Kitefoiling: Singapore's Maximilian Maeder, 14, wins Under-19 World Championships

The 14-year-old put on an impressive performance - winning 13 out of 16 races.
The 14-year-old put on an impressive performance - winning 13 out of 16 races.PHOTO: IKA/ALEX SCHWARZ

SINGAPORE - Going into the finals of the 2021 Formula Kite Youth (Under-19) World Championships, Singaporean kitefoiler Maximilian Maeder knew he needed just one more win to seal the title.

The 14-year-old had already earned two crucial match points from placing first at the end of the preliminary round, where he put on an impressive performance - winning 13 out of 16 races.

However, a slither of doubt still managed to creep into his psyche ahead of his first finals appearance at the World Championships.

Speaking to The Straits Times in a Zoom interview, he said: "There was confidence because I just had to pull off one win but the flip side is that my biggest competitor only had to get two wins for him to win the event.

"So it was a constant flipping between these two states (of confidence and doubt)."

He also found himself in a somewhat unfamiliar position at that stage of the competition, adding: "I was expecting to be leading, but not by such a big margin."

But he managed to cast any doubt aside and sealed his first World Championship title by winning the first race out of a potential six in the finals on Sunday (July 18) at the Hang Loose Beach in Gizzeria, Italy.

With his win, Max beat a field of 25 competitors over the five-day event, and ultimately finished ahead of Italy's Riccardo Pianosi (second) and Netherlands' Jis Van Hees (third) in the finals race.

Competing against a field of kitefoilers who were mostly older than him did not faze the Singaporean one bit.

"In the open classes, I would compete against adults so having to compete against U-19s actually makes me feel better than usual because it's against youths now," he said.

"It's really amazing to win my first World Championship, especially against very good competitors. I was unbelievably happy to have won it."

But it was not all plain sailing for the youngster either, who had to bounce back from an equipment malfunction in the 13th race of the preliminary round, where he was unable to complete the race.

"Once I finished the first upwind leg, the instability of the kite started to show so I had to rush back to the beach and scramble to replace it for the next race," explained Maeder.

But he regained his composure quickly and finished strong, winning the remaining three races of the preliminaries.

Max added: "In my previous competition, I had actually experienced the same thing so I wasn't stressed or panicking when I got back to the beach.

"I was just thinking of ways to get back to racing."

Max's love affair with kiteboarding started when he was six, after his Swiss father and Singaporean mother introduced him to the sport.

After taking part in his first competition at the age of 10, he has not looked back since, and has gone on to win many competitions over the years, including the 2019 Formula Kite Asian Championships in Beihai, China.

Currently, Max is based primarily in Croatia, where he trains five to six times a week, and for 11/2 hours each time at least.

Funded primarily by his parents, he is the Republic's only kitefoiler who competes regularly in competitions overseas as the sport is still quite new here.

But the Kitesurfing Association of Singapore (KAS) is hoping that Max's World Championship win will inspire more youngsters to pick up the sport.

Ong Rong Quan, KAS' vice-president, said: "It will get more youths in Singapore interested, whether they are younger sailors or people aspiring to pursue an unconventional sport.

"It sets a precedent for others to follow, and shows them how they can potentially get there as well."

And with kiteboarding set to make its debut as an Olympic sport at the Paris 2024 Games, Max has set his sights on qualification and representing the nation.

"It is a goal of mine to represent Singapore at the Olympic Games, alongside my aim of becoming the best in the sport," he said. "I have always loved the idea of racing in sports and I want to become the world champion in kitefoiling."