By Éidín Dowling

The Irish Freestyle Kayaking Team had remarkable success at the recent ICF World Cups in Plattling, Germany. With 2 World Cups taking place back-to-back to crown an overall champion in each category. 16 paddlers flew over with paddlers taking part in 8 classes.

Day 1 of World Cup 1 kicked off on 26 May with Preliminary rounds for Senior classes, OC1 and Kayak Squirt. Starting off strong 5 paddlers qualified for the next rounds, with David McClure sitting in second heading into the K1 men Quarter Finals. Day 2 was equally as strong with Eoghan Kelly winning Irelands first ever ICF freestyle kayaking medal taking bronze in the Open Canoe class. Alex McClure finished an impressive 4th just missing out on a medal in the Women’s Squirt final. Next in a busy schedule were the Junior classes along with our C1s, along with the K1 quarter finals. In total 7 paddlers qualified for the finals the next day. Day 3 brought tricky water levels as the river rose, despite this Leah Hough won Ireland’s first ever international freestyle title taking the Gold medal in the Junior Women’s K1 class. A strong finish by the Irish team was seen throughout the other classes with David McClure finishing 6th in K1 men, Beibhin Butler finishing 5th in C1 women and 10th in K1 women, Eoghan Kelly and Robbie Geary placing 8th and 9th respectively in C1 men and Aoife Hanrahan coming 8th in K1 women.

Due to the ongoing rise in water levels, leading to potential flooding, World Cup 2 was cut short from 3 days down to one. Final results were decided solely on the preliminary rounds. Despite adverse conditions Eoghan Kelly secured a second bronze medal in the Open Canoe Class, finishing 2nd overall in the World Cups. Leah Hough had another impressive ride, winning a silver medal putting her in first position overall, making her the ICF World Cup Junior Women’s K1 champion. Mea Minchin had a brilliant finish in her first ICF Freestyle competition placing 5th in Junior K1 women. David McClure retained his 6th position in World Cup 2 while Kevin O’Connor managed to place 6th in C1 men.

Despite having never won any ICF Freestyle medals prior to this competition, the Irish Freestyle team placed 5th overall in the World Cup of 20 nations. The team could not have achieved this without the support of Kingspan and Canoeing Ireland. Even with the changing conditions the Irish team proved their resilience and potential as a competitive team internationally putting Irish Freestyle in a very strong position heading into the ECA European Freestyle Championships taking place in Graz, Austria from 26th- 31st August.