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5 Aug, 2010 09:02

Russia’s young rafters storm to gold at Worlds

Russia's senior white water rafting team has failed to claim a medal at the World Rafting Championships.

However, But its youth team did them proud, claiming gold in their event to show that there is still a strong future for the sport in the country.

This year's World Rafting Championships entered history as the first event of its kind ever to be held on an artificial course.

The 300-meter outdoor white water run attracted 50 teams from over 25 countries to compete in the world's greatest rafting event, which also saw the first youth championships being held.

Five-star elite teams from Brazil, Germany, Slovakia, Japan and Russia tried their best to tackle the intense currents, with plenty of spectators watching the impressive showdown.

There are four disciplines. The sprint is simple, whoever completes the course the fastest wins. Of course, that is if they can avoid getting thrown out. A few flips were seen, and some of the rafters ended up in the drink.

One of the most spectacular disciplines is the head-to-head. Two teams try to not only tackle the tricky turns, but also battle it out on their way to the finish line. It is an ideal chance for the competitors to show their river skills and combat maneuvers.

The next challenge is the slalom – the king of all rafting disciplines. The course consists of 12 gates hanging over the river, and the rafters have to draw on their best techniques to complete the route.

The final discipline is the physically demanding downriver event. Crews have to raft down the route, but then have to paddle upstream back to the top and repeat the lap several times.

Russia's national team is always among the hot favorites in every rafting tournament, but this time the Russians failed to get enough medals to get on top, ending up in fifth place.

“It was the first world championship held on an artificial course and we do not have such facilities in Russia as we train on real whitewater. Nevertheless, we knew our opponents very well and we knew what we could expect. Our men’s team got the gold in sprint, but then we didn't succeed in the other disciplines. However, we had some trouble, as one crewmember broke a leg and we couldn't perform at full strength,” Oleg Grigoriev, Russia's Rafting Federation First Vice-President, said.

Japan's rafters showed swift progress in past years, and this time they grabbed their first-ever title in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

However, Russia absolutely dominated the youth championship, collecting medals in all four disciplines in the men's division and becoming the overall champions.

“Actually, we initiated holding the world youth championship as we have been developing rafting among young people since 2004. Every year we hold lots of competitions across the country. So I would say that our triumph in the world championship is a result. And it's not only about results. Sport helps children in their personal enhancement. We sometimes act like a character in “The Catcher in the Rye” – not letting them fall down; and of course we try to make it more popular, to attract more kids,” Grigoriev added.

The rapids may have been manufactured, but the stamina, control and strength shown by the world's rafting elite was absolutely real.