Nicole Plagemann recognized as world's best female rafting athlete

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By Antonia González
Translation by Patrick Nixon
On February 10, Ensenada, Chile, native Nicole Plagemann was named the world’s best female rafting athlete by the World Rafting Organization. The "World Rafting Awards" ceremony was held online and acknowledged top-performing sports men and women throughout 2021, taking into account not only the World Championships, but also national events.
With voting open to the public, this honor was announced to celebrate the achievements of rafting professionals during a particularly difficult year for the sport and included the categories: Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year and Coach of the Year. Nicole Plagemann, had to compete against female rafters from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Italy Holland, Turkey and France.
"This achievement was awarded on merit due to what we have achieved in previous competitions and in world championships, where we obtained very good results and podiums in almost all categories," Plagemann said in an interview with the Patagon Journal. She added that it is a real honor to be the first Chilean athlete to receive this award and that it will pave the way for future generations. 

"I love to know that there are many girls involved in this whitewater sport, where you have to know many things, not just get on a raft and paddle," she said.


Photo: Nicole PlagemannPhoto: Nicole Plagemann

Forging a path in adventure sports
Plagemann, who is an adventure tourism technician, kinesiologist and ski trainer, began to get involved in rafting at a very young age, when she accompanied her father (a rafting guide) to fish on the Petrohué River in the Lake District. Given the natural environment where she grew up, she decided to dedicate her life to adventure sports and studied in Pucón to become a professional rafting and kayaking guide.
After working for a few years in Pucón, in 2018 when the Rafting Federation was created, Plagemann along with her teammates set up a women's national rafting team called the "Loicas" with which she began to compete in various national and Pan-American championships, eventually participating in the World Cup in Turkey.
"In Turkey, the Loicas team won three bronze medals which was great because no other Chilean women's team had ever achieved an international podium finish before, so we made history," said Plagemann. After that, their confidence grew and they continued training and looking for support to be able to attend the next world championships.
In 2020 they were unable to compete because of the pandemic and in 2021 they campaigned through social networks to get financial support so they could attend the Rafting World Cup in France. "We thought we had no chance of getting any response but a few days later the Ministry of Sport got in contact and helped us. Thanks to them we were able to go to the World Cup in France and compete," Plagemann said.
Photo: Nicole PlagemannPhoto: Nicole Plagemann
Nicole competing with part of the "Loicas" team. Nicole competing with part of the "Loicas" team.
She maintains that receiving support and promotion is extremely important to open the door to new sources of funding that the team needs. "We have had to order the equipment we need from abroad and pay for it ourselves because the high-end equipment, which is is used for competitions, is not sold in Chile, only adventure tourism equipment."
"It is imperative that rafting gets more recognition in Chile because at the moment it is not seen as a very important sport here. It is exhausting to have to always be looking for resources ourselves and that is a constant obstacle to be always thinking, can we go to the next world championship?
The next challenge Nicole and her teammates face is to decide on which will be their next competition. She says that it is most likely it will be a competition in South America, in Argentina. However, one of the important dates she has noted on her calendar is the next World Cup in Italy in 2023, where the official ceremony will take place to receive her award as the world's best female rafting athlete.
"All this sporting achievement is thanks to my family, my Loicas team, friends and sponsors, fundamental pillars to continue representing the colors of my flag worldwide," said Plagemann.

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