|Hooboy, have we been waiting a long time to write that headline.
The ability to came from Dane Jackson, who won this year’s ICF freestyle kayak world championships in Sort, Spain, regaining the crown he lost in 2017. Jackson is now a three-time champion, one shy of his father, Eric Jackson, with his previous wins in 2013 and 2015.
Two years ago Jackson watched on as Spain’s Joaquim Fontane snatched away his world crown with a massive final round ride. On Saturday Fontane was not able to repeat the heroics in front of his noisy home crowd, having to settle for silver behind the now three-time world champion.
“It was a super-sick final, all these guys were paddling so well, and it’s always such a challenge, because in three rides, anything can happen,” Jackson says.
He was also at the same venue where Eric had won in 2001.
“Until I saw the old videos, it didn’t really hit me that my dad had won here 18 years ago, and now I get to win one in the exact same place, the same arena,” he says.
“I’m so fired up. I just hoped this year for a good time, to hang out with good friends all over the world, but to be able to come out on top feels good.”
Under a dramatic finals night under the lights, Jackson sealed the gold with his first ride of the evening, picking up 1406.67 points which could not be topped. Defending champion Fontane took silver with 1260 points, while France’s Sebastien Devred repeated his result of two years ago to win silver with 1211.67 points.
For the women, Japan’s Hitomi Takaku broke through for her first world title. Two years earlier in San Juan, Argentina, Takaku finished third and Jackson had to settle for silver, but the pair were leaving nothing to chance on Saturday night.
Takaku threw down a score of 646.67 on her second of three rides, which turned out to be more than enough to clinch the title.
“This was the best day of my life,” Takaku says. “It was so hard under the lights, because not always my moves were working.”
France’s Marlene Devillez took the silver with 570 points, a repeat of her result from Argentina, while Poland’s Zofia Tula improved one place to take the bronze with 553.33 points.
As with Dane, Emily Jackson, who also earned a trip to the finals, was excited to compete where her father had won. “It’s pretty cool that Dane and I got to compete in the finals that my dad won in 2001,” she says.
The 2021 ICF Freestyle World Championships will be held in Nottingham, Great Britain.
For the Juniors,two years after causing a major boilover at the 2017 world championships, Great Britain’s Ottilie Robinson-Shaw proved once again she is the best junior female paddler on the planet with a convincing gold medal performance in Sort.
“I think I had more confidence in myself, and I think that’s what I lacked in Argentina,” Robinson-Shaw says.
“I didn’t think I could do it until the last night, and then it happened. But until that moment when I believed, it wasn’t going to happen.”
Robinson-Shaw, 17, recorded 536.67 on her first ride in the final, with USA’s Olivia McGinnis taking the silver with 340. Another American, Katie Fankhouser, took the bronze with 336.67.
For the Junior Men, Mason Hargrove, 16, did not know what to expect when he arrived in Sort for his first ever international competition, but he showed he belongs with the best with a commanding gold-medal performance in the men’s junior final.
Hargrove posted a massive 960 points on his first ride, a score that proved enough for the title.
“I’m so stoked, I just came out here to have fun, and I got the win,” Hargrove says.
“I was a little kid watching the sport, watching Dane throw down big rides, and I knew I wanted to do that one day. With a bunch of hard work I got here, I’m so happy to have got the win.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking, but I’m just so happy for my friends, even if they had beaten me.”
Fellow American Dally Kellogg took the silver with 810 points, while Jack Newland one Australia’s first-ever junior freestyle medal, finishing third with 660 points.