Neom Poised to Deliver Sensational Semis and Beyond – Day Two

Published 20th October 2022 by Andrea Susanne Opielka


20th October 2022
Day Two: Qatar Airways GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup Neom

  • In the men’s the Brazilian’s look finely tuned but can they hold off the Italian flair and Colombian confidence?
  • In the women’s Lambrecht looks dangerous and Kajiya typically calm while Sol is surely still only simmering in the heat. We are all set for the semi-finals to come on day three (Friday). Read on for the full day two report – with video highlights coming soon!

Although the riders who qualified through to the semi-finals by winning their quarter final heats didn’t compete against each other today, when their heat scores are essentially made up their four best tricks, which they all throw in the same stretch of water, it’s hard to not compare and pick out a favourite already.

Of course comparing riders isn’t an exact science and can be complicated by conditions and different heat stresses / situations. We saw a real blend of conditions today – mixing very challenging wind strengths in the morning that gradually dropped away to become perfect freestyle conditions as we completed the final men’s quarter final rounds at the end of the day.


Making it through as top performers in the men’s division, we can’t look past the Brazilians Manoel Soares and Carlos Mario, clearly at home in these lagoon and warm wind conditions. They were the only two riders to break 30 point heat scores – with relentlessly smooth technicality.

Soares was pushed the harder of the two in his quarter final by Matteo Dorotini – an Italian who has burst onto the scene at this event. Dorotini kept coming back at tour leader, Soares, with tricks that included an impressive KGB5 and he led the heat after five tricks. Manoel moved up a gear and, with an 8.23 for a silky smooth backside 317 near the end, left the other three riders in his wake. Dorotini also qualified from that heat in second position and will ride in his first semi-final on tour tomorrow morning.

After just four tricks attempts Carlos Mario was already up to the second highest heat score of the day in his quarter final; 29.47. As the remaining three riders pressurised each other, clambering for the remaining qualifying spot behind Mario, it was competition veteran, the ever-green Luis Alberto Cruz (DOM) who pulled his power moves together and stomped his way through with a grabbed KGB 5 topping his heat bill. 2019 World Champion Valentin Rodriguez was left to rue too many butt checked landings that brought too much pressure on his final trick, which he crashed.

Just before the Brazilians had closed the day out on a high, yesterday’s notable standout, Gianmaria Coccoluto had once again laid out a heat that dripped with confidence and style. His quarter final against Arthur Guillebert, Adeuri Corniel and Robin Goetebuer had seen the lead change hands in the early stages, but come the end the Italian advanced as the winner (28.67 total points / highest trick score grabbed KGB 5 – 8.03) with 2021 champion, Guillebert not far behind and also through.

Lewis Crathern interviewed them both on the stream and asked, ‘What’s it like riding in a heat like that where you have to get in the top two and it’s tight?’

Cocco: “Yeah I was under pressure, but I know that if I can land a trick like my grabbed KGB 5 as my first trick, then I’m good to land all the rest of my tricks, and I did.”

Guillebert: “Like Cocco, I had a good first score and then I felt confident and happy to go on. I’m really happy with my heart attack 7 at the end that got me through.”

Confidence can be everything in this discipline where rhythm must be difficult to maintain as riders take it in turns to throw one trick each.

Competing against a 13-year-old who just won’t quit improving and throwing increasingly technical tricks must really halt a rider’s flow and Swiss star Maxime Chabloz encountered just that against German Finn Flugal. The young teen put up an impressive fight as they scrambled for second position in their first quarter final in which Colombian Juan Rodriguez was exerting his ongoing rise in confidence. Rodriguez, the tour’s third ranked rider, took the lead early in the heat and continued to throw hammers there-after, finishing with a heat score of 28.99 and a high trick score of 8.00 for a big backside 317.

Flugel failed to reach the 5.90 score he needed on his seventh and final trick attempt to throw the pressure back on Maxime to earn second, but this has been a solid performance from the GKA Rookie of the Year. In his interview after the heat Finn told Lewis on the stream,

Flügel: “I can’t really believe I’m top ten. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was small. That was the best heat I’ve done. I landed all my tricks and even some stuff that I can’t usually land very often. I hope I stressed the other guys a bit in the heat!”

He sure did!


So, although these guys haven’t ridden against each other yet, let’s take a look at some score stat from the day’s best performers as they dropped:

Juan Rodriguez – QF heat score: 28.99
Top two tricks: 8.00 backside 317 / 7.35 slim 7

Gianmaria Coccoluto – QF heat score: 28.76
Top two tricks: 8.03 KGB5 / 7.43 front blind mobe

Manoel Soares – QF heat score: 30.06
Top two tricks: 8.23 backside 317 / 7.80 319

Carlos Mario – QF heat score: 30.83
Top two tricks: 8.10 heart attack 7 / 7.83 slim 7


Semi final 01
Matteo Dorotini (ITA) / Luis Alberto Cruz (DOM) / Juan Rodriguez (COL) / Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA)

Semi final 02
Maxime Chabloz (SUI) / Arthur Guillebert (FRA) / Manoel Soares (BRA) / Carlos Mario (BRA)


Mikaili Sol

12 riders made up the women’s fleet here in Neom so advancing to the semi-final stage may have been a quicker process, but no less tightly contested.

A situation made even more tense with the really strong morning winds; the women’s heats turned into a battle of attrition at times.

Shining out was Swede Nathalie Lambrecht – who is displaying an altogether a different professional approach at this event, showing the ability to deal with these conditions and to throw tricks on both tacks. Plus she has a very useful new crow mobe that she says she likes to throw in windier conditions!

Of course reigning champion Mikaili Sol is safely through to the semis, but even the strong conditions tested her and she didn’t land perfectly every time.

Bruna Kajiya has once again shown just how much of a seasoned pro she is, coming through an immense first heat of the day against Lambrecht and Francesca Bagnoli. The lead swayed back and forth but in the end the Brazilan was visibly working to time her take-offs with extreme care and patience in the lulls.

The three-time World Champion will be extremely dangerous when this lagoon serves up its best conditions! Kajiya was the highest heat scorer of the day (22.73) with that opening heat win, thanks to an amazing slim chance right at the end that she somehow held on to, scoring 7.30!

Nathalie Lambrecht was unfortunate to lose to Bruna in that heat but came through her resulting dingle heat against Alexandra Torres and Estefania Rosa and is the day’s second highest heat scorer – 19.33.

The winds were so strong this morning, up to 30 knots, that Hawaiian Karlie Thoma was putting on a big air / kite loop display. Although entertaining, she didn’t score highly according to the judging rulebook for this pure freestyle event. Nevertheless, Thoma’s also into the semis and will be praying for 30+ knots tomorrow morning and perhaps a change to those rules (which can be done if the winds are very strong. Given the predictable nature of Neom’s wind being strong in the early morning and then dropping back nicely, it’s unlikely the judges will see a need to alter the focus).


Semi final 01
Alexandra Torres (ESP) / Francesca Bagnoli (ITA) / Bruna Kajiya (BRA) / Rita Arnaus (ESP)

Semi final 02
Karlie Thoma (HAW) / Nathalie Lambrecht (SWE) / Claudia Leon (ESP) / Mikaili Sol (BRA)

Semi finals will roll tomorrow!

Watch the livestream and also find all the heat ladders and more on the official event live page:



Report: Jim Gaunt
Photos: Svetlana Romantsova

Karlie Thoma and Mikaili Sol



NEOM, the sustainable regional development taking shape in northwest Saudi Arabia, hosts the NEOM Beach Games 2022, bringing together leading world class sport events with high performance athletes from over 25 countries, as the region aims to become a hub for sport. The series of major sport events will launch on October 19 and feature five dynamic sports; kitesurfing, triathlon, 3×3 basketball, beach soccer and mountain biking.

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