Olympic Glory beckons in 2018 at the Y.O.G
The Youth Olympic Games will take place this summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and kiteboarding will be making its debut there in the form of the exciting TT:R twintip racing discipline. TT:R racing features exciting snowboard-slalom style downwind courses as opposed to the more classic course racing seen in sailing and foiling and our sport’s first Olympic hopefuls from all over the world have already begun qualifying for the games at trial events.
It’s been a tough battle for them to even reach this stage. To gain a place at the trials they have to have a World Sailing ranking, gained from placing well at meetings like the European TT:R Championships that took place last summer at Hang Loose Beach in Calabria, Italy.
If the first event earlier this month in Cabarete, where riders from the Americas region were the first to try out for an Olympic berth, was anything to go by the standard will be just as high in the other qualifiers and a number of countries in Europe and the U.S have had training programmes in place for a few years to develop their Olympic squads. France, Germany, Spain and Italy have been particularly proactive in Europe and there was a strong showing of young riders from the US and South America at the Cabarete event.
The U.K has been a little behind the curve in forming a squad but former GB Olympics team member Steph Bridge has changed that. Through fundraising events organised by Edgewatersports and Exe Kiteboarders and with the support of organisations and brands like the BKSA, the Armada Trust, Fat Face, North, F-One and Ozone / Max Trax, Steph and co have managed to fund and train a squad and the UK now has four riders ready for the European Qualifiers which take place next month in Dakhla, Western Sahara.
Tom Bridge, Ben Daffin, Eddie and Rachael Hooper have all made the British team that will be hoping to qualify in Dakhla and they’ll be up against stiff competition when they clash with the Europeans, many of whom are already well experienced in the TT:R discipline.
Of course, the British team isn’t short on talent and that’ll certainly count for something as what’s interesting about this emerging discipline is that it’s not necessarily the riders with big, well-funded organisations behind them that always have the edge.
Indeed, at the Americas Qualifier we saw riders from small nations like Antigua, Venezuela and Cabarete claim their spots in Buenos Aires ahead of riders from the U.S. With more upcoming qualifiers including much-anticipated trials in Asia, a region with a very high standard of young TT racers who’ve gained a lot of experience on the KTA TT circuit, it’s clear that the pool of talent that will showcase our sport to the Olympic community is going to be a strong one.
ANOTHER CHANCE TO QUALIFY
Riders who failed to gain a place at regional trials will have one more shot to qualify for the 2018 Youth Olympics at the 2018 TT:R Youth Slalom Worlds in Hainan, China, from May 3rd to 8th. It’ll be a tough event though, where highly capable riders like the USA’s Cameron Maraminedes who was just edged out by Antiguan rider Tiger Tyson last week in Cabarete will be battling for a chance to represent their country in Argentina.
Of course, if a pre-qualified rider wins in Hainan then it opens up the field even more as it allows the rider ranked below them to claim a spot at the games so it’ll all be to play for at the ‘last chance saloon’ in Hainan.
FULL OLYMPIC STATUS COMING SOON?
And, while the Y.O.G is sure to be an incredible display in itself, riders over the age of 18 have all the more reason to pay attention now as rumours that kite racing may feature at the Paris Olympics in 2024 continue to build.
It’s not clear whether foils or TTs could be the craft that carry kiters to Paris but, with a growing grass roots race scene in the form of the upcoming CRX Kite Race series (and others) as well as the well established international race scene, there’s plenty of scope for the current crop of foil and TT racers to start manoeuvring for position and racking up the World Sailing points before 2024.
Head to www.twintipracing.com to get an idea which riders you may be watching this summer at the Y.O.G!