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2018 Youth Olympic Games Qualifiers YOG

The Youth Olympic qualifiers – Asia and Oceania

On March 15, 2018   |   By

Kite Racers Push Hard for Youth Olympics Places in Stellar Conditions


The Youth Olympic qualifiers - Asia and Oceania

Images: Alexandru Baranescu / Words: Ian MacKinnon


The opening exchanges in the hotly-contested battles to secure a spot to fight for kiteboardings first medals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) saw young riders push to the limit in glorious racing conditions in Thailand.

In thermal breezes that freshened to about 20kts under clear tropical skies, the young competitors fought tooth and nail for the four slots available for the Asia and Oceania regions.


The Youth Olympic qualifiers - Asia and Oceania

With such high stakes due to the limited number of placesjust two for boys and two for girlsthe contests in the fast-paced TwinTip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom discipline was intense, with white-knuckle photo-finishes and spills as the wind picked up.

But on the first of five days of competition at the Iconic Kitesurfing Youth Olympic Qualifiers, organised by Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), several riders signalled their intent with dominant performances that saw them top the standings in the respective boys and girls divisions.


The Youth Olympic qualifiers - Asia and Oceania


Perhaps the biggest surprise was Thailands Sarun Nai Rupchom. He won almost every one of this races. With near impeccable timing he seized the vital lead at the startlines, allowing him to round the first mark ahead. From there he dominated the five downwind legs, had clear water at the obstacles, and took the wins.

Yet even Rupchom showed he was not infallible. In the days last elimination round decider Rupchom crossed the startline fractionally early and was disqualified OCS, though the error was not too costly as the 17-year-old was able to discard the score from his tally.

Im getting good starts, said Rupchom, just before he faltered. The starts so important because it means I can get to the first mark in the lead. Then after that its very difficult for anyone to pass if I dont make a mistake.

In his days last race his mistake allowed the Philippines Christian Tio, a freestyler more than a racer, to take the elimination decider win and push him up to second overall in the Asia boys division.

With each race he believes he is improving his tactical appreciation. But he acknowledged he faces fierce competition from the Thailand team and the strong Chinese riders in the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Slalom format specially design for YOG in Argentina in October.

Its really tough, much tougher than I expected, said Tio, 16. Everybodys been training really hard for the Youth Olympics, and now everyones fighting really hard for that place. Ive adjusted my tactics a bit to try to get better starts. Ive also been trying to tum more quickly at the marks.


The Youth Olympic qualifiers - Asia and Oceania


In the girls Asia division Chinas Jingle Chen, the reigning senior TT:R Slalom World Champion, blotted a perfect record in her days last race when she crashed her 11m kite rounding the second mark at full speed in the lead, allowing her team-mate Kewen Li to take the win.

But Chen, who had otherwise dominated the group with her pace and tactical nous, could laugh off the slip up. She, too, was able to discard the score to give her the overall lead.

I feel comfortable that Im controlling the races, said Chen. But I realise the other girls are getting faster and faster the more they race. So Ill have to be on my guard in the days ahead.

If anything it was a day of minor slip-ups for the leading contenders. Australias Mani Bisschops, in his last race in the Oceania division, seemed to have a clean sweep of wins in the bag when he caught a piece of chop and briefly crashed.


The Youth Olympic qualifiers - Asia and Oceania


But he fought his way back into contention and was lucky enough to see his rival, Arron Kenny (AUS) suffer the same fate on the next downwind leg allowing Bisschops to regain the lead and take the win to stay top of the leaderboard.

I think my kitefoil racing experience has really helped me a lot, said Bisschops. Although the TT:R starts are quite different from foiling, being able to use your watch and timing efficiently is really important.

Top three boys Asia division (after four elimination rounds, one discard)

1 Sarun Rupchom (THA) 3pts

2 Christian Tio (PHI) 7pts

3 Haoran Zhang (CHN) 7pts

Top three girls Asia division (after four races, one discard)

1 Jingle Chen (CHN) 3pts

2 Kewen Li (CHN) 5pts

3 Nichanan Rodthong (THA) 9pts

Top three boys Oceania division (after four races, one discard)

1 Mani Bisschops (AUS) 3pts

2 Aaron Kenny (AUS) 6pts

3 William Barlette 9pts

Top girl Oceania division (after four races, one discard)

1 Pia Kitchin Gordon 11pts


YOG qualification events

North and South America: Cabarete, DOM, 15-20 January 2018

Europe and Africa: Dakhla, MAR, 20-25 February 2018

Asia and Oceania: Pranburi, THA, 13-18 March 2018

2018 TT:R Youth Slalom World Championships: Boao, CHN, 03-08 May 2018


Find out how what happened at the YOG Dakhla qualifiers here


The post The Youth Olympic qualifiers – Asia and Oceania appeared first on Kiteworld Magazine | The original international kitesurfing magazine.