Combo Moves Highlight US National Freestyle Kayak Championship
Freestyle kayaking will never be the same after kayakers with enough medals and titles to sink a boat converged on Salida, CO.
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SALIDA, CO â€“ Freestyle kayaking will never be the same after kayakers with enough medals and titles to sink a boat converged on this legendary Colorado river town to vie for the title of US National Freestyle Kayak Champion during the 58th Annual Blue Paddle FIBArk Whitewater Festival June 15 â€“ 18.
For the first time in a freestyle kayaking competition, judges awarded extra points for fluidly combining two moves without interruption. The National Championship title went to the only man to achieve the feat, 28-year-old Stephen Wright of Rock Island, TN. Under the lights during a dramatic nighttime finals, Wright was the only boater in a field that ran deep with some of the biggest names in the sport to successfully perform highly difficult combo moves this weekend. In addition to jaw-dropping blunt/McNasty and backloop/McNasty combos, Wright strung together dizzying flurries of high flying air loops, Space Godzillas, Phonix Monkeys, and more. Though just his second season of competition, Wright was favored to win FIBArk and the National title based on Top Two finishes at every freestyle event he’s entered this season.
Wright’s Jackson Kayak teammate Jason Craig, also just two years into his career, set another high mark at the event, becoming the youngest-ever National Champion in the Junior Expert division. The smallest and youngest competitor, 12-year-old Craig of Reno, NV made a big splash with the crowd and bested older, more seasoned teens in his division by consistently landing high-scoring loops and McNastys while â€“with the exception of just two flukey rides all weekend – sticking in the turbulent hole like his boat had glue on it.
On the women’s side of the event, top-ranked world champion and five-time US Freestyle Kayak Team member Tanya Shuman of Fayetteville, WV graphically demonstrated why she’s known around the globe as Queen of the Air, fending off blistering rides by a women’s field that was deep in talent and experience to add another prestigious notch to her already lengthy list of accolades.
Final results for the event were as follows:
US National Championships Pro Men
Stephen Wright, first; Bryan Kirk, second; Jimi Blakeney third
US National Championships Pro Women
Tanya Shuman, first; Hannah Farrar, second; Katie Selby, third
Tanya Faux, one of the world’s top female kayakers, earned second in Pro Women’s class of the FIBArk championships. An Australian, Faux is not eligible for the US title.
US National Championships Junior Expert Boys
Jason Craig first; Alex Mohn second; Zach Mitchell, third
US National Championships Junior Expert Girls
US National Championships C-1 Freestyle
Seth Chapelle, first; Jeremy Laucks, second; Gary Mullins, third
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