold in nice style. In the junior men’s, Harry Price made really good looking run of over 400 points (a very good result in that challenging feature) and took the bronze medal. Tom Dolle won the junior men’s with Thibaut Amalbert second – both from France. I was watching that finals and still considering different options for my ride plan. When the juniors finished I already known what I would like to show in my final.

The C1 finals were dominated by French paddlers who were trying to go as huge as possible. It was very exciting to see that awesome battle of Jan Yves Moustrou with his French teammates. Jan finally took the win in amazing style with a run over 500 points.

The K1 women’s finals were also very exciting. Everyone who saw me when I’m cheering on Zofia when she is competing knows that it is the most stressful part of the competition for me. Every well-executed move or any mistake gives me a lot of emotions.

Marlene Devilez made a huge score of 520 points in her first run and all ladies were trying to beat her score. She took gold but all the rest of the finalists were fighting ’til the last second of every run. Zofia made nice looking run combined with both sides McNasties, air loop and some Space Godzilla attempts and she took silver with solid 466 point run. Hitomi Takaku from Japan took bronze. Lowri took 4th place and Anne was 5th.

In the K1 men’s final, I was feeling pretty good after Zofia’s performance. I know she was so close to gold and I was happy with her score. She didn’t win but I knew that in the second World Cup event she would like to improve her runs. After my silver, Bartosz’s and Izabela’s bronzes it was another (4th) medal for Poland in that day.

After first men’s final run, Dane Jackson was in the lead with 800 points. In that moment, I had score over 400 points and I knew I needed to improve it. In the second run, I felt everything start to work in that perfect way. I did an entry move without flushing (bonus :p) then an air loop, both McNasties and Space Godzillas, and after that, I made the Lunar Orbit to the right side and a back loop and that was it!  After a couple minutes, I saw my name on the leading position with a 1,000 point run and that was enough to win. Dane took silver, Quim Fontane Maso took bronze.

That was my early birthday present! But there was still another World Cup starting in the next day :) I felt great and motivated. More about second World Cup event soon. Complete results of the World Cup #1 in Sort can be found over on the ICF website.