Between the 29th of September and the 2nd of October, 150 of the best whitewater kayakers on the globe will battle it out on the Oetztaler Ache River in Tyrol’s longest alpine valley to determine the Extreme Kayak World Champion 2011.
With an incredible time of 58.85 seconds, 23-year-old Sam Sutton from New Zealand not only claimed the gold medal last year, he also set a new course record. Sutton was the only one in the super final of the TOP 15 to break the one-minute-barrier. In contrast to 2009, when only hundreds of a second separated first from second place, Sutton secured his title with a comfortable gap of 2.14 seconds to Michele Ramazza from Italy who claimed silver (1:00.99), and 2.28 seconds to Lukas Kalkbrenner from Germany who won bronze (1:01.13).
This year, too, the so-called »Wellerbrücke« section of the glacier-fed Ötztaler Ache River – that has the reputation of being the Eiger Northwall of whitewater kayaking – will be the centre of the race action. In total, only 150 competitors will be admitted to the World Championship. Last year’s Top 25 will be automatically seeded, the remaining 125 entries will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis to kayakers who master whitewater class 5.
So far 90 extreme paddlers from 20 different countries have entered the race, including athletes from all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, USA, Canada and Russia. “We are pleased that also in 2011 the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship draws kayakers from all over the world into the Oetztal Valley”, says tourism director Oliver Schwarz. “Among insiders the Oetztal has been known for many years as one of Europe’s most beautiful kayak grounds. With its glacier rivers the Oetztal offers whitewater in all facets between May and October and here, depending on the water level of the Rofener-, Venter- and Oetztaler Ache River, kayakers of all classes can find their personal challenge. Each year more and more kayakers arrive one or two weeks and advance to train in our alpine valley.“
"With the adidas Sickline Worlds we wanted to create an event for the kayaking community and I am pleased that it has been embraced by both, the world elite in kayak sports as well as the international media“, says Axel Burkhardt, head of Olympic Sports, Cycling & Outdoor at adidas Global Sports Marketing. "Last year our event was broadcast live in 11 different countries.“
Only the best advance to the next round The legendary 280m long racecourse on the glacier-fed Ötztaler Ache River is solid class 5 whitewater, both technically difficult and dangerous, so there are consequences to mistakes. Therefore the field of 150 international whitewater kayakers is filtered in two qualification rounds to determine the 45 best paddlers who compete in the world championship race.
The top 3 of the previous year are automatically qualified for the finals. The 48 finalists who race at Wellerbrücke first compete in a ‚head-to-head’ format, i.e. the fastest of the qualification battles the 48th, the second fastest competes against the 47th and so on. The faster kayaker of each heat advances to next round, together with two ‘lucky losers’ (the two fastest of the eliminated top 48 athletes). Then the top 26 compete once again in a knockout system.
The 13 remaining athletes and two more ‘lucky losers’ then advance to the super final where they compete for world championship honours. The top class field of the final 15 usually includes everything from creeking, slalom and freestyle world champions to winners of prestigious extreme races. Each of the top 15 has one try to secure a place on the podium. The kayaker with the slowest race time of the previous run is the first to start. He climbs into the ‘hot seat’ whirlpool, the throne of the fastest athlete until his race time has been beaten. To claim the prestigious champion’s belt the finalists need a very clean, technically accurate and perfect run.
Check out the replay of the 2010 event below...