Matchu Lopes takes the Championship Title to the wire in Freestyle Final in Fehmarn.
Matchu flies the flag for Cape Verde / Photo: Joern Pollex
It was straight into the semi-finals at 10am today after the riders stormed through the first three rounds of the main event and the quarter-finals yesterday.
Could Paulino Pereira go beyond his best (but consistent) third place finish? Julien Kerneur had the potential to score his first GKA Kite-Surf World Tour podium, or would we get another sensational showdown in the final between heavyweight unhooker Airton, whose dominant strapless freestyle performances have led many to wonder if he can actually be beaten on flat water this season, versus the ultra-fluid, smooth and stylish Matchu.
Matchu is the reigning champion, but ideally needed a win here in Germany to close the sizable gap and stand a better chance of taking the fight to tour leader Airton in the final round in Mauritius next month.
Matchu puts his best foot forward in the semis / Photo: Joern Pollex
SEMI FINAL #1: MATCHU LOPES Vs JULIEN KERNEUR
Matchu got off to a solid start in the first semi-final heat of the day, beating Julien Kerneur who’s made an outstanding comeback at this event. Matchu seemed reserved in the opening couple of minutes, perhaps luring Julien into a false sense of security before he struck hard with a stomped air-3 and a one-footed front roll. Julien fought back with a nice kiteloop and came close on an unhooked pop to blind but Matchu then sealed the deal and his route to the finals with a frontroll shuvit. He even went for a backside flat-3 in the final seconds of the heat – a trick we’ve not yet seen him attempt on this year’s tour.
Airton powers into an air-3 in the semis / Photo: Joern Pollex
SEMI FINAL #2: PAULINO PEREIRA Vs AIRTON COZZOLINO
Paulino Pereira then took on Airton Cozzolino in the second semi which was a ‘battle of the handlepasses’ from the start. Airton is undoubtedly the most advanced rider in this highly technical area of strapless freestyle, but Paulino is catching him up with each event. The Portuguese rider stuck a shifty-3 in response to Airton’s before coming excruciatingly close to matching Airton’s backside flat-3 with one of this own. Paulino pushed Airton all the way but his execution wasn’t quite there and Airton went through to another final against Matchu.
Paulino punts it into third / Photo: Joern Pollex
MINI FINAL: PAULINO PEREIRA Vs JULIEN KERNEUR
Before the final showdown could happen it was down to Julien and Paulino to do battle for third place. It’s fair to say that Paulino’s pretty well acquainted with third place at this stage and he opened with a big air reverse followed by a rodeo and then followed it up with a stylish unhooked air reverse into a surface pass. He narrowly missed a frontroll shuvit but he’d done enough to beat Julien who struggled to make up ground as the final minutes ticked away.
Julien Kerneur made a storming return to competition at this event, making his way past some big names on the tour to secure a birth in the semis / Photo: Joern Pollex
From there all eyes were on the final. Airton and Matchu were chomping at the bit and a huge crowd lined the beach – finally it was on!
THE FINAL: MATCHU LOPES Vs AIRTON COZZOLINO
Airton nailed a flat-3 almost immediately and followed it up with a shifty-3. Initially it looked as though he would overrun his opponent with sheer technical ability and rapid trick count, but Matchu didn’t buckle under the pressure. He came back at Airton with a perfectly landed board-off backloop kiteloop and a big rodeo. Airton focused in on trying to stick another handlepass (which was proving difficult on his 12m kite as the wind built) and Matchu seemed to sense that this was his moment and upped the pressure.
Airton pulled out all the stops in the final but it was to be Matchu’s day / Photo: Joern Pollex
He landed a huge tic-tac kiteloop and then a big superman backroll while Airton seemed to further frustrate himself going for yet another shifty-3 and, although he eventually landed one in the final minute, it wasn’t enough. Matchu had done it with his first event win of the year!
Matchu spots his landing and his first victory of 2017/ Photo: Joern Pollex
The crowd and his fellow competitors went wild as Matchu was announced as the winner with everyone happy to see him win an event after what’s been a tumultuous tour for him at times this year. It was a significant moment as championship contender Mitu Monteiro slipped away down the rankings going out in the third round here in Germany, so Matchu has moved up to second place, closing on Airton with just one event left to go.
Matchu’s moment / Photo: Joern Pollex
Airton maintains a good lead but the wave at One Eye can be a great leveller as the world’s best wave riders are attracted to the event. As Airton found last year, slipping up in just one heat in Mauritius can be costly and could cost him the 2017 title that’s he’s still clearly the favourite for.
TOP FIVE AFTER GERMANY
1. Airton Cozzolino: 3580 points
2. Matchu Lopes: 3210
3. Paulino Pereira: 3160
4. Mitu Monteiro: 3080
5. Keahi de Aboitiz: 2760
A COUPLE OF MAURITIUS SCENARIOS
If Airton finishes 4th or worse and Matchu finishes 2nd or better, Matchu will be champion.
If Matchu wins the contest, but Airton reaches the final, Airton will be champion.
The main event for the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour Fehmarn is now complete but there are seven days left in the event period with a lot still going on at the Kitesurf World Cup festival. The wind looks even stronger tomorrow so a big-air event should go off and the HydroFoil Pro Tour is also in town having had their first day of racing today (Sunday). Some of the Kite Park League crew are also here to put on a display over the obstacles and meanwhile, off the water, there are parties every night, packed brand tents, a live music stage and more besides! www.kitesurfworldcup.org