Extra, Extra: Brazil Takes World Rafting Championships Crown

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Brazil Takes Overall Crown

With the start of the monsoons came the start of third and final event of the International Raft Federation’s World Rafting Championships, held on South Korea’s raging upper Naerinchon River. Taking full advantage of the rapidly rising water for the downriver event was the Czech Republic, followed by Russia in second and Japan in third, with just seconds separating the top boats on the raging 45-minute course. But it was Brazil finishing fifth who rode the cascading rapids to first place overall, following a first-place showing in sprint and a fifth in slalom for 783 overall points. “It is our dream to win the World Championships,” says Brazil captain Lucas Pauleno. “We’ve been training very hard for this all year, and if finally paid off.”

The Czech Republic ended up in second overall just two points behind with 781, followed by Japan in third with 778 points.
An errant rock in the downriver race sidetracked the New Zealand women from laying claim to the overall crown, with Czech taking first in the downriver event, followed closely by Canada and Slovakia. The downriver win moved Czech into the overall winner’s seat, retaining the title they wrestled away from four-time champion New Zealand at the 2005 Worlds in Ecuador. “It was a bit of bad luck,” says New Zealand captain Nikki Kelly, whose team now heads to China for an invitational rafting competition. “They passed us early and we could never regain the lead.”

The downriver was the highlight to the three-day event, with rains the night before bringing the river up more than a foot over the previous two days of competition. The precipitation allowed the race to be moved upstream to the notorious Upper Naerinchon, whose huge crashing waves tested the big water prowess of the teams from 30 countries on hand to compete in the event. “It was a great, great place to stage the final event,” says Race Director Mark Joffe. “We weren’t sure we’d be able to hold it there until the morning of the event, but it rose more than a foot during the course of day. The race run was quite a bit pushier that competitors’ practice runs.”

The event celebrated the 10th anniversary of the IRF, with more entrants than ever before. At the IRF’s annual meeting, board members voted on Bosnia to be the location for the next World Championships in 2009. “It’s great that so many countries came to Korea, and the Bosnia event should be even bigger and better,” says IRF President Rafael Gallo, thanking sponsors UniOne Communications, Inje County, Gangwon Province, and ESPN Asia.

Day 2 Slalom Coverage

The move between gates number 10 and 11 on Korea’s Naerinchon River proved the hardest for the 30 countries at day two’s slalom event of World Rafting Championships, with four flips and three wraps wreaking havoc on competitors’ runs. Nevertheless, it was Germany overcoming its bad luck from previous World Championships to command the top spot for the men, finishing nearly a second ahead of the slalom-oriented Czechs. “We were too nervous on our first run, with three touches,” says German Team Captain Max Remmele. “So we relaxed on the second run, and had a better line. But we’re all K-1 and C-1 slalom paddlers, and use powerful, long strokes, so slalom is our strong event.”

For the women, it was the Czech Republic besting New Zealand, marking a dynamic showdown for tomorrow’s downriver race. The Czechs now have a first- and third-place showing in slalom and sprint, respectively, for the overall lead with 537 points, with the Kiwis close on their heels with two second-place finishes for 528 points. “It comes down to the downriver event tomorrow,” says New Zealand Captain Nikki Kelly, whose team held the overall title for four years before the Czechs took it away in Ecuador in 2005. “Still, slalom is their strong point, so we’re psyched to have beaten them in this event.” For the men, the overall results are even closer. Germany and Brazil are tied with 507 points, followed by Japan with 462 and Slovakia with 453.

The course was more technical than other World Championship slalom events, demanding both precision and strength. “It was a deceiving course,” says Race Director Mark Joffe. “It wasn’t so much the gates that were tough, but what was between them. While a lot of teams had clean runs, which is different from many other World Championships, you had to have good control in order to go fast.”

For the U.S. teams, both out of Vail, Coo., it’s an uphill battle for a podium spot. The men finished 6th in sprint and 15th in slalom, while the women stormed to a fourth-place showing in slalom, bettering a non-qualifying run in the sprint. “We picked a different line in the sprint, and probably should have stayed with a safer line,” says women’s team captain Lisa Reeder, whose husbadn Mongo, captains the men’s team.

Day One Sprint Coverage

As the first day of World Rafting Championships action came to a close at the International Rafting Federation’s (IRF) 10th anniversary, held on Inje, Korea’s Naerinchon River, Brazil edged out Italy 2:38:21 to 2:41:72 for top honors for the men, and Canada out-paddled New Zealand 2:47:36 to 2:50:38 for the women after a heated head-to-head sprint event between a record 30 international countries.

“Sprint is our strong point, so we wanted a top finish,” says Brazil coach Jean Claude Razel, whose team picked up 300 points for the win. “It was a very long run and tiring—I was afraid we would tire out, but our paddlers were able to finish strong.” Adds Canada Women’s Team Captain Valerie Pilote: “We’ve worked hard on our power since the last World Championships, and we had a nice start and a good line and were able to keep to our plan. New Zealand is a very strong team to beat.”

There were a lot of strong teams to beat in the 10th anniversary of the IRF, with more entrants than ever before. “It’s great to see so many countries here,” says IRF President Rafael Gallo. “A lot of new countries like Japan, Argentina, Serbia, and Indonesia are giving the traditional powerhouses a run for their money.” Indeed, Japan used the low water levels to surge to a semi-finals showing, with Indonesia making it into the top 16 after the Time Trials.
Local organizers ensured the event received the fanfare it deserves with an Olympic-style Opening Ceremony celebration at the Inje soccer stadium, complete with fireworks, folk dancers and Korea’s top tae kwondo demonstration. With sponsorship from UniOne Communications, Inje County and the Gangwon Province, the event has 20 cameras on hand from ESPN Asia to televise the event worldwide, wireless solar-powered speakers lining the course for spectators and a remote-controlled blimp flying a camera over the event site.
For the competitors, however, it was all business, adapting strategies to take advantage of the technical, low flows. “There are always winners a losers, and one tiny error is all it took to separate them on this course,” says Gallo, adding that rains are forecasted to descend upon the area to bring river levels up for the slalom and downriver events the next two days.

For complete results and times, visit www.2007wrc.com

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