Jump to 7:10 for a winner’s interview with Theo Warden
British pilot Theo Warden has won the FAI European Paragliding Championships in Portugal, in a nail-biting competition that came down to the wire.
After eight tasks (53-93km) over 10 days, Theo (Ozone Enzo 3) beat Germany’s Torsten Siegel (Gin Boomerang 11) into second place by only two points. Theo scored a total of 5,348 points, with Torsten on 5,346. Biagio Alberto Vitale (ITA) was third, just 20 points behind Theo in first place.
At only 19 Theo is one of the youngest-ever winners of the title.
Afterwards he said: “I can’t really believe it. I don’t really feel like I’m ready to be winning a comp. I feel very new to the comp scene so it all feels a bit fast.”
Theo Warden’s post competition interview with the BBC
He added: “I’m young, but I still have so much to learn, and I can’t wait for it. It’s going to be an awesome experience. A good journey. I really hope to carry on, to fly the PWC and hopefully the World Championships.”
Some 150 pilots from 28 countries took part in the European Paragliding Championships, which were held in Montalegre, Portugal from 17-27 July.
In the Women’s competition, Seiko Fukuoka Naville (FRA, Ozone Enzo 3) won gold, ahead of French team mate Meryl Delferriere (FRA, Ozone Enzo 3). Switzerland’s Yael Margelisch (Ozone Enzo 3) won bronze.
In the Teams, Spain took the gold, with Italy and France in silver and bronze.
Theo Warden’s success comes after a rapid rise through the ranks of competition paragliding.
He was taught to fly when he was just 14 by Judy Leden, a former hang gliding and paragliding world champion. Judy was Theo’s instructor at Airways Airsports in Derbyshire, England.
Posting to Facebook today Judy said: “Theo learned to fly with us at Airways Airsports at the age of 14. His meteoric rise from Club Pilot to European Champion has taken just five years of hard work and dedication. We are immensely proud of the small role we played in teaching Theo the basics.”
After learning those basics and starting to fly cross country, Theo, then aged 15, joined the Nova Juniors, part of the international Nova Pilots Team.
Introducing himself at the time on the Nova Team blog he wrote: “I have been passionate about XC flying ever since I qualified and was introduced to the concept. Much of my flying has been in the Peak District [UK] on club sites. When my dad is off work we fly together.
“Although the Peak District isn’t anywhere near the same scale as the Alps it still offers some awesome flying in the summer, and since I live on the edge of Sheffield with the closest site only 10 minutes away, it’s right on my doorstep.
“I started off with a couple of short hops that were only about 6-10km but the first bigger XC I achieved was about 33km with my dad. I have since managed a few more 20-30km flights.”
A year later in July 2015 he came to national and international attention in the sport when, aged just 16, he completed an incredible 200km cross country flight in England, while flying a mid-level EN B glider, the Nova Mentor 4.
In October that year he won the Nova Team’s Junior of the Year Award for his 200km flight.
Since then his progression through the competition scene has been swift. Mentored through the British Paragliding Racing Academy by Ozone test pilot Russell Ogden and Britain’s Guy Anderson, Theo showed his mettle at the Paragliding World Cup Superfinal in Colombia in January this year, where he placed 15th.
Talking afterwards Ozone’s Russell Ogden said he had been impressed with Theo’s cool approach to competition flying.
“He deserved his 15th place, but it was the way he did it that impressed me, in such a mature way. He didn’t do it by charging out front or having to get lucky, he had a zero-risk way of flying, which is what we are trying to drum into everyone. Thoroughly impressive.”
He added: “He applied everything that he has learnt and got a good result. As he learns to maintain discipline and have more self-confidence in his decision-making, he’ll only get better.”
European Paragliding Championships 2018 results