Temperatures are cooling off in the northern hemisphere, but the atmosphere in Austria is just starting to heat up as athletes prepare for the 2015 adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championships.
During the first weekend in October, all eyes of the international kayaking community will be on Austria’s Ötztal River when 150 of the world’s best whitewater paddlers will compete for the crown at the eighth-annual Sickline showdown. Many of the world's best kayakers fail even to qualify for each Sickline, and the Class V main race course is a force to be reckoned with.
We caught up with David Spiegel, C&K contributor and competitor in the 2014 Sickline race, to get his take what to watch out for in the men's and women's divisions this year. Here’s what he had to say:
Last year, 26-year old Joe Morley from Leeds in Great Britain out-paddled a field full of the best kayakers in the world in his final run, claiming the second Sickline title of his career. In 2013, Morley had surprised the kayaking community, when he defeated the seemingly unbeatable 3-time adidas Sickline World Champion Sam Sutton from New Zealand.
Morley has won two years in a row, but he will face a horde of fierce competitors who are completely capable of preventing him from walking away with the hat-trick.
Gerd Serrasolses (ESP) came in 4th in 2014. Except for his final run, he was the most dominant racer in last year's race and has spent 2015 putting up an impressive series of wins all across the extreme racing circuit. The 2015 selection for Canoe & Kayak‘s Male Paddler of the Year award, Serrasolses is, by far, my pick as the most likely racer to beat Morley and claim the title.
Have you ever heard of Mike Dawson (NZL)? If not, you will soon. He took second place at Sickline last year and is at the top of the game in slalom right now.
Fellow Kiwis Sam and Jamie Sutton are both contenders as well. Sam won three Sicklines in a row, and his brother Jaime looks just as fast these days.
In race that is primarily filled with Europeans, it is nice to see a new American signed up. Rush Sturges (USA) is stepping into Sickline the ring for the first time. The American veteran is a definite factor in every race that he enters. I am very interested to see how he measures up against the European competition.
Dane Jackson (USA) is fresh from winning a double-gold at the ICF Freestyle World Championships and you can be sure that he wants to add another world title to his resume.
Thilo Schmitt (GER) won the first Sickline race and has been inside of the finals every year that he has competed. Don't count him out.
Is there a potential dark horse this year? My pick would be Alec Vorhees (USA). He's one of the youngest competitors, but his results at the Little White Salmon Race and North Fork Championships show that he is ready for the big time.
The five fastest ladies in the qualification rounds battle it out on the Wellerbrücke rapids to become the adidas Sickline Queen. 23-year-old Nouria Newman (FRA), known as the best female extreme paddler in the world, will return to defend her title, after dominating the women's field last year. She won ahead of Toni George (NZL) and of Martina Wegman (NED).
Nouria's performance last year was miles away from her competition. This year, however, Newman will face a new challenger. Fresh from the Slalom World Championships in Great Britain is Mariann Saeter (NOR) who will compete at the Sickline for her first time. Can the Norwegian veteran take down Nouria?
Sickline is one of the most competitive whitewater races in the world, and the head-to-head format ensures that absolutely anything is possible when the top racers finish fractions of a second apart (thankfully the laser timing system is precise). The smallest of mistakes spell disaster on this course. Tune in to watch all the action live starting on October 2-3, 2015. As in previous years, kayaking legend Ben Brown (NZL) will commentate the livestream.
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