GB Freestyle Team Selections
The weekend saw the freestyle kayaking community come together and compete for places on the 2023 GB freestyle team that are headed out to the World Championships in Columbus, USA. The event took place on the weir at Hurley, making use of the high River Thames.
The first day kicked off with all the canoe categories, starting with the men, which saw the 2022 team being challenged by some fresh faces for their places. It was team member Ibbo that took the win, but only after flushing on his first two rides and loading the pressure on his last two! His third run was enough to take the win, but he added more points to the tally with his fourth.
The juniors were next to take to the wave and show the judges what they are capable of. A stacked junior women's heat saw a World Championship silver medallist, returning team member, and a number of strong up and coming paddlers take to the water. It was a magnificent aerial blunt that took Niamh Macken to the top of the leaderboard, taking the win on day 1.
Junior men followed them up, and the standards were high. With three places on the team up for grabs it was always going to be tough. Jools Gardener kicked off his selection campaign with a high scoring run, boosted by a textbook pistol flip that sent the crowd crazy. This landed him a first place, with Timmy Hill in second, and Sam Rowland in third.
After a spot of lunch, it was time for the senior kayak categories. The women took to the wave first. Again, Ottie Robinso-Shaw had a pass for the 2023 World Championships as the reigning world champion, but she took to the water to push her competitors and see how she would score. Ottie threw some rides that would end up pushing the men's scores, giving her the win at the event. However, in terms of team selections it was local Dino Rock that took previous team members by surprise. Dino showed her local knowledge and laid down some incredible runs and took the selections win.
The men rounded the day off with some impressive and close paddling. It was local knowledge that shone through again as Alan Ward showed the Nottingham paddlers how it was done. He sailed to a very commanding lead. But he Peak boys showed their class and ability. Gav was a very close second, Rob Crowe settling in third, and Harry Price mere points behind in 4th. All sitting in team positions.
Day two rolled around and the running order of the day was the same. Canoes took to the water first. Everyone was looking to back up their previous day's performance and improve on it. Ibbo’s main goal for the day was to make the feature on all his runs. On that front it was a success. Ibbo paddled his way into second place, Matt Stephenson taking the win with an impressive first ride. Overall in the selections series however, it was Ibbo’s year to take the win and his place on the team.
The junior women took their turn on the wave. A huge donkey flip rocketed Izzy Wormall to the top, taking the day two win. Niamh Macken's aerial blunts took her into second, giving the 2022 World Championships silver medalist her spot on the team destined for Columbus.
Junior men rounded up the morning with another fantastic display of paddling. Jools and Timmy matched their previous day's performance by taking first and second respectively. But it was Ash Rose who seriously upped his game from the previous day to take third place with a last second donkey flip.
The seniors were to wrap up the weekend and the 2023 team selection events. Dino again showed the value of local knowledge of the water, taking home her second selections win of the weekend. Lowri Davies got herself another second place finish, and Heidi Walsh a third place.
Last up was the men. With plenty of paddlers having the ability to mix up the standings, nothing was certain. Gav Barker showed his experience, sticking to a plan he had made and trusting it. That saw him take the win on this second day, backing up his second place from day one. Alan Ward was only 5 points behind him in second place. Youngster Nathan Hefford showed what his dedication over the winter did for him, pulling off rides to land him in third place. Harry Price slotted into fourth place nicely. Rob’s day wasn’t quite as planned, seeing him dip to 10th on the day. But his strong first day saw his stay in the top 5 overall, which is all that matters as top 5 make the team.
The Peak team did amazing, all looking like they retain their team places, and some new faces to the GB team look like they could mix it up in their own custom peak kit too. All the paddlers did fantastic and showed the strength of British freestyle. You can find full results here, and lots of paddlers will be doing their best maths to work out the overall rankings from the selection points. However, no team places are official until the freestyle selection panel ratify the results and announce the team, expected later this week.