Sam Sutton, a 23-year-old kayaker from New Zealand, defended his title at the Extreme Kayak World Championship in the Austrian Alps on Saturday. The event's qualifying heats began on Friday with 140 of the world's best paddlers. Saturday's final saw 45 kayakers run the Wellerbrücke rapids, one of the most difficult sections of whitewater in the world. Referred to as the "Eiger North Wall" of kayaking, Wellerbrücke features a class V to class VI rating and a 10 percent grade. The water was higher than in past years, creating a course so fast that nine of the top finalists ran the rapids in under a minute. Sutton completed the course in a record 55.84 seconds, edging out fellow Kiwi and recent Olympic qualifier Mike Dawon by more than two seconds. "I knew Mike had done a 58, but I just kept telling myself, 'You can beat it...you can win,'" Sutton said.
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