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Bruna Kajiya lands second win fuelling title hopes

Published 18th August 2023 by Ian MacKinnon

 

  • Brazilian athlete triumphs in tricky final in France after current world champion pulls out injured

  • Men’s contest advances to semi-finals after stellar battles in near perfect conditions in Dunkerque

GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup Dunkerque, France 2023
Place du Centenaire, 16—20 August

Brazil’s Bruna Kajiya won her second crown of the year at the tour’s third stop at the GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup France at Dunkerque after an almost flawless performance powered her through the strong field.

Kajiya, at 36 the most senior woman on the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour, relished the victory even in the difficult conditions, giving her two stops from three with the next on her home waters in Brazil.

“I’m beyond happy,” said Kajiya. “I’ve been working so hard for this, so it means a lot to me. I was really confident with my riding and that’s a major step for me in this past year. The competition went really well. I didn’t think it was that tricky. I wasn’t super-powered; it was a little bit choppy, but we train for this. I love the puzzle.

“I’m really looking forward to the next one, because it’s in my home country. I will be representing my flag. That’s a dream for any athlete. I’m  excited. The title is always in my mind, since the beginning of the year. I’ve been working towards it.”

Day two of the GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup in Dunkerque, where Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour is making its first appearance, dawned to a building north-easterly breeze that gave the 24 men and 10 women from 11 nations the first chance to battle in the North Sea kickers.

As the men fought their way up the ladder, the three and four-man heats grew more intense. They threw up some surprise performances and a few unexpected big name casualties who made early exits.

Tactical error

One of the biggest stories of the day was the arrival on the scene of Japan’s Hironobu Nakano, 29, battling in his first GKA contest. He stormed to the quarter-final with a victory in his first round that took down former world champion Valentin Rodriguez (COL).

In his quarter-final the Japanese rider scored highly, but made a tactical error as he had failed to tick off the various trick families in his four counting scores, which ended his run.

“The conditions were quite difficult and I was quite nervous,” said Nakano. “But I was happy when I landed my tricks. This is my first competition and I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m pleased. It’s amazing.”

France’s Arthur Guillebert, a former freestyle world champion, opened his account quietly, easing to victory in his opening heat in front of his home fans. But in the quarter-final he put his foot on the gas and racked up a big heat score, 31.97 from a possible 40, that included an 8.67 Heart Attack 7 and an 8.40 313 to Blind.

Another Frenchman Valentin Garat, returning from injury ,was not quite as explosive. But he fought his way to the quarter-finals, where his win secured him a place in the upcoming semi-finals. Fellow-countryman Louka Pitot, ranked third overall, was not so lucky when his run was ended in the quarter-finals.

Egypt’s Karim Mahmoud started big in the day’s first heat, sending him straight to the quarter-final, where he won with a total score of 25.33 that included 7.30 for a Slim to Blind that sent Valentin Rodriguez home.

World champion out

Another standout was Switzerland’s Maxime Chabloz, who won his opening heat with an 8.67 Heart Attack to go to the quarter-final, where he was utterly unstoppable. He finished with a heat total of 31.17 that included 8.37 for a Back Mobe 7. It earned him the semi-final berth, along with current world champion Gianmaria Coccoluto, who had finished a few points behind.

The men’s contest is perfectly poised for the two four-man semi-finals, which are set to take place when the conditions allow. An attempt to run one semi-final failed when the wind dropped and it was abandoned.

The women’s contest fared better, even though the reigning world champion Mikaili Sol, 18, was forced to withdraw suffering a knee injury that she had sustained before arriving in France. Sol opted to play safe and take Dunkerque as a discard, available on the five-stop tour.

With just nine women left competing, the competition quickly reached the semi-finals, where Bruna Kajiya continued to show her electrifying form. She dominated with a total of 25.50 that included an 8.03 for a KGB, though Spain’s Claudia Léon did enough to also book a spot in the final.

In the other semi-final, Denmark’s Therese Taabbel topped the heat to go to the final along with Italy’s Francesca Bagnoli, who was returning from injury after several years.

“Bitter sweet”

The final, late in the evening as the breeze was dropping, sparked some debate before the women decided they would like go ahead to ensure they got a result.

It was a tense affair with women riding their larger 13m2 kites. In the faltering breeze, Kajiya was not quite as assured as she had been in the earlier heats, though she put solid scores on the board and opened with a 6.13 for a Slim that put pressure on her rivals.

A late 7.47 for a KGB turned the knife and put Kajiya in the clear to give her the win. Only Léon really had any answers, earning some solid scores that included an 5.68 for a Pete Rose that saw she finished just over two points adrift on the leaderboard.

“I’m super, super happy with my second place,” said Léon. “I did my best, so I’m really really happy. It’s a little bit bitter sweet actually, because the conditions in the final were a little bit difficult, but we did what we could. For sure I’ll be working hard until the end of the year.”

Bagnoli was pleased with her third podium spot in only her second competition after coming back from her injury lay-off.

“I’m super-happy,” she said. “For me it’s just unbelievable because I’ve been out of competition for three-and-a-half years and it’s great to be back on the podium. It wasn’t my best heat. I was on an 11m2 [kite] and I was running up the beach to get back in the box. But I’m happy.”

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Samuel Cárdenas

GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup Dunkerque 2023 results

1 Bruna Kajiya (BRA)
2 Claudia Léon (ESP)
3 Francesca Bagnoli (ITA)
4 Therese Taabbel (DEN)

Event Information

  • Event: GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup France
  • Spot: Place du Centenaire, Dunkerque
  • Dates: 16—20 August, 2023
  • Download the event Race Notice here
  • Follow the whole event here

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