Waiting in the sign in eddy above the feature I was excited, if not a little nervous. I had spent the last week and a half training at this site to get the maximum possible points from my move list and it was to come down to the 90 seconds of paddling that I was about to do.
I dropped down into the bottom eddy once the previous heat had cleared. Due to the big wall on river left, the crowd of over 1000 on river right and the massive concert speakers above the feature the noise was intense. I tried not to focus too much on the noise or the big screen and concentrated on staying relaxed. I find that by cheering on the other competitors and encouraging others I paddle the best myself. Once Sebastien's 45 seconds were over and the judges had totalled up the scores it was my go.
I can't really remember much about my rides... I was in doing mode... not thinking, just doing. I nailed my loop and a right cartwheel but then unfortunately flushed. My McNasty didn't quite go so my first ride finished with a score of 103 points. The second ride was similar, a loop then a flush. The second time however with about a second to spare I threw the McNasty and hit it clean resulting in a better score of 250 points. Immediately knew that I had finished 11th after my ride due to the "megatron" big screen, I didn't know how close it was going to be however. Jez from Australia in 10th place went through to the semis only 13 points ahead.
Considering this is my first world championships that I have competed in I am super happy with my performance, I may have hit much better rides in training but the experience of repeating the same training routine for a week then the mental stresses with waiting around is going to be extremely valuable for future competitions. The preparation that I did on the day of competing is also valuable. Each time that I do a competition such as this I gain valuable information about how best I perform, this can be fed into the preparation for next time.
In the featureDespite being knocked out of the competition, the day was by no means over. The women's heats followed ours. Clare O'Hara put in another brilliant performance to finish top of the women's prelims and Islay Crosbie also got through.
The men's quarter finals also took place. We had strong British interest in the event as all 6 of our paddlers had made it through to the top 20 out of 71. The standard of competition was extremely high. With the scores in the top 5 it could of been a final. Both Bren Orton and Alan Ward of GB made it through to the semis in 8th and 9th place respectively. Dane Jackson topped the leader board again with a combined score of 3,106.. the first 3000 point combined 2 ride competition score that I am aware of. Dane did this by throwing all of his moves clean and huge... his McNastys were something special to watch (easily head dry). My ride of the day however goes to Mathieu Dumoulin of France. He is the cartwheel specialist and linked perfectly tricky whus, lunar orbits and phonix monkeys. He also had time to throw a few massive McNastys and Space Godzillas to finish with a combined score of 2,616 (2nd Place) but only 40 points behind Dane's best ride. A round up of the day is linked below.
Day 4 Round Up - Sportscene
The next big event to follow was the 8 Ball Race. 8 Ball Races are known for their carnage and tendency to knock teeth out... and this one was no exception! 50 paddlers had chosen to compete in this mad race where the aim is to get to the bottom of the course as quickly as possible... sounds simple? It would be if it were not for the "8 Balls"... 8 heavily padded paddlers intent on causing destruction to boat, body and ego waiting downstream. The briefing went something like this "We will try to hurt you. If you think you can hurt us, you are wrong. We will aim to ram you, flip you over and ride your boat down through the feature until you swim". The only rules for at least some margin of safety is that hands must remain on the paddles at all times and you can not hit someone in the face with a paddle... apart from that everything goes. Chief 8 Ball Ken Hoeve (the guy who invented the game) did give us one bit of advice... do not end up heading down first place!
There were 5 heats of 10 paddlers with the top two from each going through to the final round. A brand new creek boat was on offer so everyone was keen to win, if not a little apprehensive after seeing the carnage of the first heat! Sitting on the start line of heat 4 I was more nervous than for my freestyle run earlier in the day. 3, 2, 1... Go! All doubts were forgotten and 10 crazy paddlers charged off downstream with two objectives; get to the finish line first and do not end up as an 8 Ball's dinner!
Having seen an 8 Ball waiting near the top of the course I decided to take the far line under the first bridge, thus avoiding the first bout of carnage. This was a slightly longer line but did mean that I was in a strong position (3rd ish) coming down into the main channel of damage. Ahead of me I saw a Green Boat take out 1st place by ramming him into the bank. Paddlers to my left were being taken out and 2nd Place got taken out by another 8 Ball who would have gone for me otherwise. This allowed a clean sprint to the finish line through the eddy in a relatively clean race for me. Next round... the final.
Tactics for the final were pretty much the same, avoid the first, let a few people go ahead and slip through to take the win. Despite having to boof over a few playboats who had ended up 8 Balled into the middle hole I managed to slip through just behind one person. They got nailed and I headed for the right line again. Sprinting to get back into the flow to cross the line Matt Hamilton managed to break through the carnage and being in the flow just piped me to the line by a boat length + a bit. Great fun! Video of my heats bellow (Im paddling the blue boat sporting the Nookie TI Vest and much needed elbow pads)!
8 Ball Race - My heat and final
Overall a brilliant day... more semi-finals today so keep an eye out on the live feed!