6 Incredible Teams to Follow at the 2017 World Rafting Championships
Only days away from the World Rafting Championship on the Yoshino River in Miyoshi City, Japan, nearly 80 rafting teams from around the world are furiously preparing to try and bring home the gold.
22 countries will be represented each with individual strategies. There will be four events teams of six compete in come October 2nd; sprint, head-to-head, slalom and downriver. Teams can place in individual events, with their points also contributing to their overall score.
Sprint (10%) - Teams go as fast they can over a fairly short distance trying to get the fastest time possible.
Head To Head (20%) - Two teams are pitted against each other in a race to cross the finish line. The team who had the best sprint time gets their choice of lane and the winner of each heat moves on until there’s only two left for a final.
Slalom (30%) - In the slalom event, teams are challenged to have pristine technique as they navigate their raft through downriver and upriver gates. Touching, failing to pass or intentionally moving a gate results in a penalty. Teams run the course twice and use their best time as their score.
Downriver (40%) - Nearly an hour long, this event tests team's strength, endurance and technical ability as they navigate a powerful section of whitewater. The points teams earned in previous events determine their place in a line-up of up to five rafts per heat.
Because of the different percentage of points allotted in each disciplines, teams come into the Championships with different strategies. For example, the British teams, who finished for the most part in the Top 5 in each age and gender group last year, say they’re emphasizing their technical and tactical skills so they can excel in the Head-to-Head and Slalom categories. The Russian U19 girls team say they are training in all the disciplines because, “it is important for us to be first in each of them.”
“As a team we have dedicated ourselves to being the best at every event, but have especially focused on excelling on the slalom course,” said Hannah Walker of Team USA U23 women’s team. “Naturally slalom is the event that teams struggle with the most, so we’ve dedicated ourselves to really nailing our skills for that event. Growing up as guides on the Arkansas River we’ve been fortunate to have so many diverse sections of river to practice on, in such a small area, which will really work to our advantage in the down stream, sprint, and head to head.”
In the Czech Republic, the women’s master team is also dedicating themselves to technique.
“We love all disciplines, but we prefer technical disciplines- slalom,” said team captain Petra Halaskova. “We like downriver too if the river is really white. We want to enjoy each run, each discipline and keep calm- each alone and all together.”
Some teams have been diversifying their teams, so they’re stronger in each discipline.
“Now, some canoe slalom paddlers are jumping into rafting teams,” said Sebastian Contreras of the Argentina U23 men’s team. “That has improved the slalom discipline here.”
Each team has a unique situation when it comes to their ability to actually log river miles together before big events like the World Championships.
The British teams have a very structured practice schedule, with their Team PeakUK and Team Palm training every Wednesday night at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, as well as a couple other days a week. The Brits also have regular gym sessions and personal training plans, according to Sean Clarke, manager and coach for a men’s and women’s rafting team in the UK.
In Slovakia, their teams are training mostly in their Čuňovo venue. Adam Morbacher, of the Slovakian media staff says their team is also training in the gym.
“In the winter was have more gym time, and in the summer we have more raft trainings. Our strongest discipline is Slalom since we have the hardest slalom races here in Slovakia.”
The New Zealand open women’s team is relying on some rafting legends to help them bring home the gold- Corrina Gage and Sarah Uhl, both of whom were on the New Zealand team in 1999 that brought home the world title will also compete this year in Japan. They say their secret to all their medals is a balance between competitiveness and holding true to the heart of rafting culture.
“Perhaps this is the secret to our success,” said Anne Cairns who is a firefighter as her full-time job. “Not only are we fiercely competitive and slightly mongrel when it counts, but it’s what we represent; we are passionate about our country, passionate about travel, passionate about sharing long hard days on the river with a bunch of great ladies and passionate about winning gold medals.”
Without a doubt, passion is one thing that will not be in short supply next week as these teams all compete in Japan for a world title.