GKA Qatar Grand Finale
Sol and Coccoluto are our new Vice-World Champions!
After a sensational season, the Qatar Airways GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup came to its conclusion, crowning the 2023 World Champions. It was a tight battle from start to finish, with the tour leaders giving it everything they had, training tirelessly in between events and throwing down when it mattered most. In the end, we are proud of the hard work and determination of our athletes Mikaili Sol and Gianmaria Coccoluto, both claiming Vice-World Champions, and Claudia Leon, earning the impressive title of 3rd in the world.
Gianmaria Coccoluto, fresh off his first World Championship-winning season in 2022, started the year off with a bang, taking home the win in the season-opening event in Qatar. He was looking to repeat it here for the season's final event. However, by the end of the event holding period, the conditions would never prove suitable enough to run the competition, resulting in a first-place tie for all male participants. This tie would keep the standings intact, awarding Carlos Mario Bebe the coveted world title. Nonetheless, Coccoluto takes home the Vice-World Championship title for his performance throughout the season! This result was well deserved by his incredibly powerful riding, his unparalleled style, and his relentless effort off the water. Huge congratulations to Coccoluto for another spectacular season!
“Everything was to be decided in Qatar where the winner of the event would be the world champ. I was still 2nd in the ranking, so I was ready to take the Win there as I did in January, but unluckily, we had a terrible week of no wind. It was flat, and the waiting game was so stressful for me. In the end, there was no wind to fight for the title and I ended up with VICE WORLD CHAMPION."
»It's still an amazing result, but now I will be back next season to fight harder than ever.«
Mikaili Sol also finishes the year as our new women's Vice-World Champion! This is a fantastic result that was well deserved through her determination, perseverance, and well honed talent. It was another tight battle between Sol and the 2023 World Champion Bruna Kajiya all season long. The two often went trick for the trick in heats decided by the tiniest of margins. At the grand finale, which returned to Qatar for the second time this year, the conditions only granted enough wind to complete two women's heats. This would also ultimately result in a tie that would close out the season for the women's competition, thus keeping the standings as they were before the start of the event. Even though she didn't get to fight until the end, Sol gave another stellar performance on tour this year, further cementing her athleticism and talent.
»Out of everything that’s happened this year, I’m stoked with how it ended. Losing is a big part of growing and I feel that losing the first world title I’ve ever lost since I’ve started competing is a big thing. It will teach me how to become better, how to inspire myself, and how to motivate myself.«
"The competition in Qatar was a bit of a bummer, since there was no wind but I already went there with the expectation that it wasn’t likely to happen for me. It was most probably that Bruna would take the win, she’s a spectacular competitor and really pulls everything together when it has to be done. Despite the challenges of this year, I am incredibly proud of my achievements. Securing 2nd place is a testament to show the growth, hard work, and determination in women of kiting, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. I am determined to take all that I have learned this year and apply it to elevate my performance in the upcoming 2024 season."
To finish off the women's podium, Duotone's Claudia Leon earns the title of 3rd in the world for 2023. Leon has worked her way up the women's field for years, showing consistent progression in power, technicality, and competition savvy. This year, she was on an absolute heater, making it to the final heat of every event she attended until her season came to an unexpected halt in Brazil, where she sustained a knee injury. Despite Leon's unfortunate injury, she had an amazing year on tour and, as always, keeps a great attitude as she looks forward to what was next for her.
"I feel so grateful to have had the best year of my life! Although it didn't end as I would have wished - I got a severe ACL injury, and now I have to pause my competitive career for a while."
»All I can see when I look back is happiness and new experiences. Finishing 3rd place on the freestyle world tour motivates me to have a powerful comeback!«
In other standout performances for the year, Nathalie Lambrecht showed everyone that she is a force to be reckoned with. Not only can she hang with the top ladies, landing on multiple podiums throughout the season, but she came out this year with a new bag of tricks, most notably her technical toeside riding. As one of the finalists in the grand finale in Qatar, Nathalie finishes with a tied first place and a fourth-place finish overall for the year. Lambrecht comments about her experience at the last event.
"So unfortunately, the wind was not on our side to finish the last stop of the Freestyle World Tour. However, at least on the first day, we managed to get out on the water."
»I was on my 15m D-Lab and pulled off some light wind tricks for two heats before the wind dropped completely. Nevertheless, it was fun, and I was happy with how I adapted my tricks to the conditions.«
Congratulations to all the 2023 GKA Freestyle World Tour athletes; it's been an incredible year!