Canoe Freestyle

In a tremendous coup for freestyle canoeing and for the International Canoe Federation, the 2017 World Championships headed to South America for the first time, with San Juan in Argentina hosting the marquee event.

Early fears that the remoteness of this year’s venue would scare off competitors was largely unfounded, as all the world’s top athletes turned up in force.

And what a show San Juan put on! Great Britain’s Claire O’Hara added to her impressive world title collection with another double, freestyle legend Dane Jackson took a C1 title but had to watch on as Spain’s Quim Fontane took an emotional gold in K1.

And exciting junior Tom Dolle showed once again why he is rated so highly, with a stunning performance in front of an enthusiastic French and Argentinian crowd.

O’Hara confirmed herself as the greatest female freestyle kayaker on the planet with another golden world titles double, the third of her glittering career.

O’Hara not only won the women’s K1 title under lights at San Juan, Argentina, on the final night of competition, but she also set a new world record highest score of 925.

The K1 title followed her victory in the women’s squirt competition earlier in the week, adding to the double golds she won in 2011 and 2013 and giving her ten world championship titles in total.

The double also came after a less than ideal preparation for the 36-year-old.

“It means the world to be honest,” O’Hara said.

“This is my goal for this year. I’ve had a lot of family stuff going on that not a lot of people know about, and I’ve not been training as committed as I normally would do.

“To do it this late in my career, I’ve been competing in World Championships since 2007. I’ve been on this scene for a long time, and I think that helps.”

Claire O'Hara freestyle kayak Great Britain

France’s Marlene Devillez finished second with 886.67, and Japan’s Hitomi Takaku was third with 570.

Spain’s Joaquim Fontane caused a major boilover, upsetting reigning world champion Dane Jackson to win K1 gold on the final night of the 2017 titles.

Jackson led the men’s competition for the first two rounds with 1683.33, but Fontane posted the best ride of the night with his final effort to record 1718.33.

The American was unable to better Fontane’s score with the final ride of the night, giving gold to the Spaniard.

“It’s a dream come true,” Fontane said.

“I’ve been having these dreams since I was 10 or 11. My first two rides were not very good. To be fair, the lights were confusing me a little bit, so I was a bit unsure.

“But then on the last ride, I knew I only had one chance. I only needed one ride to be world champion, I thought it was my opportunity, I couldn’t let it escape from me.”

France’s Sebastien Devred took the bronze with 1485 points.

Spain Joaquim Fontane World Championships Freestyle San Juan

In the men’s C1, Jackson set a new world record score of 1236.67 in the semi-finals, and although it was a mark he was unable to reach in the final, he had no problems snaring his third world title.

Jackson posted 1210 with his first ride in the final, a score that stood the test of time for the rest of the final. France’s Sebastien Devred with 1100 finished second, and Czech Lukas Cervinka the bronze with 980.

“One down, one to go, and fired up to take the win in one of the most stacked C1 finals I’ve ever been in,” Jackson said after his win, and ahead of the K1 final.

“Definitely I’m really fired up to get another 1200, and an 1100, pretty great to have all three over 1000. I was happy to break into 1300, but it couldn’t happen today.”

Jackson came into the final day favourite to win both finals, and said he doesn’t really focus on either event in the lead-up.

“I pretty much go into it knowing I’m already in the top five, just fired up and trying to paddle the best I can,” he said.

Jackson won his first C1 gold medal in 2011, had to settle for bronze in 2013, but then regained his title two years ago in Canada.

USA Dane Jackson C1 freestyle world championships Argentina

After two months of nerves and sleepless nights, French teenager Tom Dolle lived up to expectations with an impressive world junior title.

17-year-old Dolle started the shortest of short-priced favourites in the five-man junior final, and had set himself the goal of cracking 1700 in the title decider.

He achieved his goal with his first ride, pumping his fists after judges awarded him 1718.33. It turned out to be the winning score.

“I’m so excited, I can’t really believe it,” Dolle said.

“I felt good after the first ride, but I knew the other guys could still do better so. But I was less nervous for my second and third ride after that.”

Great Britain’s Alex Walters took the silver medal with 1496.67 points, with fellow Brit Harry Price third with 1216.67.

Dolle has had to carry the mantle of the next big thing in freestyle kayak, and admitted it had weighed heavy in the lead-up to San Juan.

“I’ve been nervous for the past two months, and I didn’t sleep much last night,” he said.

“This morning I just watched videos of creek boating, so it was a bit different.”

France Tom Dolle freestyle world championships San Juan

British teenager Ottilie Robinson-Shaw went to bed on the Friday night dreaming of winning a world title, and the next day it became reality when she won junior women’s gold at her first attempt.

16-year-old Robinson-Shaw took the lead early over defending champion, USA’s Sage Donnelly, and had a nervous wait with the American having the last ride of the competition.

But Donnelly was unable to overhaul Robinson-Shaw’s 553.33, giving a disbelieving Brit the world title.

“It’s amazing, I feel like everyone is lying to me,” Robinson-Shaw said.

“They weren’t my strongest rides, but I’m happy, especially as it’s my first worlds.”

Donnelly finished with 483.33, with fellow American, Olivia McGinnis, third with 283.33.

Great Britain Ottilie Robinson Shaw Freestyle World Championships

50-year-old American Clay Wright won his third squirt world title, 20 years exactly after he won his first.

His performance included a high-scoring ‘mystery’ move which saw him disappear under the water for more than 20 seconds.

“I just really wanted to make squirt boating look cool,” Wright said.

“My highest scoring run was good, I’m psyched to win for sure, but sticking that mystery move on the end, that was everything.

“I’d be happy just to get that in front of this crowd, I’m stoked.”

2017 Magazine