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Stellar wins after epic battles in Brazil

Published 11th November 2023 by Ian MacKinnon

 

  • Veteran Bruna Kajiya cements world rankings’ lead with narrow victory in Cauipe

  • Former champion Arthur Guillebert back on top with huge win in tense final

Copa Kitley GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup Brazil
Cauipe Lagoon, 8-11 November, 2023

The final epic day at the Copa Kitley GKA Freestyle World Cup Brazil dealt drama and upset in equal measure, with home favourite Bruna Kajiya taking the narrowest of wins as France’s Arthur Guillebert came out on top.

Brazil’s Kajiya, at 36 the most senior woman on tour, took the victory in Cauipe over the teenaged current world champion, Mikaili Sol (USA). Kajiya won by only 0.02 of a point in a nail-biting final that went down to the wire.

In a venue that Kajiya calls her second home, the three-time world champion secured the win with her very last trick. She cemented her place at the top of the Freestyle rankings on the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour, putting her in the driving seat ahead of the last stop.

“I don’t have words to describe what it means to win in Cauipe,” said an emotional Kajiya. “It’s an honour for me as a kiteboarder. This is the best spot in the world for me. I’m in my home country. I’m with the people I love, doing what I love. This is a dream come true.”

Former world champion Guillebert took the win in a tight final when he saw off the challenge of the multi-talented Maxime Chabloz (SUI). The Swiss athlete had turned the screw on the Frenchman with the competition’s only perfect 10, but it was not quite enough.

Guillebert has been building momentum this season and his victory at the penultimate tour stop in Cauipe gives him two top finishes heading to the grand finale next month in Fuwairit, Qatar, home of the tour’s title partners.

Incredible innovation

“I feel so good,” said Guillebert. “That’s the first event in 100 percent freestyle that I have won. So, I’m feeling super-stoked.”

The third and closing day of the world cup in the kiteboarding mecca of Cauipe, with the best 28 men and 14 women from 18 nations competing in sublime conditions, served up some of the most mindblowing Freestyle competition ever witnessed.

The men’s quarter-final action got the ball rolling in pumping winds. Luis Alberto Cruz (DOM) went huge, showing Dominican power and booking his semi-final spot along with Finn Flügel (GER), who once again rode out of his skin.

Jack Reider (CAN) demonstrated incredible innovation, finishing second in his quarter-final. He pushed into the semis, alongside Guillebert, who topped the heat. Their performances caused one of the day’s biggest upsets, when current world champion Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA) suffered an early exit.

Tom Bridge (GBR) and Maxime Chabloz both had a difficult heat. However, Bridge’s unique style, that included blind landings and pops, helped him pull through in first. Chabloz’s heat was not the cleanest, but his strong opening Heart attack 7 gave him breathing space. 

Brazilian dominance was the order of day in the closing quarter-final. Carlos Mario and compatriot Guilherme Costa both earned 30-plus heat totals, out of a possible 40. It gave them a one-way ticket into the semi-finals, to the delight of the the vocal home crowd.

Power and explosiveness

In the first semi-final Guillebert was again on the march. The Frenchman’s power and explosiveness saw him to a total of 31.57, followed closely by Chabloz with 29.72.

Finn Flügel, in the other semi-final, was equally relentless. The 14-year-old phenom scored 31.11, which included a Hinterberger Mobe 7 that earned 8.53. Tom Bridge topped the heat with buckets of innovation. Three out of four of his tricks were innovation scores, showing the success of new emphasis on variety in the evolving freestyle format. That ended the run of tour leader, Brazil’s Carlos Mario.

The deciding heat was a banger. But Flügel, in his first final, and Bridge could not quite match the big performances of their previous round and seemed to wilt slightly under the pressure. Bridge took the third podium place with Flügel just behind.

That left the stage to Guillebert and Chabloz. The Frenchman’s huge Heart Attack 7 was the heat’s first big score, racking up 8.87. But Chabloz had other plans, landing the only perfect 10 of the competition. The Swiss athlete’s innovative move that started from a blind pop was mindblowing for those on the beach, and the judges in the tower.

It was a fight between Chabloz and Guillebert until the last trick. Guillebert’s Front Blind Mobe 5 was possibly the biggest of the contest, scoring 9.47. The pressure was on for Chabloz to reply, but he crashed his last two tricks, giving Guillebert the victory.

On the women’s side, the first semi-final saw former world champion Karolina Winkowska (POL) prevail. She is returning to the tour after giving birth and showed she meant business, opening with a rarely seen Back Mobe. Francesca Bagnoli (ITA) also progressed  with a Heart Attack, one of heat’s best-scoring tricks that netted 7.73.

Clock ticked down

Bruna Kajiya and five-times world champion, Mikaili Sol, won out in the other semi-final. Sol had the highest-scoring trick of the heat, 9.07 for a Front Blind Mobe, after opening with with a massive Slim 5. Kajiya stayed hot on her heels, delivering a Back Mobe paired with a Slim 5.

The four-way final was a taught affair as the women traded blows. Bagnoli piled on the pressure with a big Heart Attack early on that gave her 7.93. Her celebrations showed she was stoked to land it. Winkowska took a cool, calm, and collected approach, but was unable find another gear and ended third, ahead of Bagnoli.

Kajiya and Sol went toe-to-toe, trading the lead as the clock ticked down. It went down to the wire after Sol stomped a textbook KGB that scored 8.07, leaving Kajiya needing a big last trick.

If ever there was a time to stick a big one, that was the moment. Kajiya put down the hammer with an exquisite Combo for 8.63 that turned up the heat. Sol crumbled under the pressure and crashed her last trick. It left Sol just 0.02 points adrift on the scoreboard and gave Kajiya the win, her third of the season.

With the world titles still up for grabs, the Freestyle finale will play out in Fuwairit, Qatar, early next month. Join us here to discover who will be our champions.

words: Ian MacKinnon / Liam Dredge
images: Svetlana Romantsova

Copa Kitley GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup Brazil 2023 results

Women
1 Bruna Kajiya (BRA)
2 Mikaili Sol (USA)
3 Karolina Winkowska (POL)
4 Francesca Bagnoli (ITA)

Men
1 Arthur Guillebert (FRA)
2 Maxime Chabloz (SUI)
3 Tom Bridge (GBR)
4 Finn Flügel (GER)

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