Many of the world's best paddlers took up the recent invitation from the Chinese Canoe Federation for a series of events in South-Eastern China. Two-time Olympian Mike Dawson filed this report on what was a very successful competition.

Athletes raced a modified discipline under the International Canoe Federation Wild Water Committee as part of a new partnership with the Chinese Canoe Federation to raise awareness of canoe sports in China ahead of the ICF World Cup Wild Water Event in 2019.   

Athletes from around the globe were invited to join the Chinese Canoe Federation on the Salween River in the Yunnan Province of South Eastern China. More than 30 international athletes arrived to battle it out for the titles on the huge Tiger jumping Gorge. Located in the foothills of the Himalaya mountain range, and a steep gradient combined with 400+ cumecs of water made for spectacular racing.

The modified racing schedule saw athletes competing in plastic kayaks of the same model ensuring all competitors were racing on a level playing field. The event was structured to include both a sprint and long distance race. These two individual races truely tested all the athletes. Chief organiser Jin Shaohui was excited with the development of the event from 2017, including the involvement of the ICF, and happy to see a strong international competition held in China. 

First was the sprint event on the final drop of Tiger Jumping Gorge. This raging rapid created havoc in training due to the raw power of the Salween River. In the end Czech paddler Vojta Zapletal showed his class maintaining a fast line in tricky waters to win the Mens K1 over German Yannic Lemmen and Spanish slalom specialist Telmo Olazabal.

In the womens event Dutch extreme queen Martina Wegman took the title over Julia Chuchi Vila of Spain. In the C1 China showed that local knowledge was key, with Teng Zhiqiang being crowned the champion with Frenchman Theo Viens in 2nd. China again proved its class in the canoe class with Chen Shi and Teng Qianqain taking first and second respectively. 

Next up was the down river classic, the long distance event with competitors racing mass start style down 18 kilometres of rapids on the Salween, finishing to cheering crowds in the centre of Nujiang township.  First off were the mens kayak, with the wild water racing specialists quickly showing their class and fitness.

In the end there was a race for the line between Slovenia's Nejc Znidarcic and local hope Zhu Haoran, with the Chinese star narrowly taking the victory. In the C1 men it was Xu Yongzhao narrowly beating Frenchman Theo Viens into second for the second consecutive race. In the K1 womens event it was Mathilde Serena Rosa who showed her talent in long distance events, defeating the Chinese duo of Ren Ye and Yan Jiahua into second and third respectively. There was no luck involved in the C1 womens with the strong Chinese athletes clean sweeping the podium lead by Teng Qianqain, fresh off her silver medal the day before.   

The event showed the potential of this incredible region of China to host world class events with amazing support from the local government, provincial sports council and the Chinese Canoe Federation working together to create an amazing competition. In the end athletes from 19 countries experienced the rich culture of China while competing at the highest level in preparation for the 2019 World Cup when China will welcome the world. 

Mike Dawson

Chinese wild water event 2018

Wildwater Canoeing