Well, the International Canoe Federation promised, and it delivered on a stand up paddling world championships for the record books.
More than 200 of the world’s top suppers from 42 countries showed up at Qingdao for the biggest world championships ever held outside of Europe.
“We knew there was a hunger among athletes for the ICF to put on a great event, and they fully supported our decision to come to China,” said ICF SUP advisory committee chairman, Rami Zur.“The atmosphere was fantastic, the venue great and our Chinese hosts were very enthusiastic and made sure everything was in place.”
In place on his board was Connor Baxter of the U.S., who posted the fastest ever time for a men’s 200 meter sprintin the semi-finals, en route to winning the event.
For the women, France’s Olivia Piana won the women’s gold at her first ever sprint event.
Baxter shocked even himself with his speed in the final, officially stopping the clock at an incredible 46.38 seconds – the first athlete to ever go under the 47 second mark. “It felt fast, for sure,” Baxter said. “The boys and all of us were pushing hard. I felt my arms cramping and I felt the speed was going good, but to say 46? No I did not think I was going that fast. To beat that today, it’s not just a great accomplishment, but to end up in first place is great. I’m really stoked.”
Italy’s Claudio Nika and Brazil’s Arthur Santacreu both posted times that would have won them gold on nearly any other day this year, but instead had to settle for silver and bronze behind the blonde bazooka from America.
“These races are pretty intense,” Baxter said. “Those short bursts, where it’s long burners and feel so bad in the moment. Like my trainer always says, if you’re not feeling like you’re about to throw up, you’re not going hard enough.”
Piana was also surprised by her finish. “I’d never done a sprint race before, this was the first one of my life,” Piana said. “It’s nice to discover this format, and it’s an even bigger surprise to win it. I was so happy to make the final, and then get the win.”
Piana also secured the silver in the long race on Friday, behind Germany’s Sonni Honscheid.
“Sometimes I feel stronger when I race the day before,” she said. “All the girls had raced the distance and were racing again, but I have this feeling that when I race and then race again, I feel pretty good. I just enjoyed the moment and did my best.”
Brazil’s Jessika Souza took the silver, with South Africa’s Tarryn King finishing in third position.
Piana followed up her silver medal in the long race and surprise gold in the sprint with an impressive win in the women’s technical race on Sunday, confirming her status as the paddler of the world championships.
“I felt so tired after my win the day before,” Piana said, “so I was surprised again to fly around the water, I was like ‘wow, what’s happened today’. It’s an historic event and I am so happy to be a part of it.”
Spain’s Susak Molinero took the silver, and USA’s Fiona Wylde took the bronze.
USA’s Baxter finished second in the Technical event behind Austalia’s Lincoln Dews, with fellow Australian Ty Judson taking third position.
Japan finished the ICF SUP world championships as the most successful nation, winning seven gold medals and 11 overall, with Australia finishing with four gold and five overall. Host nation China finished third on the medal table with two gold and a total of 15 medals.
In other results, Germany’s Hannah Krah won the junior women’s sprint title, while Japan’s Kei Komatsuyama turned the tables on his teammate, Rai Taguchi, in the junior men’s final.
There was also gold for Japan through Takayo Yokoyama in the women’s 40+, while Spain’s Ivan Pena became the first ICF men’s 40+ world champion. China’s Jie Tao took the women’s 50+ crown, while five-time Olympian Martin Marinov of Australia won the men’s 50+ race.
Photo courtesy ICF/Georgia Schofield
SPRINT OPEN WOMEN
- PIANA Olivia (FRA) 00:58.62
- SOUZA Jessika (BRA) 00:59.17
- KING Tarryn (RSA) 00:59.84
SPRINT OPEN MEN
- BAXTER Connor (USA) 00:46.38
- NIKA Claudio (ITA) 00:47.26
- SANTACREU Arthur (BRA)