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GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde 2024 - Day 3: Cozzolino lands emotional win

by Ian MacKinnon 19 Feb 11:12 GMT 16-25 February 2024
Airton Cozzolino - GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde 2024 - Day 3 © Lukas K Stiller

Reigning world champion Airton Cozzolino opened the defence of his crown in dramatic style when clinched the season opener in a firing Ponta Preta at the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde.

The Cape Verde-based Italian continued where he left off at the end of last season and dominated the final, slaying the huge sets and racking up a clutch of big scores that showed he is hungrier than ever for another world title.

"It's not about the winning, it's about the moment," said Cozzolino, through the tears. "One single win feels like a world championship. Maybe it's an even bigger emotion than being world champion. I'm so stoked. It's pretty challenging here. I've been trying for so many years and to have it now is crazy. I don't have words for this."

The all-Cape Verdean final was a battle with Mitu Monteiro, who had dispatched many big names on his way to the deciding heat. But even though Monteiro could not quite match the power of his friend and rival, he was delighted to compete on home waters.

"I'm so stoked with my second place," said Monteiro. "To have this final with Airton was really nice. All the people on the beach were screaming. There's a lot of emotion going on. My mum was here. It's the first time she's watched me competing. It's one of the best events I've had. A podium here at home is so cool."

The third day of the competition, the opening stop of the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour, finally delivered the some of the best swells seen in competition at the fabled right-hand break of Ponta Preta, on Sal island.

Crushed the faces

As the contest reached the business end of proceedings, the big hitters moved smoothly through the gears, barely skipping a beat as they crushed the double and triple head-high faces on their path to the quarter finals.

Brazil's Sebastian Ribeiro was exceptional. He ended the run of one of the local organisers, Djo Silva, with a stunning performance that landed the highest wave of the competition—9.80 from a possible 10—and the biggest heat total of 19.33.

But then Ribeiro came up against his young compatriot Gabriel Benetton in the quarter final. Riding backhand, Benetton pulled off a big upset when he downed Ribeiro with his big vertical snaps.

Last year's winner, Matchu Lopes, faced Mitu Monteiro, who at 41 only competes in Cape Verde. But Monteiro showed he still has what it takes and dispatched his young rival who admitted he did not have his best heat.

Pedro Matos also got the better of another Cape Verde-based athlete, Hendrick Lopes (SUI), with a a battery of high-scoring waves. Even Lopes' barrel in the improving breeze was not enough.

But in the semi-final Matos met his match in Mitu Monteiro. Matos struggled to find good waves, while Monteiro chalked up big numbers that ended Matos' run and booked the Cape Verdean a place in the final.

Equally clinical

Cozzolino was equally clinical in dispatching the other Brazilian, Gabriel Benetton. Riding backhand Benetton was no match for Cozzolino, who racked up an amazing 9.43 for one wave, even though he later broke his leash and had to get replacement board from the beach.

In the mini-final, the run-off for third and fourth places, the Brazilians Matos and Benetton slugged it out. In the end only 0.07 of a point separated the pair, but Matos got the better of the encounter.

The final between Cozzolino and Monteiro held out the prospect of a tight duel as both athletes know the break intimately. But Cozzolino just looked hungrier and attacked every wave ferociously.

Cozzolino's two scoring waves earned 9.10 and 8.53, but his other discarded waves also involved and handful of 8-point plus waves that Monteiro did not seem to be able to answer.

On Day 4 the focus will shift back to the women, with the hope that the conditions allow the completion of the competition. Join us on the livestream for all the action.

GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde 2024 results - Men

  1. Airton Cozzolino (ITA)
  2. Mitu Monteiro (CPV)
  3. Pedro Matos (BRA)
  4. Gabriel Benetton (BRA)

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