Neom Result: Claudia Leon and Manoel Soares are the Big Senders in Saudi!

Published 22nd October 2022 by Andrea Susanne Opielka


22nd October 2022
Day Four: Qatar Airways GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup Neom



Neom, Saudi Arabia is firmly on the event map now after four consecutive days of excellent conditions, delivering sensational and heavily contested finals in both the men’s and women’s competitions on Saturday.


  • Read on for the overview report of the finals, watch the highlight video and livestreams!
  • At the bottom of this page find the winners and livestream from the fun big air event
  • Find all heat notes, heat ladders, daily highlights and more on the event live page here
Soares and Leon!

Coming out on top, men’s tour leader Brazilian (and still unsponsored!), Manoael Soares, has made it two event wins from two this season, taking the win here in Neom as king of the desert. He led the final from the start and continued to stretch his lead as the other riders battled it out between themselves, scrambling to make their passes and somehow clean up their landings as the heat rumbled on.

Soares’ only slip up in this event came in the semi-finals when he narrowly finished second to current champion Arthur Guillebert, but other than that the Brazilian’s route to the final had been clean and consistent with heat scores over 30 points from four counting tricks.


Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA) / Juan Rodriguez (COL) / Arthur Guillebert (FRA) / Manoel Soares (BRA)

Waiting all morning for the wind to drop back for ideal conditions seemed to only have added even more tension.

Throwing the first of their seven tricks in the final was Italian Gianmaria Coccoluto. When he heavily butt checked a heart attack 7 instead of going for his standard opening front blind mobe, or his grabbed KGB 5, the pressure of the final seemed to suddenly ripple through the fleet.

Colombian Juan Rodriguez had looked near faultless all event, but he too suddenly couldn’t make a landing stick and suffered some brutal impacts.

Current champion Arthur Guillebert was riding high off the highest heat score of the event in the semi-finals, but the Frenchman also produced a mixed bag of consistency in the final.

For all four riders in the final, this wasn’t their cleanest performance, but that can of course be the result of the pressure in the final. There was no doubt though that Soares dominated the final and deservingly took the win. His best trick was the heart attack 7 he threw on trick three, scoring 8.73, right at the moment that the other riders in the heat were really starting to have words with themselves, wondering how their consistency had suddenly deserted them.

That was really the killer blow and by the time his last trick came around, being last in rotation to perform tricks in the heat, Soares already knew the win was his.

Meanwhile Guillebert had found some form and on the final trick he had the chance to overtake Coccoluto for second. A relatively safe but stylish front blind mobe gave him just enough points to hop beyond the Italian and take second.

In the interview on the stream, Soares broke down in tears and thanked god for being able to make it to the event at all, and was just obviously so happy and grateful. Remember this is an unsponsored rider from a small town in Brazil for whom kiteboarding has taken over his life and now finds himself in the driving seat for the world championship.

In part a thanks must go to our world tour sponsors, Qatar Airways, who flew him and several other top contenders out to this event, via a stopover in Doha where they could all meet at the new FKB centre that’s just opened up there.


Manoel Soares (BRA) 31.43
Arthur Guillebert (FRA) 27.94
Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA) 27.19
Juan Rodriguez (COL) 13.17


Claudia Leon (ESP) / Rita Arnaus (ESP) / Mikaili Sol (BRA) / Bruna Kajiya (BRA)

The nervy build up also seemed to have the women on edge. The final between two Spaniards and two Brazilians was a really up and down affair in the pressure cooker environment.

Spaniard Claudia Leon took her first event win thanks to an incredible level of composure, continuing to land tricks cleanly time and again. The multiple world champions and 2021 vice world champion uncharacteristically faltered behind, with the pressure increasing on each of the seven trick attempts.

Trick four had been key. Arnaus, Kajya and Sol were stunned again when Leon’s 7.10 score dropped for an S-3 on the outside. Claudia’s first world tour win looked like it could become a reality.

Bruna Kajiya had been hampered after losing her kite after a crash on her second trick and was forced to drop a kite size. Going on to miss the bar pass several times in the heat, this early incident obviously affected her performance.

Eventually reigning world champion and tour leader would have another say in proceedings. Mikaili Sol had pulled herself back up into contention for the win but needed to score an 8.28 from her last trick to take the lead. She pulled out her best trick of the heat, a very clean hintermobe 5 on the outside. She had possibly decided that ensuring second place at this event, rather than risking everything to take the win, was the sensible thing to do in the overall scheme of world championship points with one event still to come in the season.

It took a while for that score to drop, eventually confirming that Mika had a 7.33 for her hintermobe 5, confirming that Claudia Leon would take her first event win! Sol looked on at the scoreboard, perhaps wishing she’d tried the gamble for that extra 180 that could have given her the win…

Mikaili’s genuine happiness for Claudia Leon, along with that of all the other women, was very evident as the Spaniard took to the top of the podium for a well deserved first win.

In her interview on the beach with beach commentator Jo Ciastula, Leon said:
“Oh my god, I really have no words now. I was waiting for so long for this moment, I’ve worked so hard with my training and my family who have supported me so much through up and downs, this is for you.”


Claudia Leon (ESP) 24.87
Mikaili Sol (BRA) 24.13
Rita Arnaus (ESP) 20.97
Bruna Kajiya (BRA) 18.10


Earlier in the day the event crew had made the most of the heavier morning winds with a big air competition.

Valentin Garat prevailed over 15 other men to take an impressive win against a talented field.

In the women’s, Hawaii’s Karlie Thoma and Swede Nathalie Lambrecht fought out a tight battle in the final.

Already a podium finisher at the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air World Championships earlier this year, it was Swede who took the win in the final moments!

That’s it from Neom in Saudi Arabia where we have enjoyed an epic competition and no doubt we will be back in the desert for more action next year!

Find full heat reports on the liveticker and all the heat ladders and more on the official event live page:



Report: Jim Gaunt
Photos: Svetlana Romantsova



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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