Champions Crowned at First Twin-Tip Slalom Racing Worlds after days 4 and 5
Words: Ian MacKinnon / Images: Alex Schwarz
The drama promised by Twin-Tip: Racing at the inaugural International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Worlds in China delivered in spades when several of the favourites were knocked off their perches.
With the return of Pingtan Island’s normally predictable winds that went largely missing for three days, both the men’s and women’s leaders found themselves pushed down the leaderboard but remain in the hunt going into the final day.
Only the leader of the Boys’ U-19 division, Tiger Tyson (ANT), strengthened his hold on the top spot with a gritty performance in the second elimination final when he seized an unlikely victory, passing arch-rival Cameron Maramenides (USA) on leg three in the short, sharp down-wind slalom race.
Yet the unpredictable nature of the TT:R slalom-boardercross format, which will be used at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina next year when kiteboarding makes its Olympic debut, could still throw up further surprises.
The event in Pingtan, part of the China International Kiteboarding Festival that is also hosting the IKA KiteFoil GoldCup simultaneously, has attracted 65 riders from 17 countries. Many of them are eager to hone their skills ahead Olympic qualifiers next year.
The twin-tip format of five short downwind slalom legs, with obstacles to be jumped introduced if conditions permit, was devised for ease of access for all kiters. Kiters in the Youth divisions are only allowed to use inflatable “tube” kites.
But in the 11kts to 13kts that blew up over the East China Sea just off Pingtan’s beach it was the leading men on their high-aspect foil kites who provided the excitement in their second elimination final.
France’s Julien Kerneur was taken out by his compatriot Theo de Ramecourt when they tangled, ending both their races. Kerneur was given redress and fifth spot, while de Ramecourt was disqualified for his troubles.
Asian Twin-Tip champion Narapichit “Yo” Pudla took the win to go top of the leaderboard overall—just. In doing so he knocked European TT:R champion Martin Dolenc off the top spot—just. In fact, the scores are so tight that the pair are equal on points, with Pudla just nosing it on count backs, locked with Germany’s Florian Gruber and France’s irrepressible Theo Lhostis.
The women’s fourth round was similarly incident packed. Russia’s Elena Kalinina controlled the race from the front, but behind, China’s Jingle Chen somehow pushed her way past two rivals from fourth position to second, leaving Alexia Fancelli (FRA) and MaryJane Gajisan (PHP) third and fourth.
Yet it was TT:R world ranked number one, Kirstyn O’Brien who came off worst. She finished the race fifth, pushing her down to third place overall just behind Kalinina and Chen respectively, who are equal on points.
In the Boys’ division of those who will be eligible for YOG in Buenos Aires next October, Tyson’s win over Maramenides, avenging a defeat at the European championships in Italy in July, was particularly sweet.“I just got past him at the end of third leg at the mark,” said Tyson, 15. “He had gone slightly too high and that left a gap on the inside where I could just get past.”
Day Five – Final Day
Germany’s Florian Gruber maintained his composure to see off challenges that could until the last race have derailed his bid for the inaugural International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R World Championship slalom title China.
In clinching victory on the final day of competition in Pingtan, Gruber made it back-to-back TT:R world titles after seizing the twin-tip course racing crown in Weifang, China, a year ago.
But to ensure victory in Pingtan on the fifth day of competition Gruber—who began the day equal top on points with three other riders—knew he could not afford to put a foot wrong with European champion Martin Dolenc (CRO) breathing down his neck. “I was defending my World title and it was fun,” said a delighted Gruber. “But right up until the last race I knew Martin Dolenc had a chance to win too, so it was good to beat him, especially after he won the Euros.
In the hotly-contested women’s division, 17-year-old local favourite, Jingle Chen (CHN), secured the World Championship title after a series of races races that saw the overall lead change hands constantly as the breeze freshened to a punchy 17kts. “I’m so happy that I could win here because I’m the local girl,” said Chen. “I know that the stronger winds are better for my style of racing. But, still, I was a bit nervous and excited beforehand, so it was great to come out on top.”
The championship on the East China Sea off Pingtan’s Beach was part of the China International Kiteboarding Festival that also hosted the third round of the 2017 IKA KiteFoil GoldCup being staged simultaneously.
The fast-emerging TT:R slalom-boardercross discipline of knock-out heats of eight riders is fast and furious. Riders race over five down-wind legs, jumping obstacles to spice things up, in mini-contests that last barely four minutes. The format, devised to ensure ease of access for the most riders using twin-tip boards and inflatable tube kites, will be used at the Youth Olympic Games next October in Argentina. In Pingtan it attracted 65 riders from 17 countries to the TT:R Worlds and the U-19 TT:R Youth Open, made up of those who will be eligible to compete in Buenos Aires.
In the Boys’ competition the rivalry was particularly intense in five hard-fought elimination rounds staged over three days, though in the end Tiger Tyson (ANT) took the top podium spot, just edging his training partner Cameron Maramenides (USA), and Thailand’s Sarun Rupchom.
In a tense final day’s races, the trio traded the top three spots,. But it was Tyson who kept his nerve seeing Maramenides first crash as he led the penultimate finals race, and then disqualified after he crossed the line early in the last race. “I’m really, really happy,” said Tyson, 15. “In the race where he crashed I was just behind him. We rounded the first and second marks cleanly, but he kept looking back. Then he just went flat on his face. In the last final I knew he [Maramenides] was over early, so I didn’t take any chances. By then I knew I could discard the score and couldn’t be beaten anyway.”
Gruber had no such margin for comfort in the Men’s title. A win by Dolenc in the final race would have given him the title. But the Croatian could only managed third faced with the Gruber’s superior pace, and ultimately took the second podium spot, with France’s Julien Kerneur just behind. “In that last race I had a good start, and on the first reach I was always winning,” said Gruber. “That was definitely the goal. Once you have that spot you’re out of trouble and behind the others have to take care as you’re in control. I’m super-happy with the back-to-back world titles here in China.”
Top five Men TT:R Open Worlds after five elimination rounds (two discards)
1 Florian Gruber (GER) 3pts
2 Martin Dolenc (CRO) 6pts
3 Julien Kerneur (FRA) 7pts
4 Theo Lhostis (FRA) 9pts
5 Narapichit “Yo” Pudla 10pts
Top three Women TT:R Open Worlds after ten rounds (three discards)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN) 11pts
2 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 16pts
3 Kirstyn O’Brien (USA) 19pts
Top three Boys’ TT:R Pingtan Youth Open after five elimination rounds (two discards)
1 Tiger Tyson (ANT) 3pts
2 Cameron Maramenides (USA) 5pts
3 Sarun Supchom (THA) 6pts