VIDEO RECAP AND PHOTOS BY SETH ASHWORTH
Deep in the mountains of Argentina, the best of the best descended upon the town of San Juan hoping for a chance to achieve glory at the 2017 ICF Freestyle World Championships. While big air, huge moves, electrifying rides, and record-breaking performances have become the norm at this competition, surprise upsets in the senior freestyle kayak events made these championships one to remember.
For the past five years, two-time world champion Dane Jackson (USA) has dominated the top of the podium in the senior men’s freestyle kayak event. Coming into this competition, the reigning champion was considered the odds-on favorite to take home his third consecutive title. After winning every heat and posting the highest score through the first two rounds of the final, it looked as if Jackson would indeed continue his reign at the top, but Joaquim Fontane Maso had different plans. On his final run, the Spaniard laid down a spectacular ride to take the lead and secure the world championship title with a score of 1718.33 points. Meanwhile, Jackson’s best score of 1533.33 points would prove to be enough for the silver. Taking the bronze was Sebastien Devred (FRA).
Luckily for Jackson (pictured above), he was able to defend his crown and win his third world championship title in the men’s C-1 event. Rounding out the podium behind Jackson were Sebastien Devred in second and Lukas Cervinka of the Czech Republic in third.
In the senior women’s freestyle kayak competition, the biggest surprise came in the semifinal when defending world champion Emily Jackson (USA), pictured above, finished eighth. As a result, she missed the cut for the final, spoiling her chance at a title defense. With Jackson out of the picture, two-time freestyle world champion Claire O'Hara (GBR) was free of her main rival and able to complete her quest to win back her freestyle kayak world title. Including her squirt titles, this win ran O’Hara’s career title tally to 10.
The competition in this year’s junior freestyle categories also proved to be fierce. Sixteen-year-old Ottilie Robinson-Shaw (GBR) went to bed Friday night dreaming of winning a world title, and on Saturday it became reality when she won junior women's gold at her first attempt. Americans Sage Donnelly and Olivia McGinnis finished second and third, respectively (podium pictured below). French teenager Tom Dolle lived up to his lofty expectations, winning the world junior men’s title with an unbelievable 1718.33-point run in the final. Finishing behind him were Alex Walters and Harry Price of Great Britain.
The ageless Clay Wright (USA) put his squirt-boat skills on display for the world on his way to winning the world championship title. For more than 20 seconds, Wright disappeared from sight, leaving the crowd, the commentators, the TV audience to scan the river, wondering where and when he might finally pop up. At 50, Wright (pictured below) is still proving that he’s got a few tricks left up his sleeve.
Great Britain's Claire O'Hara has won her fifth ICF World Championship squirt title with a thrilling final run on the opening day of competition. Prior to winning the women’s freestyle, O'Hara's squirt victory marked her ninth overall World Championship title. Walking away with the silver was Hitomi Takaku of Japan with American Anna Bruno taking home bronze.
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-- Full event results
-- Olympic Channel broadcast of the 2017 ICF Freestyle World Championships
-- See Ashworth’s photo coverage of the championship on C&K’s Instagram feed
-- Coverage of the 2015 Freestyle Worlds on Canada's Ottawa River