Kiwi kiteboarder disappointed by Olympic decision

By Kelly Exelby of the Bay of Plenty Times -
Marc Jacobs is the number three ranked freestyle kiteboarder in the world. Photo / Supplied
Marc Jacobs is the number three ranked freestyle kiteboarder in the world. Photo / Supplied

World No 3 Marc Jacobs isn't packing his bags for the 2016 Olympics, despite news over the weekend that kiteboarding will replace windsurfing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Jacobs, back home in Mt Maunganui before leaving next week for the Netherlands and the third event on the PKRA (Professional Kite Riders Association) tour, said any elation at kiteboarding's inclusion in the Olympics disappeared when he discovered it was the lesser-known course racing discipline that would debut on the world's biggest stage.

Jacobs, 21, competes in freestyle, where riders try to impress judges with aerial moves based on technical difficulty, power, risk factor, variety, height, smoothness, style and innovation.

He started last year ranked 19th in the world but soared to third by the end of the season, finishing the tour with second in New Caledonia after taking down world No 1, Dutchman Youri Zoon.

In a decision that has left those in New Zealand yachting circles shaking their heads in disbelief, the International Sailing Federation voted 19-17 to cut windsurfing after the London Games in favour of kiteboarding. New Zealand has won seven of its 16 sailing medals in the discipline, since it was introduced in 1984.

Olympic gold medallist Barbara Kendall hit out at the decision saying kiteboarding belongs at the X Games, and judging was so subjective because of the tricks.

Jacobs believes that's exactly why freestyle was ditched in favour of circuit racing, a form of kiteboarding that had never interested the four-time New Zealand open men's champion.

"It was pretty cool to hear we were in the Olympics but then I was bummed to hear it was going to be racing," Jacobs said.

"All it is, is a bunch of guys going out and tacking upwind - pretty boring really. Freestyle is where the excitement element is at for me but apparently it's too hard to judge or the judging format's too inaccurate for the Olympics."

Jacobs is struggling with the PKRA judging structure this year, with riders scored on seven tricks from 12 attempts. He has finished fourth and ninth in the first two PKRA tour stops in Morocco and France.

"Now you have to do seven tricks and perform them well, and what you're getting is people beating guys who are taking a lot of risks. I'm one of those guys who is a risk-taker, crashing a lot trying to do high-scoring tricks."

Jacobs hasn't ruled out turning to racing in time for the Rio Olympics but said right now the discipline was the domain of a lot of older riders who had pioneered kiteboarding internationally.

"At most PKRA stops they have freestyle as well as racing but there isn't a lot of crossover. The best racers right now are all the guys who were good at freestyle back in the day.

"It's different, but it's a shame because freestyle at the Olympics would have been a pretty cool dream."

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