We’ve just wrapped up an historic few days of racing here at the inaugural ICF SUP World Championships in China. There will be plenty of things said about this event over the coming days and weeks, but for now here’s a quick recap of the final day’s action along with full results from the epic Beach Race events.
You can also scroll down to watch a full replay of the finals.
Here are the major stories from Sunday’s competition. That was one seriously exciting day of racing…
LINCOLN DEWS BACK ON TOP
Australia’s Lincoln Dews has reconfirmed his status as one of the very best after holding off 23 world-class athletes to win gold and earn the title of ICF Beach Race World Champion on the third and final day of racing here in China.
Lincoln won the headline event after an epic battle with Connor Baxter and Ty Judson around the four-lap, five-kilometre course that finished on the golden sands of Qingdao’s city beach.
With the morning quarters and semis whittling the field down to a couple of dozen, there was little room for error in a tight, fast-paced final. Lincoln went out hard from the start, capturing the ‘Golden Buoy’ alongside good friend Kenny Kaneko before settling into a strong pace that saw him sitting first or second the entire race.
Connor Baxter made the most of a chaotic first buoy turn that saw several paddlers get held up — including early leader Michael Booth who got knocked into the water and pushed back into the peleton. Connor used the same sprint technique that saw him post a record time in yesterday’s 200m event to quickly chase down Lincoln and turn it into a two-horse race.
But they would soon be joined by another contender: Ty Judson started the second lap leading a chase group of eight that was trying to close the gap on the two leaders, but the Aussie soon ditched his hangers-on and sprinted across the void to join Connor and Lincoln in a three-man fight for the gold medal.
The next three laps were a nail-biting 22 minutes as Daniel Hasulyo, Michael Booth and Kenny Kaneko gave everything they had to close the gap on the front three. But the trio refused to relinquish their virtual medals.
With Lincoln setting a murderous pace, Connor couldn’t find a way past and Ty looked like he might fade. But every time Daniel or Boothy surged the Aussie youngster found yet another gear and kept held his nerve to maintain the advantage.
Coming into the final lap, and with an excited crowd of fellow athletes, support teams and curious locals on the beach roaring in support alongside the thousands of virtual spectators on the live stream, Lincoln refused to let Connor past while Ty refused to give up his grip on a podium spot.
In a replay of the 2017 PPGs final, it came down to a sprint from the final buoy back to the beach with Lincoln and Connor both milking phantom bumps to their advantage and gliding to the sand less than a board length apart.
OLIVIA PIANA CLAIMS SECOND GOLD
Olivia Piana has shown yet again why she’s considered one of the very best athletes in the sport, claiming gold in the beach race to cap off a near-flawless three days of racing that saw her also collect a gold in the sprints along with a silver in Friday’s marathon.
The Frenchwoman took control of the women’s gold medal showdown from the Golden Buoy on lap one and never looked back, breaking everyone in the field except her good friend Susak Molinero.
Susak managed to hold pace with the powerhouse number one as the other women could only look up and settle into a battle for bronze. Representing Team Spain, Susak had been the heartbreak story of the first two days, finishing fourth in both the distance and sprint events to narrowly miss out on any kind of medal.
“I’ve won two chocolate medals, I want a real one!” Susak told me earlier this morning, clearly fired up to go at least one spot better than Friday and Saturday. She didn’t just go one spot better, Susak made it two as she and Olivia shut the virtual door on the rest of the field as early as the second of four laps.
The Spaniard fought bravely for the gold but couldn’t keep pace with Olivia, who is now clearly the best all-round athlete in the world of women’s stand up paddling.
But while Olivia and Susak put on a show out front, the closest battle was the fight for bronze. Tarryn King from South Africa, Caterina Stenta from Italy and Brazilian duo Jessika de Souza and Lena Ribeiro all threw their hat in the ring in the hunt for the last medal of the women’s world championships, but in the end it was only Fiona Wylde and Japanese dark horse Rika Okuaki who remained in contention.
Rika stunned the highly-fancied American on the third lap by pulling away in bumpy ocean conditions that normally suit Fiona. The quiet, humble athlete from the Japanese island of Zamami looked set for a major upset – similar to what she almost pulled off in Friday’s marathon – but Fiona’s experience and strength eventually shone through as she first closed the gap then pulled away from Rika on an exciting fourth and final lap.
Out front it was all Olivia though, with the freshly-minted sprint world champion paddling home to win in a time of ______.
Though while Olivia was stoked to claim another title, Susak was probably the happiest paddler in the entire event — the disappointment of two near misses melted away as she crossed the line all smiles to collect a well-earned silver medal.
“IS JAPAN THE NEW FRANCE?”
That was a question we threw out there during the finals as Team Japan proceeded to collect an incredible seven gold medals thanks to their unbeatable master woman Takayo Yokoyama – who claimed her third gold in today’s beach race – and their future world champions Rai Taguchi and Kei Komatsuyama.
Rai and Kei once again finished with gold and silver, matching the result from Friday’s distance race after 16-year-old Rai pulled away from his 17-year-old compatriot to claim the ICF Junior Men’s Beach Race World Title with an impressive display of skill and speed.
Kei finishes with two silvers and a gold, while Rai goes home with two golds and a silver in what has been a massive few days for the Japanese contingent. With Rika and Kenny finishing top six in both the men’s and women’s marathons and beach races, the overall strength of Team Japan is starting to match one of the other powerhouse nations, Team France (who were absent from this event bar Olivia).
The Japanese don’t yet have the all-round strength of the Aussies and Americans, but they aren’t far off. And with the likes of Rai, Kei and Miu leading the way for the next generation, look out.
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Some of the most exciting racing the past few days has come from the under-18 men and women. The Japanese boys absolutely dominated the major medals, but there were great performances from future world champions in every race.
Canada’s Jack Seymour once again gave Rai and Kei the biggest challenge in this afternoon’s Beach Race final, claiming his second bronze in a mirrow of the podium from the marathon.
The Junior Women gave us an equally exciting race after Brianna Orams flipped the result from Friday’s 12km contest against Japan’s Miu Kogai. Once again it was a tight finish, and while the field was relatively small we once again saw that the future of women’s paddling is bright.
CHINA COULD BE A POWERHOUSE ONE DAY
While they still lack the polish of the major stand up paddling nations, China is very quickly moving up the order.
Their juniors showed this week that over the coming few years, Team China could potentially become a serious threat, while the fact that so much money was invested into this event shows how much potential the sport has in this country. And if SUP ever got in the Olympics, things here would go seriously next level.
There have been four international races in China over the past 12 months while the local crew I spoke to said at least 50 domestic races have been held in 2019.
I get the feeling we’ll be back in China before too long…
MASTERS GET THEIR SPOTLIGHT
One of the best innovations the ICF Worlds has brought us is the masters divisions, with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to both 40+ and 50+ men and women in every discipline.
The fields were relatively small and shallow in this first year, but I for one hope the past few days has inspired more of the veteran international athletes to compete at next year’s ICF Worlds.
This could become one of the most significant parts of the event over the next few years because it recognises the age groups that probably make up more than half of our sport’s participants.
Lena Ribeiro’s husband and coach Americo Pinheiro threw his hat in the ring and walked away with the Masters 40+ Beach Race title, while seven-time Olympian Marty Marinov from Australia mirrored his gold in the sprints with victory in the 50+ men. It’s been very cool to see all the athletes from the canoe world cross over into SUP this week and show how far our sport can potentially reach in the “new frontiers”.
One of Southern California’s finest, Kristin Thomas, took out the 50+ women’s title, while Takayo Yokoyama gave Japan their seventh gold in the 40+ division.
THE LIVE STREAM WENT NEXT-LEVEL
While I’d love to claim credit for the world-class live stream that you’ve been able to enjoy over the past 72 hours, I had the easiest job of anyone in the broadcast team. Myself and co-commentator Kelly Margetts were like kids in a candy store as the ICF and Chinese Canoe Association invested big bucks in an epic production that clearly elevated the coverage of our sport to a whole new level.
What you saw on the screen was just the tip of the iceberg — there were dozens and dozens of technical crew working with millions of dollars worth of TV-grade equipment to make this happen. We had all-time record numbers tune in during Friday’s marathon.
The overwhelming number of positive comments and messages we’ve received over the past three days highlight just how much potential our sport has when it’s presented the right way. It was also extremely encouraging to hear from the canoe paddlers who said their fellow athletes watching back home had been inspired to give stand up paddling a try after watching and listening to the races here in Qingdao.
FINAL DAY RESULTS
click here for the full results from all races and divisions
OPEN MEN: BEACH RACE FINAL
OPEN WOMEN: BEACH RACE FINAL
JUNIOR WOMEN: BEACH RACE FINAL
JUNIOR MEN: BEACH RACE FINAL
JUNIOR MEN: BEACH RACE FINAL
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Click here for the full results from all races and divisions
FULL REPLAY: BEACH RACE FINALS