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2014 Wildwater World Championships - Day 4
Individual Sprint Finals and Team Sprint

June 15, 2014 -- Adda River, Valtellina Italy

by Doug Ritchie, USA Wildwater Team Member

Usain Bolt runs the 200m sprint with an average speed of 23.31 MPH.
Top racers on the Adda completed the 350 yard sprint with an average speed of 18.31 MPH.
Athletes are moving down the river at roughly 26 feet per second.

The rocks, waves, and holes, however, don't move at all. They just sit there, waiting….

The Adda is up again this morning. I mean seriously, at this point, I'd have been disappointed if it wasn't up another few cubic meters. I figure it's running about 125 and the sprint final is going to be really fun to watch.

Fortunately for the United States, we had a great team effort yesterday culminating in Emmanuel following the race line set by Marin Millar. He jumped from 37th after his first run to 13th after his second. Today he gets one shot at it. It's a one run all or nothing game today. Unfortunately for us, we were forced to drop out of the team sprint event. Kurt's boat is broken so badly that it's pointless to keep trying to use it. His duct tape and crash guard splint worked well enough to get down the river yesterday but another tail hit and the whole back of the boat might be gone. Only the deck is actually still intact.

So for the United States it's all about Emmanuel Beauchard and the sprint final.

Kurt is off the water with no boat so it's Emmanuel and me going down to the sprint course to do a run through. Then we'll continue downriver to where the finish line was for the classic race a couple of days ago. I'm not racing today - I'm just helping Emmanuel warm up. I keep reminding myself of that. As we change into our gear I tell myself it's no big deal. River's even bigger than yesterday, but I'm not racing… just here to have fun… just a big water run in my fun race boat… no big deal… just going to have fun.

We get up to the start eddy and already there are fifteen guys either in, or trying to get in. I'm standing on shore while a German C -1 paddler tries to get his spray skirt on. There are no nice Italian volunteers in full wet suits to hold us. They don't get here until the race actually starts. I get down on my knees about half in the water and grab the guy's boat. Even with me holding the wings of his Pentagon racing C-1 he struggles for a minute to skirt up. Finally he gets his skirt on and pulls out into the river. He looks at me and says "Tank Yous" which I take to mean "thank you". I give him a thumbs up, he looks a little shell shocked. His coaches on the shore start yelling at him, he's forgotten to buckle his helmet strap. He holds his paddle under one arm and gets his helmet squared away just in time. I stand up and look at the crowd of paddlers, there's even more now. Emmanuel is already gone and with this throng it's going to take me 20 minutes to get paddling. I have to improvise something quick. I grab my boat and scramble over rocks and get down to where the electric start eye is. There's a tiny bit of grass there. So I throw my boat down and hop in. I slide down into the water and take off. I'm immediately in the meat of the sprint rapid and all my pre-run psych to keep it mellow and fun fails me. I'm gripped up and all I think about are the rocks I'm trying to miss. The last thing I want is my boat to end up like Kurt's. Team Coach Chris Norbury later told me that I looked like I really didn't want to be there. He was correct.

Emanuel pulled up and waited for me at the bottom of the sprint course and we set off at about 80% of race pace for a warm up. Well, really it was like 98% for me and maybe 80% for him.

An hour so later all the U.S. team and several hundred spectators as well as the Italian TV news watched the sprint finals. Emmanuel really had a great run and he was right on his line. He finished 11th overall.

The sprint finals were really wild. There were people who swam, broken paddles, many racers made very minor mistakes and were blown way off line and ended up taking pioneer routes that until then had not been seen.

The weather has been sunny all week long and by the end of the day we were tired and fried but very happy for the U.S. and impressed with Emmanuel's sprint finish.

Here’s a link to the official results:

Ciao from Italy,

Doug Ritchie