But the French teenager had picked up penalties in earlier races in the high-octane Twin-Tip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom format that cost him dearly, allowing Vodisek to seal the overall victory by less than one point.
“When I didn’t make that last elimination round final I thought I’d already given it to Gomez,” said Vodisek. “It was relief to win as much as anything. But I’m really happy to come out on top. For me, I’d no idea it would actually come to this. Representing Slovenia at the Games means a lot to me because we’re a small country, though we’ve a lot of great sportsmen.”
In the boys’ African division 15-year-old Jonas Ouahmid was the deservedly-popular local winner after he barely faltered throughout the competition, winning race after race on home turf in the hotly-contested group to secure Morocco a place at the Youth Games.
“We had hard conditions because of the strong and variable winds,” said Ouahmid. “But it’s a big thing to go to the Olympics for Morocco. And it’s really special that I did here in Dakhla. I first came when I was three. I learned to kite here and come every holiday.”
The girls’ African division saw Rut Gouws (RSA) steal a march on her rivals to take the Olympics slot, seeing off a strong challenge from her countrywoman, Johane Botha, who initially pushed her all the way only to see her challenge fade.
The climactic final day of the competition saw the contests spark to life, particularly in the European boys’ division in breezes that hovered around 17kts, but eventually spiked to 34kts, posing all kinds of challenges for the athletes. They constantly switched kite sizes, using everything from 8m to 15m.
In the boys’ three elimination rounds Vodisek had a chequered outing after holding the top spot on the leaderboard going into the final day of races in the downwind slalom-boardcross format that was specially designed to showcase the drama and intensity of kiteboard racing for the Youth Games.
Vodisek won one of the day’s elimination round deciders, but failed even to make the cut for two others, allowing the consistently-powerful Gomez to close the gap on the Slovenian. In the final elimination race he pulled an audacious overtaking move, stealing the lead on the inside at the third mark of the five-downwind legs.
It was just not enough. Now Gomez and many of the other European riders from the strong French, Italian and Spanish teams will head to China in May for the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Youth World Championships, where the last of the 12 YOG spots each for boys and girls will be on offer.
Among the hopefuls is likely to be Germany’s Alina Kornelli and Spain’s Nina Font Castells, who took the second and third spots respectively on the podium for the European girls’ division.
The contest was so tight that both were equal on points, but Kornelli came out just ahead as she had won an elimination round decider.
Italy’s Tomasoni, 16, by contrast, was home and clear. In the final day’s last round decider she seemed to take her foot off the gas, safe in the knowledge she could have sat out the race as she could discard three scores from the eight elimination rounds staged. She was, nonetheless, delighted.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for almost a year. Now I just don’t want to get to the Olympics, I want to win. It’s so special. For now I’m happy to go back to training. For me it’s not about getting on top, it’s the process and the training that helps you get there. I just want to be the best I can be.”
Top three boys European division (after eight elimination rounds, three discards)
1 Toni Vodisek (SLO) 9pts
2 Benoit Gomez (FRA) 9.9pts
3 Maxime Chabloz (SUI) 15pts
Top three girls European division (after eight elimination rounds, three discards)
1 Sofia Tomasoni (ITA) 6pts
2 Alina Kornelli (GER) 12pts
3 Nina Font Castells (ESP) 12pts
Top three boys African division (after fourteen races, four discards)
1 Jonas Ouahmid (MAR) 12pts
2 Pieter Botha (RSA) 15pts
3 Terje Magnus Groenewoud (RSA) 24pts
Top three girls African division (after twelve races, four discards)
1 Rut Gouws (RSA) 8pts
2 Johane Botha (RSA) 15pts
3 Assia Roussafi (MAR) 22pts
Full rankings and live elimination ladders with scoringcan be found at: www.twintipracing.com
YOG qualification events
North and South America: Cabarette, DOM, 15-20 January 2018
Europe and Africa: Dakhla, MAR, 20-25 February 2018
Asia and Oceania: Pranburi, THA, 13-18 March 2018
2018 TT:R Youth Slalom World Championships: Boao, CHN, 03-08 May 2018