Four days of very competitive Preliminary Rounds, glorious
sunshine, live TV coverage with 20 cameras on site and first class facilities,
all set a perfect stage for the 2005 Finals of the Vanke Waterski World
Championships at Dongli Lake in Tianjin, China. The DongLi Lake Spa Resort
location is a two hour drive south east of Beijing.
The highly impressive night time Opening Ceremony set the
tone for the entire Championships. The Beijing Opera performers, Chinese
traditional music portraying the Tang Dynasty, Fireworks, Lighting Displays,
Water Ballet, Dragons, Drums and Show Skiing, were a sign of the standards
anticipated. None were disappointed by what followed.
The bi-annual IWSF World Championships attracted 144 Skiers
from 28 countries. The attendance included Mr Wei Di, Director of the
Watersports Administration Centre of General Administration of Sport, and Mr
Kuno Ritschard, President of the International Waterski Federation. The daily
live television coverage audience was approximately 800 million viewers. The
Nautique competition boats were all supplied by CorrectCraft.
In Slalom, two new World Champions were crowned. The Mens
Slalom event was full of drama. World Record breakers, Chris Parrish (USA) and
Jamie Beauchesne (USA), surprised all by failing to get to the 4.5 buoys on the
short 10.75m rope length to qualify for the Finals. Then the reigning World
Slalom Champion, Jeff Rodgers (USA) was beaten into third place by the two young
British athletes, Glenn Campbell and William Asher. Both tied with a score of
3.0 buoys on the 10.25m line forcing a run-off to decide the winner. The 23 year
old Asher, who took the Slalom Silver Medal in the 2003 World Championships, got
his revenge this time by taking the Gold Medal on DongLi Lake. The Womens
Slalom event was equally thrilling. Reigning World Champion Emma Sheers (AUS)
could not compete following recent knee surgery. It took a score of 2 buoys on
the 11.25m rope to qualify for the Finals. Hot favorite Karen Truelove (USA) was
pipped into 3rd place by Britain’s Sarah Green. The 21 year old from Atlanta,
Georgia, Regina Jaquess (USA), was in a class of her own. Having captured the
title of World Trick Champion at just 16 years of age and World Overall Champion
at 19 years of age, she now added the title of World Slalom Champion to her
exceptional achievements list of 59 international medals achieved to date.
In Tricks, once again the best rose to the top. Nicolas
LeForestier (FRA) had a performance to forget in the last World Championships in
the USA. This time out, his Gold Medal performance in China was flawless with a
Course Record and a World Championships best performance of 11,860 points.
Behind him in the Silver and Bronze positions were Aliaksei Zharnasek (BLR) and
Javier Julio (ARG). In the Womens Tricks event, the reigning World Champion was
again unbeatable. The Texan athlete Mandy Nightingale (USA) successfully
defended her World Tricks Champion title with a score of 7490 points. Greek
athlete and Silver Medalist Ageliki Andriououlou beat the 16 year old sensation
Michale Briant (AUS) into third place.
In Jump, a light wind played a sporadic role. At times it
was blowing in the wrong direction for the athletes. All coped well in the 32C
sunshine and blue skies. Again, the loss of the reigning World Champion, Emma
Sheers (AUS), made the Women’s outcome totally unpredictable. The hot favorite,
Denmark’s June Fladborg, came out best from the Preliminary Round. Her Final’s
score of 51.2m would even have given her the Gold Medal in the last World
Championships. This time around, it earned her the Silver Medal. British Jumper,
Jakalyn Hunter was thrilled to secure the Bronze Medal. However, the Business
Graduate from Athens, Greece, Ageliki Andriopoulou, added the title of World
Jump Champion to her new Silver Medal in Tricks making this a World
Championships to remember. Her distance was 52.4m. She was also the first Greek
athlete ever to take this Jump title. The Mens Jump event was also a thriller.
Jimmy Siemers (USA) demolished a ski fin with a dangerously late cut to the Jump
Ramp and a distance of 65m. However, it was always going to be a battle between
Canada’s Jaret Llewellyn and the reigning World Champion, Freddy Krueger
(USA). Krueger has had the better innings in this past year but Llewellyn
took the recent World Cup title in Russia. Both set new Course Records here in
the Preliminary Round. Krueger came out on top then with a distance of 68.7m.
The scene was set for a classic duel in Tianjin, China, for the World Jump
title. Jaret Llewellyn now clocked up a score of 69.1m on the Finals score board
before Freddy Krueger took to the water. This was close enough to a World Record
to totally enthrall the cheering spectators. An unpredictable gusty hot breeze
prevailed. The best that Krueger could manage was 66.4m for the Silver Medal
position – 2.7m short of Lewellyn. Britain’s Jason Seels was just 0.1m behind
Krueger to take the Bronze Medal. Jaret Llewellyn was the new 2005 World Jump
Champion, having been 4th in the last World Championships.
The Overall contest is the Triathlon of Waterskiing. The top
four qualifying athletes from the Preliminary Round fight a stand-alone battle
for the Overall title – a totally self contained competition. In the Women’s
event, Regina Jaquess (USA), proved impossible to beat with outstanding
performances in both Slalom and Tricks. The World Champion retained her title.
In the Mens event, by dominating Tricks and scoring strongly in Jump, Jimmy
Siemers (USA) also proved impossible to beat. The reigning World Champion also
retained his title.
USA Team Manager, Frank Harrison, smiled confidently as USA Skiers took
the highest Team scores in both Slalom, Tricks and Jump. This guaranteed the
Team Gold Medal for the USA. France came 5th in the last World Championships –
but secured the Silver Medal position this time in China with a great Tricks
performance. Great Britain held on to their 3rd place from the previous World
Championships with high points in both Slalom and Jump.
The exceptional site facilities, the first class
organization, the combined efforts of Tianjin City, DongLi Lake Zone and the
Chinese Waterski Association, all combined to make the Vanke Waterski World
Championships one of the best ever staged with the International Waterski
Federation. Having the 2008 Olympic Games on the horizon, China has every good
reason to be confident for a great deal of sporting success in the future.