January 30, 2024
USA’s Daniela Moroz sets blazing start in kiteboarding
By David Pendered
Aug. 14 — The years of controversy faded when Daniela Moroz flew her kite board Monday to first place in the first day of racing in the ongoing inauguration of kiteboarding as an Olympic sport.
The 22-year-old USA sailor named “one to watch” in the 2023 Allianz Sailing World Championships turned in the performance that was expected. Moroz reached a top speed of 30.5 knots — which translates to 35.4 mph — and sped across the finish line at 28.1 knots in the second of three races Monday.
Kiteboarding will debut in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Its fate was uncertain as influential sailors tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the sport’s governing body to pick an offshore big-boat race instead of kites held by a sailor standing on a board that flies on a hydrofoil above the water’s surface.
At race week now underway in the North Sea off The Hague, eight slots in the Olympics are to be awarded to top finishers in the 2023 Allianz Sailing World Championships. The regatta concludes Sunday.
Moroz’s blazing speed around the course fuels hopes among Olympic organizers that kiteboarding can raise awareness, and TV viewership, of a sport that traditionally doesn’t gather an audience.
The taboo on sailing is so strict that NBC didn’t cover the first-ever Hong Kong athlete to win a gold medal. In the 1996 Olympics in Savannah, NBC didn’t break its reputation as the “No Boating Channel” to cover the victory of Mistral windsurfer Lee Lai Shan in the year before Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to the People’s Republic of China.
Moroz’s energetic performance Monday reflected her six-time world championship wins and four-time selection as US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, one of the sport’s highest honors.
Moroz capitalized on her comparatively light weight on a day winds were fairly light winds, of about 10 knots across the race course. The light-air conditions favor her and disadvantage a main competitor, France’s Lauriane Nolot, whose larger stature is a benefit in heavier conditions. Nolot is placed 28th after not competing in Monday’s third and final race.
Just three races were run on the first day. Plenty can change. But Moroz’s performance put her at 11 points and five points ahead of second-place Alina Kornelli, of Austria.
The controversy that preceded the selection of kites involved a debate over which type of boat should make up the final classes in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Kiteboarding was chosen over a long-distance offshore race on 30-plus-foot boats with a crew of two, one man and one woman. The proposed offshore races drew strong support from many sailors, including British sailor Shirley Robertson, the nation’s first woman sailor to win gold at two consecutive Olympics, in Athens and Sydney.
Crtitics contended that spectators count. Worldwide interest is expected to be higher for a board that captures the speed of skateboarding with the visuals of windsurfing. In addition, kiting is more affordable and could attract a younger audience.
Paul Cayard summed up the USA’s position in a statement following the announcement by the International Olympic Committee that it had chosen kiteboarding for the 2024 games in Paris. Cayard is a big boat sailor, having campaigned the Star keelboats, America’s Cup vessels and host of others before taking the position as executive director of U.S. Olympic Sailing. Cayard’s statement released June 10, 2021 stated in full:
- “The US Sailing Team is focused on being the best sailor athletes in the world, no matter the equipment. We will be ready to compete in all 10 classes in 2024 and beyond. While we sympathize with the large and energetic doublehanded community, we welcome the kite boarders and are motivated to work closely with all of our talented athletes around the USA.”