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Andrea Principi pulls out of Big Air final

Published 7th July 2024 by Ian MacKinnon

 

  • World Champion withdraws from title race over injury worries

  • Canaries finale guaranteed to crown two new Big Air champions

  • Top seed Nathalie Lambrecht joins injury list and steps out

Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships
9—13 July, 2024 | Salinas de Tenefé

Reigning Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champion Andrea Principi has pulled out of the 2024 title race in a surprise move days ahead of the closing stop in Gran Canaria, Spain.

The irrepressible young Italian, who won back-to-back world titles, has been carrying a rib cartilage injury. He announced his intention to step out of the line-up of 24 men set to battle in Salinas de Tenefé, where the competition will make its first appearance.

Principi had finished fifth overall in the world championships’ opening stop at GKA Lords of Tram, in Barcarès, southern France, in April, making it mathematically extremely tough for him to land a third successive world title in Gran Canaria.

But the withdrawal of the ambitious Principi, 19, who is joined on the injury list by top-seeded Swede Nathalie Lambrecht, means the tour call in Gran Canaria will crown two new Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champions.

‘Unlucky crash’

Current women’s Big Air world champion, Mikaili Sol (USA), withdrew from competition for a time at the start of the year to rest and recharge, opening the way for any of a clutch of athletes who have been challenging for some time to don the crown.

The loss of both World Champions is a blow, but Principi—a byword for almost super-human toughness as he battled competitions nursing injuries—decided in this instance to play a longer game.

“I was unlucky,” said Principi, who also won the Red Bull Megloop and King of the Air (Kota) last year. “I had a crash just one-week-and-a-half ago, on my cartilage on the rib. I was in strong pain, so it doesn’t feel right to push too much. I think it’s the best thing to do [to pull out]. Also the doctors say that it’s better I don’t push myself too much until I’m strong again.”

Principi’s decision clears the way for the exciting Colombian rider, Alberto “Beto” Gómez, to join the line-up, while the New Zealander Marc Jacobs, a former Red Bull Kota winner, also pulled out of Gran Canaria earlier and Kimo Verkerk (NED) gets the spot.

Home court advantage

The Netherlands’ Jamie Overbeek, 18, won the first round at Lords of Tram in his first major event victory and is in pole position for the world title in Gran Canaria. Slightly-lighter wind conditions in Barcarès played to his single-loop strengths, but he has been training hard in Salinas de Tenefé.

The runner-up in Barcarès, Jeremy Burlando (ESP), is in the box seat as he has home court advantage. He calls the Canaries home and has trained at the tricky Salinas de Tenefé spot—with its left-foot forward launches, and choppy takes-off and landings—hundreds of times.

Compatriot Lorenzo Casati, another Red Bull Kota winner, also lives and trains in the Canaries. He took fourth in the final at Lords of Tram and is in with a strong shout for the world title in Gran Canaria, where the wind forecast is slightly muted during the five-day competition window.

In the women’s field, the Dutch rider Pippa van Iersel tops the rankings after her victory at Lords of Tram on her return from a two-year injury break. With Nathalie Lambrecht out, that clears the way for Zara Hoogenraad (NED), Francesca Maini (GBR) and Alessa Mensch (GER) to try to knock Van Iersel off top spot.

Join us here on the Livestream to see how the drama plays out.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Samuel Cárdenas

Men

Jamie Overbeek
Lorenzo Casati
Jeremy Burlando
Josué San
Giel Vlugt
Edgar Ulrich
Jason van der Spuy
Aaron Hadlow
Luca Ceruti
Arthur Guillebert
Clement Huot
Stino Mul
Lucas Gramstrup
Shahar Tsabary
Leonardo Casati
Valentin Garat
Josh Gillitt
Nathan Texier
Cohan van Dijk
Ruben Swart
Zac Adams
Arian Braeutigam
Alberto “Beto” Gómez
Kimo Verkerk

Women

Zara Hoogenraad
Francesca Maini
Alessa Mensch
Jasmine Cho
Pippa van Iersel
Sarah Sadek
Lana Herman
Alice Ruggiu
Nora Klement
Inbar Lerner
Daniela Moreno

Spot Info: Salinas de Tenefé, Gran Canaria

Weather
The weather in Gran Canaria, Spain, during July ranges around 25-30C with sunrise around 07:15 and sunset at 21:00.

Wind and water
Gran Canaria enjoys great wind in July. Salinas de Tenefé is famous for its strong winds. The wind regularly blows 30+ knots, with gusts up to 40+ knots. The wind direction is from the north/north-east. The strong wind creates decent chop and some wind swell that also comes from the north-east and provides kickers to boost off, left-foot forward. The water temperature is 23-24C, so a shorty or summer wetsuit is a good idea.

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