JEMMA SMITH PAVES NEW GROUND WITH SECOND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WIN
She was already enjoying the jubilation of winning an ICF Ocean Racing World Championship, but when Jemma Smith was told just how special her victory was, she was left taken back.
The Australian was a class above this afternoon in Perth, commanding the field from start-to-finish to secure back-to-back titles.
But she had no idea that it was an accomplishment no one had achieved before her.
Smith is now the first female paddler to claim a second ICF crown.
“That’s super special,” she said, when told by The Paddler.
“It’s been absolutely incredible these past couple of years to get more and more involved in the sport, and it’s incredible the opportunities that it’s provided for me.
“I’m just so thankful that I’ve come into the sport and had so many incredible role models come before me to look up to and be inspired by.”
“To be able to go down as the first person to win two is really special.”
Although the feat had never been achieved, from the time the starting siren sounded today, Smith seemed destined to create history.
She lead the women’s wave out to the two kilometre turning buoy, with only Kira Bester able to go with her.
“Jemma was flying off that start, she was a beast!” Bester recalls.
“I managed to stay with her until the turning buoy… then she slowly but surely got away, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this chick. She’s on fire.’”
And from there, she wouldn’t be caught.
Six outstanding female champions have come before Smith: Michelle Eray, Teneale Hatton, Hayley Nixon, Danielle McKenzie and Michelle Burn.
As humble as she is, Smith does understand the difficulty, and enormity, of what she’s pulled off.
“Yeah I definitely understand,” Smith says.
“The beauty of ocean paddling is that you never know what conditions you’re going to get.
“It was a bit unknown coming into this week, we were hoping for downwind conditions. But to have the wind that was on offer today was really special.
“I’m really stoked to have been able to put together the performance that I did, especially after last year.
“That was a really big goal of mine. Just produce a performance I would be happy with.
“I was just keen to put my best foot forward and see how I went.”
Kira Bester gave a huge chase to Smith, but soon found herself in a battle with her South African compatriot Michelle Burn for second.
Burn, the 2021 World Champion and renowned downwind surfer, managed to fight ahead and would take silver – the same result she claimed at the inaugural World Championships in 2013.
“Yeah I’m very stoked,” she says.
“Obviously I was hoping to do one better, but the headwind section caught me. I was way off the pace.
“I hadn’t even seen Kira, so when I caught her I knew she must have been second because I could see Jemma’s lifejacket way off in the distance.
“I just put my head down and surfed the runs. I felt I was doing a great job, I was happy, I was comfortable and I felt stronger towards the end.
“There’s definitely nothing to be sad about. Second place is unbelievable and I’m so happy to be on the podium all these years later.
“Every World Championship I’ve done I’ve been on the podium, so I’m really, really happy.”
Bester wasn’t far behind for bronze, also claiming the Under 23 World Title.
A rising star of the sport, this has been a break-out year.
“I’m very happy,” she says. “Winning the Gorge, our South African Nationals and Hong Kong, it’s a big stepping stone for me.
“I trained really, really hard. So seeing those hours pay off, I could actually cry.
“But now, it’s back to the drawing board I’m impressed with myself, but when the race is done, it’s time to reassess and see how you can get better.”
It’s a similar reflection for Smith.
She won all of the distance races at last week’s Shaw and Partners WA Race Week, and now, has written her name into the history books.
“It’s been an absolutely phenomenal year for me,” she says.
“I’ll take a bit of time now to try and soak it in over the next couple of weeks, this will be the last downwind race I’ll do for the year.
“It’s incredible to reflect on the year. I’m so lucky to have so many incredible people in my corner.
“From the NSWIS squad in kayaking, to Newport Surf Life Saving Club. They’ve helped me get to where I am today.
“And all of my friends, family and sponsors back home. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”