This week saw Europe´s best freestyle paddles take to the water in Ourense, Spain to battle for the title of European Champion 2008. The wave had recieved a lot of abuse prior to the event, but once levels were right and kept stable it was a nice feature, if lacking a little speed for the more dynamic moves (unless you are David Bainbridge).
Setting up for the backstab on the slow shoulder Photo: Peter Isaacs
For me, it was the first time I would be going into an International event as “defending champion” which I guess was a little weird. I made it through both the heats and the semi-finals comfortably placed in 3rd. After the semi-finals, I had been inspired by Tom Turner´s huge airloops on the surfer´s left and got on to try them myself (prior to seeing him nail them with such ease I had been looping on the right). I was? soon feeling the thwack of the green water? hitting my hull as I retained loops more? reliably than I´d seen any other females, even Nina (SLO)? who´d scored one in both heats and semis.?
Tom Turner getting some air (and teaching me an important lesson about the wave)
The finals were done in? a knockout style (i.e. each paddler takes one ride and the lowest scoring is eliminated). My practice ride went perfectly and I got every move I wanted? including backstab and loop… but? when it came to my ride I caught an edge and flushed? after only 10 seconds and the spin, clean-spin combo I´d scored? was never going to be enough to get me through to the next round with the high standard of the other Ladies sat in the eddy!
I cursed as I capsized, took a deep breath as I rolled up and by the time I made it up the eddy was over it. It´s a knockout final and that happens. You win some, you lose some. Cést la Vie. My practice ride showed me that I was good enough to win and for the first time in my life I actually felt like a contendor for “best in Europe”.? When I won last time, I somehow didn´t believe that the medal around my neck actually qualified me as “the best”, yet despite what is on the results board this time, I am? far more proud of my level of paddling. I paddle for myself and yesterday I? had something to be proud of.
Deep in thought before the finals Photo: Peter Isaacs
Perhaps if it wasn´t a knockout format, the results would be different and I am very happy to see that it is the last time finals will be done in that way at an international competition. The new ICF? rules where each competitor takes 3 rides and their best ride counts,? are far more likely to ensure a true represntation of? a paddler´s ability without the luck element of knockouts.
All that said, I´m stoaked that it was another Brit that took the ladies title this time and for Fiona Jarvie it´s been a long time coming, so congrats to her!
Fiona Jarvie on her way to Gold
As for the rest of the event, the Brits did us proud on and off the water. We had 13 people in the finals and took 7 medals, including 3 gold!
The British Freestyle Team 2008
British results that I can remember (sorry if I miss you, just want to make sure the ones I state are correct!):
1st Flea Jarvie
5th Lowri Davies
8th Jenny Chrimes
7th Alan Ward
19th James Bebbington
1st Dave Bainbridge (totally amazing aerial clean back panams in the final!)
3rd Joe Bradley
5th Tom Turner
10th Seb Allinson
2nd Poppy Layton
4th Islay Crosby
1st James Reeves
2nd Pete Cornes
3rd Claire O´Hara
4th Emma Rumican
6th Mike Scott
5th Paul King
Joe Bradley styling his way to a bronze medal (and tears of pride? on the podium:-) )
Off the water, the support this year was awesome from family and friends of all involved? – throughout everyone´s competitions, every day, through scorching heat and occasional rain! But the hardest work put in for us has to be from the managing and coaching team, who give up their annual leave to sort out all manner of stressy? issues for us so that we can concentrate on the competition. Absolutely massive thanks to Pete Catterall, ´Disco Dave´ Newport, Ross Montandon, Terry Best and? Ben White. Also, head judge Sneaky Pete and all the judges, time keepers, commentators and organisors, without whom we´d have no event.
GB Team coaches in action
Lastly, I´d like to thank everyone who has helped me to attend this Europeans. My family, Tom and my friends for their support in the lead up to the event. And of course my sponsors who have made it all possible: Plain Lazy, Netcase, Palm Equipment, Square Rock, Performance Kayaks and the WCA.
I´ve put up a few of the photos I managed to take between everything? I was doing. Click here!? More will appear online soon and in all the kayaking? magazines over the next few months.
And now, back to France…