U.S. rafting teams finish 7th in worlds | VailDaily.com

U.S. rafting teams finish 7th in worlds

Special to the Daily

TURRIALBA, Costa Rica – Two local raft teams finished seventh in the World Rafting Championships.

After three days of tight competition on Costa Rica’s Pacuare River, both the men’s and women’s Teva U.S. National Raft Teams still had a shot at the overall world title as they lined up for the final day’s downriver race.

The men’s team had ninth-place finishes in the sprint and slalom events and had finished fifth in the head-to-head. The women’s women’s team had finished fourth in sprint, seventh in head-to-head and fifth in slalom.

But Japan would win the day on the Class V upper Pacuare, and its first men’s world title. The Japanese women’s won the downriver, good enough for second overall.

The U.S. national teams are mostly guides from Timberline Tours. The seventh place finish follows the locals’ sixth-place showing from the World Rafting Championships in Bosnia two years ago, and a third-place overall finish from Ecuador in 2005.

The U.S. team was good, and so was its competition, says team leader Chris “Mongo” Reeder. They now have the 2013 Worlds in their sights.

“We hoped we’d do better,” Reeder said. “But there are a lot of great teams from other countries. Japan had a first, second, third and fifth-place showing, and is paddling really well.” Taking second overall for the men was the Czech Republic, with Slovenia finishing third.

The Teva U.S. women’s team, also out of the Vail area, also finished seventh place overall, behind the Czech Republic in first, Japan in second and the Netherlands in third.

“It was a great event. We could have won it with a strong finish today, but Japan and the Czechs paddled a really great race,” U.S. women’s team member Sarah Hamilton said after the down-river event. “Our team hasn’t paddled together very long so we’ll be back even stronger next time.”

This year’s worlds featured 29 men’s teams and 19 women’s teams from 34 countries.

Beyond the competition, the World Rafting Championships also focused international attention on the Pacuare River, one of the world’s most pristine whitewater rivers. It is still facing threats from hydropower projects.

The worlds were the first event on the Pacuare River since the Camel International Whitewater Challenge in 1999 and Project RAFT held its international raft rally in 1991.

The Project RAFT event in 1991 helped stop the Dos Montanas dam from going in downstream, says event organizer and host Rafael Gallo. Gallo says he hopes that showcasing the river to the world again will help curtail future potential projects.

“There’s still the possibility of a dam at the base of the upper section, which would be a travesty,” says Gallo. “We’re going to accomplish our mission of preserving it by putting the Pacuare on the international map.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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