SOL SETS CRUSHING STANDARD IN THE FINAL
Current discipline: Freestyle
Judging Criteria: Pure freestyle (4 tricks from 4 different trick families count from 7 attempts. Riders take turns to perform one trick in a minute)
Format: Women’s dingle elimination.
Wind: 20+ knots for the early heats, ramped up to 25 – 30 for the semis and final.
Report: Jim Gaunt
Photos: Ydwer van der Heide
Video: Oliver Umpierre
After a challenging five hours of competition, Mikaili Sol emerged triumphant here at the GKA Kite World Cup Dakhla, ahead of her close competitor for the title, Bruna Kajiya, who finished in second (while Pippa van Iersel only made the semi-finals).
Brazilians Sol and Kajiya laid down serious markers in round one – against the fleet, but also against each other. Both 3 x World Champions and both gunning for glory this year. Mikaili the current and back-to-back champion and marginal leader on this tour; while having come back from injury, Bruna has been getting cleaner and stronger all season.
Once again we saw Mikaili Sol have a nervy semi-final en-route to the final, but this time Bruna did, too (unlike Mauritius). So this was a much anticipated final that also featured well deserved placings of Paula Novotna and Claudia Leon – a veteran who is riding as consistently as we’ve ever seen; and the season’s newest hotshot.
M Sol (BRA) / P Novotna (CZE) / B Kajiya (BRA) / C Leon (ESP)
Conditions remained strong here, but perhaps just a bit steadier and somewhat lighter than the difficult semis. The women were still riding 6 and 7m kites.
Once again, as we saw at the last event in Mauritius, after storming her first round and then delivering a below par performance to squeak through the semi-finals with just three scoring tricks, Mikaili Sol was seeded lowest for the final, which meant that she had the supposed disadvantage of taking her tricks first in rotation.
However, as she managed to do in Mauritius, it was the solid side of Mikaili that came out of the blocks, and she started the heat with a 8.23 points for a superb grabbed slim. She led from trick one and never looked back. Novotna was up next and couldn’t ride out of a fast 313 landing while Kajiya then missed an S1 attempt. Leon gritted her teeth and held on tightly to a hard backside 313 landing and got good 6 point score.
On her second trick, once again Mikaili threw her manoeuvre within the first ten seconds of her allowed minute, just yards from the beach. She’d obviously seen that the water was a bit flatter there, and somehow she seems to need virtually no trick set-up time to stabilise herself.
Bruna picked up a 5.67 for an s-bend to blind before a stunning slim chance gifted her the highest trick score of the heat with 8.77 points. She popped hard and travelled a great distance. Her kite remained perfectly parked in these windy conditions while she visibly strained to make the pass, held on with her fingertips as the kite pulled her forward with force and somehow she rode out the landing. That was a valiant move and proof of her freestyle stature – male or female. She looked relieved to grab the chicken-loop to release the pressure and hook back in. She was back within touching distance of Mikaili at the top.
Bruna was barely back on the beach though before the younger Brazilian, Sol, turned the screw on the heat. A tidy backside 313 was followed by a backmobe 5 as good as any man would do; kite super low and body whipping round. Tough in these conditions and scored 7.87.
As she was first in the rotation, Mikaili also took her final trick first and saved her best for last, just to drive home the win, with a big 315, scoring 8.5 points and powering her over the 30 point mark, to finish on 31.4.
Bruna had looked the smoothest rider in the field at the start of the day, but as the wind picked up just couldn’t hang on to Mikaili’s coat tails in the finals. Bruna only successfully landed three scoring tricks, but regardless was still more than a full trick score behind Mikaili, so a perfect ten wouldn’t have changed the result by the end.
Novotna won the battle for the final podium spot through her considerably greater experience than the young Spaniard Leon. Paula landed four tricks while Claudia only managed to stick two – although in reality she was super close to all those crashed scores on her heat card…
So it’s a top two finish for the top two title contenders!
Winner: Mikaili Sol (BRA): 31.4 points
2 Bruna Kajiya (BRA): 20.57
3 Paula Novotna (CZE): 20.4
4 Claudia Leon (ESP): 11.2
Watch the video highlights:
Elsewhere, Pippa van Iersel will be kicking herself particularly hard. She was joint second coming into this event alongside Bruna and had the opportunity to reach the final, needing to only land an easy, low scoring trick on her last attempt and crashed. Rita Arnaus and Therese Taabbel suffered similar fates. You may remember that Rita stormed to second place on the podium in Mauritius. She looked good early on today, but faded in the semi final.
There’s just one event to go this season in Brazil next month and the pressure is telling! Find their heat notes here.