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2023 KiteFoil World Series Final in Zhuhai - Overall

by Andy Rice 3 Dec 2023 13:56 PST 30 November - 3 December 2023
Nolot & Maeder become season champions after winning in Zhuhai - 2023 KiteFoil World Series Final in Zhuhai © IKA Media / Robert Hajduk

Lauriane Nolot and Max Maeder have won the women's and men's competition at the Lakewood Hills KiteFoil World Series China in Zhuhai. Their victories in China mean Nolot and Maeder have also become overall KiteFoil World Series Champions for the 2023 season.

While the French and Singaporean riders certainly started the week as favourites, their closest rivals forced them to race at their very best if they were going to take out the titles.

Mind over Maeder

In the men's fleet, Toni Vodisek started the day in pole position, the Slovenian wearing the yellow bib and just one race win away from overall victory. Maeder managed to take the first race in the four-rider final to draw level on points with his friend and rival.

The decider was an absolute humdinger of a duel between the Singaporean teenager and the Slovenian, but Maeder took a small advantage ahead of Vodisek on the first downwind of the two-lap course. Crashing - whether due to fish or plastic bags - has been a theme of the week and this time it was Vodisek who caught the bad luck. With Vodisek's tumble giving Maeder some vital breathing room, the 17-year-old foiled across the finish line at over 30 knots, punching the air in victory.

Maeder took nothing for granted, however. "I was tensing up, clenching my buttocks, and hoping for the best," he said on the beach minutes after securing victory in Zhuhai. "Toni brings out the best in me. We had good, close racing all the way round, it was such a back and forth, but he's such a good sportsman and it's a real honour to race against him and the other competitors." Vodisek took silver and bronze went to Qibin Huang of China.

Crash, bang, wallop

The women's competition was even more dramatic. Such is the format of the Medal Series in kitefoiling, any of the top 10 go into the final day knowing they have a shot at the podium, potentially the gold medal. Italian rider Sofia Tomasoni was one of the four competitors at the bottom of the top 10, set to race in the Repechage. Starting the day in 8th place overall, the Italian fought her way through three knockout rounds - the Repechage, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals - and into the Grand Final.

Even then, Tomasoni along with the other qualifier, China's Chenxue Liu, started the Grand Final at a disadvantage compared with Jingle Chen in the yellow bib and Lauriane Nolot in the blue. However, Tomasoni threw caution to the wind, taking two race wins and taking the contest to match point. Whoever of Tomasoni, Chen or Nolot won the next race would take the title.

Finally after a difficult week, Nolot turned on the afterburners and crossed the finish in first, winning the regatta and becoming overall champion of Kitefoil World Series 2023. Chen thought she had taken the silver, but Tomasoni took the final race to a protest on the beach. The jury found in the Italian's favour who was awarded the silver with Chen having to settle for bronze.

No hard feelings however, as the two rivals hugged each other when the jury announced their decision. "Competition is competition, friends are friends," smiled Chen. "Sofia did a really good race today. But for the final, I want to beat her, I didn't want to finish third, but I lost because of the protest. I'm a little disappointed in myself, I crashed in the first race, hit a little fish and I missed my opportunity."

For Tomasoni, the silver medal was a great way to finish a hard season throughout 2023. "I wasn't expecting this today. But I just did my own thing, tried to stay out of trouble and it worked out for me. It was a really tough season for me in 2023, some big disappointments at the Worlds and Europeans, so I'm really happy to have this moment of showing what I can do."

Nolot has found it hard racing in China for the first time and was relieved to have won despite some very hard moments across the four days of racing. "It was horrible out there, very, very challenging conditions. I have the feeling I say the word 'challenging' a lot here," she laughed. "Today the wind was shifting, dropping out at times.

"Jingle was following me everywhere, following me like a shadow, so I was having to tack or gybe at the last minute and try to change my plan at the last moment. I think she was trying to block me, and I realised this after the first race, and I don't think I have tacked and gybed so much."

The margin of Nolot's victory in the deciding race was more like the French rider we have seen in 2023. Just unstoppable, once she's in clear air. The rest of the week wasn't anything like as easy though.

"I'm really happy with my performance because this is one of the first times where it's not been that easy for me. I was feeling sick, not at 100 per cent, but it's good because you learn how to push beyond your limits. I was thinking so many times I want to go back to the beach and give up, but once the start gun fires you don't want to stop. The adrenalin kicks in and you find the energy to carry on. I'm going to sleep well tonight, go and visit Hong Kong tomorrow and then fly back to France."

Results Men

    1. Maximilian Maeder, SGP - Gold
    2. Toni Vodisek, SLO - Silver
    3. Qibin Huang, CHN - Bronze

Results Women

    1. Lauriane Nolot, FRA - Gold
    2. Sofia Tomasoni, ITA - Silver
    3. Jingle Chen, CHN - Bronze

Event website: kitefoilworldseries.com/2023zhuhai

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