Most World Championships kick off with an Opening Ceremony.
In China, this is done on a grand scale. With CCTV providing live coverage for
800 million viewers, over 300 people involved in the Ceremony coordination and
display, the 142 visiting athletes from 28 countries witnessed something very
special. The perfectly timed night time programme included water ballet, the
Beijing Opera, barefoot skiing, show skiing with two enormous pyramids, drums,
dragons, lions and a show stopping fireworks display. This set a tone of
excellence for the serious week ahead.
Today, Tuesday, saw the start of the Preliminary rounds - with Slalom
for Men and Women first. Following three days of 34C / 98F temperatures, the
forecasters predicted some rain today and better conditions for the following
period. They were correct. The perfect 8.00am start saw 20 men ready for the
challenge - followed by 23 women. These included the best athletes from the
countries involved. All fell within the Series 3,4,5 or 6 Seedings. The
superstars come later.
In Mens Slalom, a gusty side wind and Vanke World
Championship nerves played havoc with some performances. On the unlucky end were
Barry Galvin (IRL), Alejandro Lamadrid (MEX) and Carlos Chicharro (CHI). None
could clear the 14m Slalom line pass. Both Olivier Fortamps (BEL) and Jachong
Park (KOR) tied with scores of 3 buoys on the 12m slalom line. However, the star
of these series was Jonathan Cannon of Chinese Hong Kong - with an inpressive
score of 1.5 buoys on the 11.25m slalom line.It may not be enough for a Finals
As the Women Slalom Skiers prepared to try to qualify for
the Finals, the weather forecasters looked more and more accurate - with
stronger gusty side winds and rain on the horizon now adding to the challenge.
Of the 23 women, six reached the 12m Slalom line. The best of these were Karina
Nowlan (AUS) with a score od 4.4 buoys and Megan Ross (NZL) with 3.5 buoys.
However, Britta Grebe Llewellyn (AUT) stunned all present with an outstanding
score of 2.25 buoys on the 11.25m line. Having taken some years off to start a
family with her famous husband Jaret Llewellyn (CAN), considering the
deteriorating conditions, this was a great performance. We will have to wait a
few more days to see if it was enough to see her in Saturday's Finals.
At this point, the CorrectCraft boat was shrouded in driving rain and
the driver was ordered back to the dock for the day by the Chief Judge, Thomas
Ludwig from Germany. This will see the Tricks Preliminary round pushed
forward to early on Wednesday morning.
One last piece of drama ! Reigning World Slalom
Champion, Jeff Rogers (USA), has arrived ! His late decision to defend his title
comes as great news for all. At the 2003 Waterski World Championships, he
arrived on the morning of the event - having driven through the night to
compete! His arrival will certainly ensure a very exciting Saturady Slalom final
no matter what the outcome.