Much of the media and public attention at rounds of the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship focuses on the high-speed action in the Runabout and Ski Division categories, but a small group of talented aquabikers are always on hand to entertain the gathered throng and practice spectacular back flips, rolls and tricks in the Freestyle category.
While five riders scored points in the category in the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship in 2022, two shone out for their consistency and delivery of high-level on-water performances.
Despite being ranked fourth in the world, Team Abu Dhabi’s 35-year-old Rashid Al-Mulla delivered another series of devastating shows and pipped the world number one Roberto Mariani to the title by just nine points, courtesy of four maximum 25-point scores and a full house of 100 points for his catalogue of spectacular flips, rolls and spins in the two Spanish Motos and a further pair in Italy.
Mariani, 52, is a coachbuilder by profession and finished second on three occasions to the Emirati but the panel of judges deemed the pair inseparable at the first of the Motos in Italy and 25 points were awarded to both riders.
The remaining three racers were evenly matched and Italian Alberto Camerlengo, 47, pipped his fellow countryman Massimo Accumolo to third place by just two points. Portugal’s 55-year-old Angola-born Paulo Nuñes finished a close fifth.
The European Continental Championship was fought out over two Motos in Poland and a pair in Portugal. Mariani was the class of the field from the outset and a perfect 100-point tally earned the Italian the title by 12 points from world number two Accumolo. Matteo Valente pipped his fellow countryman Nuñes to the bottom step of the podium.
Sharjah-born Al-Mulla and Mariani have dominated their respective World and European Championships for several years since the retirement of the legendary Slovenian brothers, Nak and Roc Florjancic. The pair have finished first and second in the World Championship since 2019, while Mariani has won the European title every year since 2014 with the exception of 2016, when victory went to Montenegro’s Aleksandar Petrovic.
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