Italy U19 Men – road to WRC 2016

As we approach another World Rafting Championship, this time R4 in the UAE, so we begin presenting teams that will be participating there. It is two years since the last R4 WRC in Brazil and some new faces are on the scene, especially in the younger categories. Damiano Casazza, Mark Michael Mair, Michael Zanella, David Fassnauer and Stefan Leitner  have the honour to represent Italy in the U19 category and their first time competing in a WRC.

The teams spend their hard work and dedication during the year focused on one goal, and that is their participation in the WRC. Toni Agostini and Robert Schifferle, as coaches of this youth crew, are helping them with this and much more besides, and this year has already been very successful for them. We speak to Michael Zanella.

ITA U19 M 1Michael – tell us about yourselves, what you have achieved as a team so far and what are your goals for the WRC.

“We started kayaking together 9 years ago with Toni Agostini. In the past 5 years we also started rafting. In those 5 years we competed mostly at National Championships and won them several times. Our first international competition was the ERC 2014 at Cunovo, Slovakia. Two of us competed at the ERC 2015 at Banja Luka, BiH and we did the ERC 2016 at Straza, Slovenia.

We also competed at the EC and WC 2015 and 2016 at Wildalpen and at Aosta. We achieved 4 medals at ERC 2016, at the WC 2016 at Wildalpen we achieved 4 gold medals and at the EC 2015 at Aosta we received silver in every discipline. Unfortunately we did not compete at WRC 2015, this year’s WRC is going to be our first.”

The artificial course at Wadi Adventures will certainly be a special place for the teams and all who come there. But this team will most likely not only remember it as their first WRC and the first in a desert, but also the first rafting event ever in the history of the UAE and the biggest of its kind ever in the Middle East, held on the world’s longest man-made whitewater channels – a combined length of 1,2 km. Add to that the guarantee of sun and all the mysteries of the Middle East and the desert.

ITA U19 M 4So how are you guys preparing for this competition?

“From now on we are going to train 3 times a week on the Isarco River (II – IV) near our hometown of Sterzing, in the mountains of Italy, with the R4 raft and kayaks and go less to the gym. Generally we try to spend as much time as we can on the river and since we started working as raft guides the river has become our second home. Over the winter and in spring we trained on the flatwater on the Adige 1-2 times per week and went to the gym 3-4 times a week. We still train in the R6 raft too with Alexander Zanella and Patrick Agostini as preparation for qualifying in the U23 category for the WRC 2017 in Japan.”

Do you have any expectations related to the result and what are your expectations generally, especially after your great success at ERC?

“Of course we hope that we will win a medal and are determined to train hard for that, the results of ERC 2016 helped our confidence.”

ITA U19 M 2At ERC 2016 you won – Sprint: silver, Slalom: silver, Downriver: bronze, Overall: bronze, so which discipline do you love the most?

“We all like Slalom and Head to Head the most but of course we like Sprint and Downriver too. ;)”

OK, all 4 ! :) But in which is your  best performance?

“I think our best disciplines are Slalom and Downriver: Slalom because we love doing it and Downriver because we can fight very hard.”

Fair enough! And don’t forget to practice running, especially with a raft in your hand, as this will also be part of Downriver discipline. ;) There is no doubt that you are already well informed about the place where you will be competing, but what for you in all of this looks most interesting, what is it that you would like to see and experience in this country?

ITA U19 M 5“We want to meet teams from all over the world and get some new experiences from it. We all want to see as much as possible of the world and none of us has ever been in the UAE. We are from the North of Italy and live in small villages on the mountains, none of us have ever been in the desert either. The most interesting part is to get an impression of the Arab culture. But of course the most important thing is to do well at the races and try to achieve some good results, we are fully motivated to do this.”

Finally, we always ask who you would like to thank, because behind each team stands a small army of people and sponsors who help them in all of this?

“First we would like to thank Toni Agostini who has coached us for 9 years now and Robert Schifferle. Special thanks to ASV Sterzing, Tiger GmbHSudtiroler Volksbank, Alperia and Federazione Italiana Rafting. “

ITA U19 M 3Thanks Michael and good luck!

These youngsters are full of go! Their liveliness always catches the eye during the competition. And at their age, the competition is very serious, but there is enough time to hone all that is required before the start of the WRC, and we wish them a good stroke and unforgettable time in the UAE.