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Visit Qatar GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup - Kajiya and Coccoluto Triumph on Day 5 in Qatar

by Jim Gaunt 5 Feb 03:10 PST 31 January - 4 February 2023

A packed house at Fuwairit Kite Beach witnessed the first clash of the season where Bruna Kajiya made an ecstatic return to the top step and Gianmaria Coccoluto's title defence held firm.

The crew assembled at dawn with big business to be done before the water level dropped too low in this tidal lagoon.

Friday morning saw the riders put on a pre-breakfast semi-final throwdown before the finals ran on the other side of the tide in mid afternoon.

You can read a full report on those semi-finals and catch up on the morning's livestream here.

Sending it into the weekend

While the competition was on hold, by midday a vibrant crowd had already started to amass, with hundreds making the 80 minute drive from Doha to start their weekend early. Almost as soon as the lagoon started to fill again the spectators were treated to full afternoon's feast of kiteboarding, starting with a big air show from some of the professional athletes to whet their appetite for the upcoming drama of the freestyle finals.

Women's Final
Claudia Leon (ESP) / Bruna Kajiya (BRA) / Nathalie Labrecht / Mikaili Sol (USA)

By the time the women's final got under way, the Qatari crowds were ready to get their first taste of a world class Freestyle final. Claudia Leon, Bruna Kajiya, Nathalie Lambrecht and Mika Sol rocked a great show.

In an emotional twist, 3x world champion, Bruna Kajiya, returned to the top step of an event podium for the first time in two seasons. She put on a truly gritty performance on an eight metre in windy conditions and had a close battle with reigning champion, Mika Sol.

Bruna had opened up with an impressive hat-trick of moves; evidence of how this most experienced of competitors is maintaining such an awesome competitive drive. A textbook back mobe was followed by a backside 313 and a clean slim chance to give her the early advantage.

Mika herself had opened up the heat with a massive slim 5 which would be the highest scoring trick of the final, earning 8.07 points. She then suffered later on by taking three attempts to finally nail a hinterberger 5.

A huge heart attack on trick five had extended Bruna's advantage but Mika's eventual hinterberger was supported by the early slim 5 and a solid 315.

By then the top two positions had become a battle between these two as Nathalie Lambrecht's early pressure started to fall away after the halfway mark. Claudia Leon also looked uneasy in the stronger conditions than any of these riders had ridden in for some time.

Mika was the last rider to throw a move in the final and still had the chance to win, opting to try and secure the maximum variety score with a toeside take-off. As she rotated around the final stage of a crow mobe she missed the pass on landing, proving once again that critical moments will crown or crush you in freestyle.

Every trick landing was really hard earned in the final and Bruna pieced together a consistent heat with a classy exhibition that was loaded with gutsy moves.

At 35 years of age, the Brazilian is the oldest athlete in the GKA's Freestyle discipline. Her incredible professional riding career started back in 2005. Since then she has amassed three world titles as well as several domestic championships and a clutch of more specialised discipline titles. In 2015 she took women's performance riding to new levels by becoming the first female to land a backside 315, opening a new world of progression that led to the women's performances we see today.

In an emotional interview on the water's edge right after the result was announced, with teary eyes she beamed, "I think it's obvious how hard it is for me to find words. I love this sport, To have been doing it for so long and to still be able to feel this emotion means so much. All the girls killed it, and it's a privilege to compete with them. To be number one again, I don't even know what to say."

Women's Final results:

1. Bruna Kajiya (BRA) 31.86 (7)
2. Mikaili Sol (USA) 28.24 (4)
3. Nathalie Lambrecht (SWE) 26.56 (7)
4. Claudia Leon (ESP) (0)

Men's Final
Louka Pitot (FRA) / Carlos Mario (BRA) / Valentin Rodriguez (COL) / Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA)

A strong, cool wind blew in across the lagoon with riders on nine, ten and eleven metre kites, often with a heap of depower yanked on. The 22 - 25 knot wind speeds belied the density in its power.

The event's high performers had reached the final and, in his first ever GKA Kite World Tour final, Louka Pitot took the fight bravely to the three world champions that lined up against him.

A big heart attack 5 and KGB 5 proved that Pitot was more than just the king of combos and toeside tricks that had helped propel him through to the final.

Pitot led the heat up to trick six of the eight attempts allowed in the final, but then crashed twice, opening the door...

Of course no one wins until all tricks have been thrown, the top four scoring moves for each rider have been pulled out and then the final variety score has been allocated for hitting different trick families and added on top. Freestyle finals always deliver intensity with such small margins for error and it was the experience of Gianmaria Coccoluto and Carlos Mario that shone through, with both staying cool to the end. Only when the final scores dropped at the end with the top four tricks for each rider combined with their variety score was current champion Coccoluto confirmed as the event winner.

His victory was a narrow one, winning by less than half a point over Mario, thanks in part to a clinical slim 7 close to the end.

Valentin Rodriguez finished in fourth after a good start but his challenge fizzled out with a series of big butt checks while striving hard for double handle-passes - but like all riders in the final he achieved the full variety score.

Although the new variety score is still in its infancy, making its debut at this event, it will take some time for the visual show and real performance development to take shape. So far riders have already responded positively though, clearly enjoying the challenge brought by the changes. Certainly we've seen riders mixing excellent single trick execution with a vision for new combos that will bring new elements to the game.

No one could argue that Gianmaria Coccoluto adapted best this week, taking the win at this event and starting the defence of his first world title with a triumphant display in Qatar.

Men's Final results:

1. Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA) 32.53 (7)
2. Carlos Mario (BRA) 32.10 (7)
3. Louka Pitot (FRA) 31.93 (7)
4. Valentin Rodriguez (COL) 28.43 (7)

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