Peter Csonka (SVK), Dane Jackson (USA) and Jason Craig (USA) battled for pole position repeatedly in the quest for gold. Jackson posted a score of 1316 and moved into first place, only for Csonka, who was seeded last after his victory in the Quarter Final, responded with a result of 1538, possibly the highest-scoring freestyle ride recorded in ICF competition to date. Csonka’s ride was greeted with gasps and cheers from the crowd, who were able to follow the competition more closely than ever before thanks to the introduction of the new digital scoring system debuted at this year’s World Cup series. “The scoring system makes the sport truly accessible to spectators and enthusiasts,” said designer Raymond Brugger of Bryson City, N.C. Craig finished third with 1186 points.
The men’s class, the largest with 57 competitors, was not the only one to amaze the crowd with neck-and-neck rides. In the K1 Women’s final, Nina Csonkova (SVK), Emily Jackson (USA), and Claire O’Hara (USA), consecutively pushed the limit. Then, in her final ride, Ruth Gordon-Ebens (CAN) posted an incredible 495 points, catapulting her temporarily into first place and knocking Csonkova off the podium. Jackson fought back but fell just short with a final score of 430. Claire O’Hara (GBR), however, rose to the challenge and in the final women’s ride of the day posted a score of 633, the highest scoring women’s ride from the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Series. (See results here.)
Competition went from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day and featured athletes from 17 countries and five continents. Free music and celebration followed the weekend’s events each night in true Nantahala style. Athletes from around the world are expected to return to Western North Carolina next spring and summer to prepare for the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships, the biggest event in canoe freestyle, which take place once every two years.
—Aaron Bible for Paddlinglife.net