Quarter Finals Results:
For the first time in my 18 years of competing in the World Championships I didn’t make the cut. I was 11th place (10 make it) and missed the cut by 3 points. (a flat spin is worth 10 points). The top qualifying heat from prelims went at 11pm (my heat) and it was dark, rainy, and late for everyone. The first heat of men’s quarter finals went under a sunset, and natural light with Peter Csonka in it. I watched his heat and then went back to the hotel to get a hot shower and plan my rides (above). I was having fun and not any more nervous than normal. I am here to win the world championships. My paddling, my training, and everything that goes into winning this event is going for me. My kids are killing it, my wife is happy and supportive, and I love the spot, my boat, and my routine.
My first ride was planned out to be a “go big and sell each move, one at a time, no rushing” as the score needed to make the cut was only 1200 points for two rides. I can do 1200 on one ride. I have three rides to do it. I entered into the feature which was much lower water than prelims and did a good entry move and opening Front loop (huge and clean). I carved over to set up for my next one, as the darkness made me flinch on plugging straight out of the loop and it was too late. My second move was fine, and then same thing on my third move. I wasted a few seconds on each of my moves. Then with 12 seconds left I missed two moves in a row, which was a shock to they system, as time ran out. 486 points. Crazy. OK, two more rides, still not nervous- A reasonably good 2nd ride will still put me in the game. 800 points (I have already scored close to 1000 in prelims on one ride). My second ride started off great but I shot across out of the foam onto the wave to set up my second move and when I cut back I bubbled off the back of the wave and was way out in the current and had to paddle back to the hole and was out of time. 150 points. Likely my lowest scoring competition ride in an “attainable feature” that I can remember. OK, now the reality of the situation is upon me. No more “do overs”. Final ride and it must be good to make it. This is not unusual for me, nor do I dislike bing in this position. The “pressure rides” are my specialty and are the ones that really make me feel alive and test my metal. I chose entering the hole from the eddy below it this time instead of going up into the darkness way upstream into isolation and waiting my turn. From the top you go out to the eddy behind the bridge in the middle of the river and look way downstream to see Jasper, the chief judge, wave his white paper in under the spot light to signal it is time to go. You go from darkness into the bright lights on the hole and it is a shock to the system. From the eddy you can talk to your friends, get encouragement, etc.. I chose the group effort approach this time. I also got a couple of kisses from Kristine and Emily, hugs from Nick and Stephen, and thumbs up from Richard Fox, Jasper, and others who were wishing me well.
I entered into the hole without an entry move (worth 50 points) and was fired up and my routine was going well. One space Godzilla didn’t leave the water properly, but the others were huge. My McNasties felt good and felixes were snappy. I ran out of time before my backloop but had my score at a 760-800 depending on the bonuses. I had a big smile on my face as I was sure I had done the job and was in the next round. It wasn’t a winning ride, but then again, nobody in the night time rounds scored huge. Stephen kept plugging his bow under water on the blunts because he couldn’t see the green water, etc.. You had to be more careful and just couldn’t see as well. Kristine came out of the scoring tent (she is on the ICF committee and sees the scores first) and shook her head “no” at first. I was “uh oh!” in my head and waited. Then, later, they were checking scores and she said, “I think you are in 10th!” and I was back in the game thinking, “OK, don’t mentally commit to either scenario, just hang out and wait for the official results.” Then my score popped up- 630 points. Kristine shook her head- I was in 11th place by 3 points. Martin Kohl of Germany was in 10th. Crazyness, to the say the least. I hadn’t truly had my chance to shine at this world championships yet. My prelims result of 2nd place was based on one ride with a flush and a second ride where I missed a couple of moves for 960 points. I was just getting warmed up. I had a 14 point routine that was getting sorted out and the water levels were getting better for. Of course I may have never achieved it, had I made the cut, but I typically get better each round and my finals are normally my specialty. Three rides and only one counts, all in, full speed, going for broke. I have competed in every world championships from 1993 to present in Freestyle and this would be the first time I have not made semi-finals and only once before not making finals (1999). People ask me, “age finally catching up”, etc. ,etc., but it is simply poor execution of three rides in one round. The odds of making every round, in every event is astounding low even if your average ride score is the highest in the sport. Stephen and Nick failed to make the finals in Vail at Teva for example, but are as good as they come. It happens, eventually, to everyone, and it happens every time to most people. In 1996 when I was in full expectation that I was going to win the 1996 Slalom Olympics (I felt this was going to be my Olympics) and then failed to make the Olympic team by one spot (I was 3rd) it shakes you to your core and makes you evaluate everything you are doing. I did some serious soul searching in 1996 and realized that I didn’t want to stay in one place and train on gates full time on class 2 water when there was such a big wonderful whitewater world out there. I quit training for slalom full time and began a broader life living on the road full time, which was my dream.
I didn’t have this kind of experience when I missed the cut to semi-finals. I thought about it, “what if this was my life, trying, then missing the cut and not winning? “ That would be OK with me. I looked around and saw my friends, saw where I was, the excitement of the crowd, the support of my friends and family, and quickly remembered the “training” I did to be good enough to be here in the first place and realized that I would want to do all of that again, even if there was no world championships to compete in. Africa, Rock Island, Canada, all over the USA, and here in Europe. I love my life, win or lose, and have no regrets.
All B.S. aside, it pisses me off to have paddled so poorly in Quarters and I will not allow myself to be in such a position again. I can learn something from this. The first thing I learned is that just because the schedule says, “all events during the day” doesn’t mean that all events are during the day!!! I had not done a single workout under the lights, because I was training for a day time event. I have won EVERY night time round in World championships up until this one. I thrive on this type of thing, but you should prepare for it, and I didn’t. The weather changed the schedule. I learned my lesson.
It is Friday and tomorrow we’ll have finals. Dane is the star of this world championships as he not only is killing the junior field, but his scores would be winning in the men’s class. (he had an 1100 point ride in Semi finals and 960 is the highest in the senior men’s class by Peter Csonka) He is also in finals for C1, Oc1, and Squirt! Watching him paddle is watching a kid who is coming into his own and is in a league of his own. Off the water he is equally impressive as he is not at all cocky or pretentious. He is sweet as pie, helpful, and really cares how others do. Emily is also on her A game and is so impressive to watch! She won Semi-finals and looks so strong and has been supporting me, and so many others during her event so far. KC has about 1000 babysitters here and is often running around the crowd on his own. He is awesome. Kristine is working her butt off here and still managing to be a great supporter during the entire event. She had another 17 hour day on Wednesday! At the river at 7am and leaving at midnight, almost zero breaks!
OK- I am off to paddle with Emily and coach her today. I’ll be in the water with her.
See you at the Nanty in 2013 for the next World Championships (assuming I make the USA Team again- that is the first challenge)
Just finished today at the hole. Did a SUP Boatercross race and a “Big Trick” contest. Just for fun stuff.
Dane and I were in the same heat all of the way to finals in the SUP race and he beat me each heat and I was second. In the finals I fell of the board in the eddy turn at the big wave and ended up 4th out of the six.
In the “big trick” contest I got 3rd behind a group of German paddlers who tied three boats together and got a big loop, and Katrina who did a huge loop and smiled and blew kisses. I would have voted her over me, too. Dane was 4th.
Time for dinner, etc..!