Natural Games 2018
The Natural Games boasts to be the worlds biggest outdoor sports festival, hosted each year in the picturesque town of Milau, France. This festival has become a hot favourite with many British paddlers, who descended upon it again this year.
The festival runs a number of sporting events through the week, including bouldering, MTB slopestyle, freestyle slackline and kayaking. Then every evening there is a number of DJs, bands and artists who perform on the main stage for athletes and spectators to enjoy.
The kayaking kicked off on the Friday with the much loved boater cross. A huge ramp had been constructed and the entire whitewater course was changed up. This added another level of excitement as no paddlers had had a chance to practise on this set up. Lots of paddlers were eager to give it a go, but would have to wait their turn as up to 20 heats were worked through. A series of four gates make the boater cross a very tricky one, missing a single gate would lead to disqualification!
Luckily, us Brits are quite handy at boater cross, so the finals saw two brits in the mens and one in the ladies! After a carnage run in the mens six boat final, the Brits landed two spots on the podium, second (Alan Ward) and third (Charlie Brackpool), with the Catalonian beast Quim Fontane taking the win. In the ladies it was a hard fought battle too, with the solo brit, Lowri Davies, landing herself in third place.
After a good nights rest it was time for freestyle kayaking on the Saturday. Junior men kicked the day off, with Harry Price repping for Britain. He sailed through the heats in second place, narrowly behind the world champion Tom Dolle. Following them up was the C1’s, here the Brits had two paddlers, Eoghan Kelly and an injured Ibbo. Despite injury, both made it through to the final. However it was at this point of the competition that Ibbo withdrew to prevent worsening the shoulder injury.
The senior women and senior men rounded the heat off. Lowri Davies snook through the heats and Islay Crosby smashed it, taking the top spot and progressing through to finals. In the men’s it was just Rob Crowe that stormed through to finals.
In the heat of the afternoon the finals kicked off. Kicking the show off again was junior mens. Harry laid down a brilliant first run, firmly taking the lead! That was until Tom came down and snook in just 35 point ahead! Unfortunately this was a lead that would hold, landing Harry a second place on the podium. C1 quickly followed, Eoghan gave it his all but a few unfortunate flushed put him in 4th, Ibbo taking 5th as he didn’t bother turning up.
K1 women put on quite a show! From the get go huge scores were put out there, Poland’s Zofia Tula taking a big lead on run one. But the Brits were not deterred! Islay put a brilliant second run in to move into second. On the last runs Lowri upped her game and landed in joint second place with Islay. But Islay had the last run, and did not want to be sharing a podium space with anyone! One last big effort saw her improve her score enough to be clear of Lowri, but not quite overtake Zofia. So Lowri 3rd, Islay 2nd and Zofia 1st.
Last but not least was K1 men! Rob Crowe had tough competition as also in the final was current world champion Quim, multiple world champion Dane Jackson and Poland’s finest Tomasz Czaplicki, All capable of taking a win! It was Rob’s second run that etched him into the lead with a mighty 1400 points, pushing Tomasz into second and Dane 3rd. Rob had won the heats so was last to go, this meant that on third runs he had to sit and see if his score held. Quim came down and had a blinder, but was only good enough for 2nd, pushing Dane off the podium. With a huge sigh of relief Rob realised he had won, and his last ride was just a victory lap, this was for the best as he flushed three times in just 45 seconds!
With that all that was left to do was have the podium ceremony, enjoy the last night of music and split. Most people headed over to Sort for the two world cup events there happening now! Stay tuned to see how the Brits managed there!
Words – Ibbo
Images – Ibbo, Charlie, Meg, Natural Games