Exciting Day One Delivers Double Gold for USA

October 29th, 2022

USA’s April Zilg and Connor Baxter claim their first SUP Sprint Race gold medals

Local Puerto Rican Mariecarmen Rivera wins bronze

San Juan, Puerto Rico – October 29th 2022

The excitement was high for the opening day of competition at the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the full StandUp Paddle Sprint Race discipline was completed and gold medals won.

Current APP World Tour rankings leaders April Zilg (USA) and Connor Baxter (USA) were able to secure SUP Sprint Race gold medals for Team USA in their respective women’s and men’s divisions. Both athletes cruised to victory with significant leads.

Connor Baxter - Team USA. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

Each of the four women’s finalists started strong, with local Puerto Rican Mariecarmen Rivera in the lead, however it didn’t take long for Zilg and Caroline Küntzel (DEN) to sneak ahead, with Rivera and Cecilia Paminella (ITA) crossing paths on the opposing buoy. By the home stretch it was Zilg easily in front of Küntzel in silver, with a tight race for bronze, which Rivera just edged to the delight of the loud and enthusiastic local crowd, leaving Paminella to collect copper.

It is the first ISA gold medal for 36-year-old April Zilg, who started paddling late in life, at the age of 25.

April Zilg - Team USA. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

“I find myself questioning if this is even real,” Zilg said. “I wasn’t an athlete growing up and I’m against a lot of really fine younger people half my age. I just want everybody to know, no matter how old you are or how late you start or whatever your athletic background is, you can do it. You really can.”

The men’s Final was a decisive affair, with a three-second or more spread between each of the finalists. Baxter led from the start and didn’t let up, despite the best efforts of Noic Garioud (FRA), silver, David Leão (BRA), bronze, and Christian Anderson (DEN), copper.

Baxter held the fastest time of the day in his Semifinal heat, covering the 200m distance in just 1 minute, 9 seconds. This ISA gold medal is a first in the SUP Sprint Race discipline for the 2019 Pan American gold medalist and three-time APP World Champion, who previously won ISA gold in the SUP Technical Race in 2015.

As excited as the 28-year-old was to win, he has his eyes set on one goal, qualification for the 2023 Pan American Games.

“Going to the Pan American Games in 2019 was a dream, marching with 680 American athletes and going into a football stadium and being at this huge level of competition,” Baxter said. “A lot of training and focus has gone to qualifying myself for 2023.”

ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:

“The ISA is proud to return to crowning SUP and Paddleboard World Champions. After three-years away, the level of competition has hugely increased and it is so great to see the development of this sport that we have invested so much into.

“The impact of participation in the 2019 Pan American Games has been so significant for SUP and paddleboard and we can already feel how strong the desire is to return to that stage in 2023.

“What an exciting start to an amazing event, with so much more to come!”

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