SINGAPORE - Kiteboarding will make its debut as an Olympic sport at Paris 2024 and Singaporean kitefoiler Maximilian Maeder, 15, has already noticed tighter competition in the category in recent months.
But the keen contest from his rivals could not deter Maximilian from powering his way to a gold medal ahead of 67 rivals at the French Olympic Week which ended on Saturday (April 30).
Held in Hyeres, a French town on the Mediterranean coast, the French Olympic Week is an annual sailing regatta. This was the 53rd edition of the competition.
Maximilian, who is currently ranked seventh in the world, racked up 24.1 nett points after 20 qualification races, helping him top the field ahead of Frenchman Axel Mazella (39pts), a silver medallist in the world championship last year.
Despite his tender age, Maximilian maintained his form for the 14-strong medal race and clinched the title ahead of two men who were sailing on home waters - 25-year-old Mazella and 28-year-old Maxime Nocher, a multiple world champion.
Maximilian told The Straits Times after his victory: "I'm delighted to have won it. This (winning) feeling never gets old. I felt that it was such a tight field. Now that this event is in the Olympics, the competition is very tight. I can see that everyone is paying more attention to what they're doing before and during the races.
"The speed has risen up and the margins are so small now. There is no room for error."
Frenchman Theo de Ramecourt, the reigning world champion in the Formula Kite class, finished sixth while current world No. 1 Riccardo Pianosi from Italy, finished eighth.
Maximilian enjoyed a breakthrough 2021, when he won two youth world championships in July and December, and the Formula Kite European Championships in September. He also became the men's world No. 1 in his event for the first time last September, ahead of 149 competitors from over 20 nations.
Before last Saturday's victory in France, Maximilian had won March's Formula Kite Asia Pacific Championships in Thailand.
He will now prepare for the May 16-22 Formula Kite Youth World Championships in Sardinia, Italy, where he hopes to continue his good form.
He said: "To be honest, I think I've exceeded my own expectations so far. I hope to be at the peak for the Olympic qualifiers (next year). Going to the Olympics is prestigious and it's my biggest goal but it's all about the journey and what I learn along the way is important as well."
Meanwhile, in the ILCA 7 (formerly known as the Laser Standard event), Singapore sailor Ryan Lo, who competed in the Olympics last year, finished 11th out of 129 sailors.