Mirco Babini, president of the IKA (International Kitesurf Association), answers our questions about all the hot subjects of the international kitesurf: the conflict with the VKWC, the future of the championship freestyle, YOG of 2018, the hydrofoil and Formula Kite … Exclusive interview of the president of the IKA to understand everything!
Kitenews.fr : Mirco, we saw and heard many things at the general assembly of the ISAF. What about it?
Mirco Babini : First the good news is the confirmation that kitesurf will be at Buenos Aires YOG 2018. ISAF and IOC will give two medals for the kitesurf, one for the young men, one for the girls. The decision is official and cannot be changed. IOC wish to change current sports representation in the Olympic Games.
For 2018 in Argentina, IOC wished kitesurf to be present but with a discipline which gets closer to the practice of average kitesurfers and especially adapted to young person. This is why they decided not to accept Formula Kite which was our first choice. We have to find a discipline which looks like more the practice of the largest number of people. IOC members want an easy to understand discipline for the general public, close to the beach, cheap and easy to practice to attract the largest number of young people.
It will look like slalom or boarder cross with a TT, however no decision has been made yet. IOC has formed a group to work on the choice of this new discipline for youth. In this group IKA is represented by Bruno De Wannemaeker who is going to make sure the choice is close to the reality of kitesurf. IKA is not going to make the decision, IOC will. However the chosen discipline for 2018 YOG will probably be slalom or boarder cross and certainly with TT. Decision will be made for mid-December.
Kitenews.fr : In 2016, will there be competitions for youngsters with this new support?
Mirco Babini : Qualifying competitions for 2018 YOG will be organized during the second semester of 2017. In the meantime, there will be national and international competitions with this new discipline to test and refine rules, to test the race and to help young kitesurfers to discover this new competition.
Kitenews.fr : Concerning 2020 Olympic Games, what medium will be chosen?
Mirco Babini : Actually kitesurf is still not officially at Tokyo 2020 OG. There are still no medals for kitesurf. However IOC is very interested in having hydrofoil in the sailing races at next OG. By the way IOC asked the Nacra Class to prepare a catamaran hydrofoil for the next OG. Concerning kitesurf, we have explained that kitesurf hydrofoil could be an Olympic sport in 2020 as riders, brands and organizers, everybody is operational.
Kitenews.fr : If kitefoil becomes Olympic sport, will it be with one design rules or box like today in Formula Kite?
Mirco Babini : It is still too early to say! In 2016, we will have to work all together at IKA (riders, national federations, brands, organizers) to find solutions, rules which could satisfy IOC’s requirements but also correspond to riders ‘expectations. We cannot propose an open system for OG as the one in Gold Cup, we are going to have to work to propose another solution to IOC.
Kitenews.fr : By reading ISAF annual conference report, we see that kitefoil is now recognized as a class in itself, which was not the result of the vote of IKA’s members during the last AGM.
Mirco Babini : During the last IKA AGM, beginning of 2015, it was actually decided that kitefoil remained a discipline totally open for Gold Cup, without any equipment limitation, this will still be the case for 2016 Gold Cup. Concerning the recognition of the class KiteFoil by the ISAF, there was no choice. Indeed, in August, 2016, after Rio OG, ISAF and IOC are going to decide which discipline will be at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. As I explained earlier, IOC want to have hydrofoil in OG. If Kitefoil is not recognized as a class ISAF, it cannot be an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2020! Olympic sports have to belong to a class recognized by the ISAF, no choice.
Kitenews.fr : And in 2016, what about Kitefoil competitions?
Mirco Babini : As I have already said it, 2016 Gold Cup rules will be the same as 2015. Thus the fact that Kitefoil is an ISAF class changes nothing for this competition. There will be 5 or 6 dates in 2016, we are working on the new calendar with the USA, Australia, China and certainly France! Novelty is coming from the new Olympic class. As soon as the decision of kitesurf presence in OG is made, we are going to set up a Kitefoil world circuit of competition with the OG of 2020 format and rules. Thus there will be two disciplines: Gold Cup and Formula Foil. Some people are afraid of Kitefoil joining OG, but on the contrary it is an opportunity. We are going to be able to continue Kitefoil evolution with Gold Cup and to have an Olympic discipline with Formula Foil at the same time.
Kitenews.fr : Did you see that in France a new law has been voted and in spite of the conflict FFV / FFVL, riders are going to be able to join international competitions and French clubs are again going to be able to welcome and organize international championships.
Mirco Babini : Yes I did, I had discussions with people of the French sports ministry and I believe this is a very good decision. France is the country of kitefoil and we work with Olivier Mouragues a lot to have a Gold Cup event in France.
Kitenews.fr : What about Formula Kite? There will be still competitions in this discipline in 2016 or not?
Mirco Babini : This will be discussed during next IKA AGM which is going to take place on January 31st. Formula Kite can continue to live and as there is no more Olympic constraint, we are going to be able to go in open mode, without limitation of board, kite or fin.
I understand very well riders and federations disappointment, they have spent a lot of time and money in this discipline and now, like us, they are facing the fait accompli.
Kitenews.fr : Do you understand the anger and the sadness of riders and federations which have bet everything on Formula Kite and which have learned overnight that this discipline is going to disappear?
Mirco Babini : Honestly, when Formula Kite was rejected by IOC and ISAF as the discipline of 2018 YOG, we were all stunned! Since the beginning, IKA has been working to have kitesurf recognized Olympic sport in pushing Formula Kite. And suddenly IOC ask us to prepare a different medium! IOC has demanded us to give up Formula Kite for the youngster. IOC is « cleaning » Olympic sports and we have no choice. Having said that, I understand very well riders and federations disappointment, they have spent a lot of time and money in this discipline and now, like us, they are facing the fait accompli. But all this work was not made in vain, the change of discipline doesn’t change the fact that these federations have incredible athletes and I am sure that we will see them in 2018 YOG. Now that kitesurf is an Olympic sport, there will be more financial means from the different governments and federations and riders who have worked hard for years in Formula Kite are going to have an advantage on those who are going to begin only now with the new discipline.
Kitenews.fr : What about the world freestyle championship?
Mirco Babini : IKA has made every effort to find a solution with VKWC / PKRA but unsuccessfully. We can’t find solutions with people who don’t wish to work with us. IKA can and have to attribute the titles of world champion in the disciplines of freestyle, big air, wave and slalom. In 2016, there will be a world tour with several dates in all these disciplines. We are finalizing the 2016 calendar and we will have 4 or 5 events in every discipline. IKA is the only federation which received on behalf of ISAF the possibility and the right to deliver world titles. If in 2016, Virgin, PKT or others organize freestyle competitions, it will not be a problem, but they will not have the possibility to give titles of world champion. Actually today it has been 3 months without any competition in these disciplines and riders are penalized! By the way several riders still haven’t received completely their prize money and certain judges are still not paid! I would be surprised if they organize a new tour in 2016.
Kitenews.fr : With all these concerns of organization, will there be a title of world champion in freestyle, big air, wave and slalom in 2015?
Mirco Babini : Until July, 2015, VKWC‘s competitions were realized under contract with IKA. The results are thus validated and it’s IKA ranking which decides on titles of world champion. (ed.: Whaley and Winkowska in Freestyle, De Aboitiz and White in waves)
Kitenews.fr : Will there be a world championship of speed in 2016?
Mirco Babini : It’s actually something that we would like to organize with 2 or 3 events and a final world ranking.
Kitenews.fr : What do you think of IFKO, the new international federation of kitesurf?
Mirco Babini : I think nothing because I have no information about IFKO. I asked IOC and they don’t know this federation. As long as there is no official paper, for me it doesn’t exist. It is easy to create a web site, to write a press release but having an official recognition by international authorities of the sport is something else and at the moment IFKO doesn’t exist, it’s fluff! Creating an international federation could have been done 10 years ago but today kitesurf is at YOG and soon at OG, it’s recognized by ISAF and I don’t think IOC is going to change its mind and attribute the management of kitesurf to another international federation.