Poland’s Nina Arcisz riding an Ozone R1 clinched victory at the Formula Kite U21 Youth World Championships in dramatic style, after battling her way to the finals where she came from behind to land the title on the Italian resort island of Sardinia.
Arcisz was almost unstoppable taking the three wins she needed to seize gold in the light and shifty 7kts to 8kts breezes blowing over Torregrande’s spectacular natural amphitheatre of the Gulf of Oristano.
In doing so the Polish athlete saw off the challenge of Israel’s Maya Ashkenazi, also riding Ozone R1, who took the second podium step. Ashkenazi had started the fifth and final day of the 2022 International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Youth Worlds in pole position, needing only one race win to secure the title.
But Arcisz grabbed a trio back-to-back bullets in the finals. In the process, she twice overhauled Italy’s Sofia Tomasoni on the final downwind legs of the of the two-lap track, in the faltering breezes that had forced a nervy halt to the finals.
Wading ashore in her pink helmet and sporting star-covered finger nails in the same hue, Arcisz was overcome with emotion as the magnitude of her victory sank in. “The wind was very difficult but somehow I won the world championships,” she said through the tears. “How did that happen? I’m so excited. I never expected it at all.”
Arcisz’ road to gold was littered with obstacles. She began the day in fifth position overall, earning her a spot in the semi-finals races where she required two race wins to advance to the finals.
In her path lay the imposing figure of Polish team-mate and reigning IKA Youth World Champion, Julia Damasiewicz. Ozone team rider Damasiewicz, on an orange R1 kite, needed just one win to secure a finals’ berth because of her superior qualifying position. But Arcisz, riding a purple 19m Ozone R1, proved too strong for her compatriot twice in succession in about 10kts of breeze.
In the other half of the semi-finals draw, Israel’s Gal Zukerman, the reigning World Sailing Youth World Champion. Riding black Ozone R1 kites, she struggled with kite choice switching between 15m and 19m in the fickle breezes, leaving the door open for Italy’s Tomasoni who progressed to the finals.
For both Arcisz and Tomasoni the biggest test was yet to come in the four-person finals races shootout. The duo found themselves up against Ashkenazi and France’s Heloise Pegourie, who lay in wait after qualifying in first and second positions respectively.
However, for the top-qualifying pair of Ashkenazi and Pegourie, the wait appears to have been to their disadvantage. Arcisz and Tomasoni traded blows with one another, but bossed the finals in a thrilling four-race duel.
Tomasoni drew first blood with a win straight out of the blocks, while Ashkenazi and Pegourie were forced to retire after dropping their kites when they chose the right side of the course in the fading breeze that dipped between 5kts and 7kts.
But following a break of an hour after the wind died, Arcisz came out all guns blazing. When the shifty, offshore Mistral filled again to 7kts-to-8kts, Arcisz came from behind in the finals’ three closing races to take the crucial wins.
Arcisz’s most daring move came when she gybed inside Tomasani to pass at the final mark on the dog-leg to the finish line in the finals’ second race. But Arcisz proved it was no fluke. She used her superior downwind speed on her 19m Ozone R1 to go to the front twice more and seal the world title deal in exuberant fashion.
words: Ian MacKinnon/Ozone