Turning 15 and flying high with kite title

Maximilian Maeder comes from behind for European win and targets spot in Olympics

Kitefoiler Maximilian Maeder celebrated his 15th birthday by winning the men's Open title at the 2021 Formula Kite European Championships in Montpellier, France last Sunday.

And to cap off a stellar week, he tucked into his favourite Thai dishes - green curry, pad thai and basil chicken - cooked by his mother a day later at home in Switzerland.

The Singaporean teenager had gone into the final with an outside chance of winning, needing three match points to beat two-time defending champion Axel Mazella of France, who had two points carried over from finishing first in the qualifying series.

But Maximilian was not about to let his rival claim the one point needed for victory, as he held his own to take all three bullets and secure the gold. Mazella, 23, had to settle for second while compatriot Benoit Gomez was third.

Maximilian said: "It didn't feel real standing up on the podium, it felt like it was too good to be true. There are a lot of synonyms - ecstatic, elated... but they don't even come close.

"It has sunk in quite well and it's a pleasant, long-lasting feeling. I gave myself the best birthday present I could."

Maximilian, who has been training in Croatia since the start of the year, said he learnt not to focus on the results after a disastrous first day on Sept 6, when he got too excited while leading a race and eventually finished third.

He said: "I was really happy to make it into the final and I didn't have many expectations, so I poured a lot of mental energy into staying calm and collected and focused on racing."

Ong Rong Quan, vice-president of the Kitesurfing Association of Singapore, said Maximilian's progress bodes well for his dream of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics, where kiteboarding will feature for the first time.

Ong, 40, said: "Everyone's pretty excited and I cannot downplay the feat that Max has achieved. The fact that he's able to do that in a relatively new sport as a very young guy is a great achievement for himself and the wider community.

"It generates hype and interest in the sport and we would like to continue on the same path.

"With it being an Olympic sport as well, we're hopeful that more people will be interested in it and we can develop a pool of talent that can push each other on and hopefully achieve great things for Singapore."

Last Sunday's victory, along with the youth world championship title he won in July, stands Maximilian in good stead as he prepares for the world championships next month in Italy and December's World Sailing Youth (Under-19) World Championships in Oman.

He is pleased with his progress so far, adding: "I'm slowly reaching the level where I can do the basic skills I learnt quite well.

"Now I'm starting to refine the details and perfect the little things. It's way more fun and rewarding now."

He has not finalised his training plans for the upcoming weeks but he knows what he will be doing soon after spending over a month away: eating homemade curry puffs.

He said: "I need a taste of Singaporean food again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'Turning 15 and flying high with kite title'. Subscribe