Olympic exclusion doesn't faze top kiteboarders

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-7-28 14:21:33

The International Sailing Federation's decision to oust kiteboarding from the 2016 Rio Olympics and reinstate windsurfing to the Games' roster, hasn't fazed many of the world's top kiteboarders who feel the outcome may be beneficial to their nascent sport in the long term.

In May 2012, the ISAF voted in favor of kiteboarding making its Olympic debut at the Rio Games. The decision came at the expense of dropping windsurfing, a sport that debuted at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for men and at the 1992 Barcelona Games for women.

Last November, at a meeting in Ireland, however, the ISAF reversed its decision, voting 51.6 percent in favor of reinstating windsurfing and dropping kiteboarding.

Speaking at the Canadian Kiteboarding National Championships Saturday in Squamish, British Columbia, Erika Heineken, the reigning kiteboarding course racing women's world champion, said the decision to re-vote likely came about following intense protests to the ISAF from the windsurfing community.

The San Francisco native said she was fine with the decision as initially she was hesitant about her sport joining the Olympics.

"I think a lot of the decision (to drop kiteboarding) was windsurfing putting up a stink, but I also think overall, the initial decision, the people who are making the decision don't really understand where our sport is currently and where it was a year ago," she said.

Heineken said her sport, which the ISAF and the International Kiteboarding Association reported was enjoyed by more than 1.5 million participants worldwide last year, still had much work to do in standardizing racing equipment and in better organizing of professional events.

On November 12-17, about 200 of the world's top kiteboarders will be in Haikou for the Hainan International Kitesurf Festival.

"Our gear needs some more time to develop and for the class rules to establish themselves within all the manufacturers for all of our equipment, kites, boards, everything. So I'm okay with that."

Heineken's younger brother, Johnny, the reigning men's course racing world champion the past two years, was in agreement and added with the Olympic spotlight now off the sport temporarily this would allow it to grow further.

As a lifelong windsurfer himself, he hoped the two sports would both be in the Olympic roster for the 2020 Games.

"Actually, I think it kind of a good thing," said the 25-year-old who is on course for a third straight world title. "I think for the sport it means that we're just going to have more time to develop and grow and kind of go in the direction that's right for the competitors. Hopefully then that will be something that the Olympics thinks is a good fit for them, but we'll see how good that goes in the future."

With kiteboarding entailing such disciplines as freestyle, free ride, down winders, speed course racing, wake style, jumping and wave riding, American Bryan Lake, the current world No. 1 in slalom racing, said there's no limits as to where this sport can go over time.

"As the fast growing water sport in the world, you're not only going to see racing in the Olympics, you might even see freestyle and maybe high-speed stuff too because this sport has a lot to offer," the San Diego native said.

"As kiteboarders would say, we were kind of immature to be going into the whole (Olympic) sailing world and all that, so it's probably better that our sport matures a little bit, figure out what the good rules are and we can keep progressing and going faster."

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