Sunday, 26th. August 2001
IT’S WORLD GAMES FINAL’S DAY
We arrived at the Ogata Waterski site at 5.55am to find that our Japanese Waterski Association friends had already got all the housekeeping work completed – chairs ready, iced drinks in place, floors swept and spectator facilities in perfect order. The three floor Judging facility also had all we needed. The only problem was the backbreaking Sunday Competition Schedule and hot sticky weather. This included the Finals for Barefoot Slalom, Tournament Tricks, Barefoot Tricks, Barefoot Jump, Wakeboard, Tournament Slalom and Tournament Jump – in that order. Somewhere, we also had to find time for the Barefoot Preliminary Men’s Jump Round and the Medals Ceremony. The biggest surprise for us was how well Tournament, Barefoot and Wakeboard worked together to produce a great formula. The audience obviously enjoyed it and the athletes excelled both on and off the water. We need more bonding exercises like this.
From the field of 11, four Ladies made it through to the Tournament Finals. Angeliki Andriopoulou won Tricks by just 60 points from Elena Milakove (RUS) with a score of 6780. Her arm strain of Saturday held up. In Slalom, all got on to the 12m line / 35 off. However, only Britain’s Sarah Gatty-Saunt was very unlucky to miss her 11.25m gates. It all worked well for Elena since Jump is her real strong point – a personal best of 55.1m. In the Finals, her distance of 48.4m gave her the Gold World Games medal. Angeliki Andriopoulou (GRE) did very well to take the Silver and Bronze went to Sarah Gatty-Saunt. Rhoni Barton (USA) was unlucky with an early fall in Tricks but shows every sign of being back to full form again.
An entry of 21 Men was reduced to 6 in each discipline in today’s Tournament Finals. In Slalom, the standard was high – all but one got on to the 11.25m line. The one that didn’t was Patrice Martin (FRA). His 3.5/10.75m score was 5.5 buoys ahead of nearest rival, Tom Asher (GB). In Tricks, Patrice Martin and Tom Asher again dominated. Tom’s 9050 was just 440 points short – with Jason Seels at 8270 points. After a gruelling six days, a Typhoon threat and sweltering heat, the Men’s Jump Finals were a big hit. Rodrigo Miranda (CHI) kicked off with a solid 55.5m. Tom Asher’s 57.2m and George Hatzis (GRE) 59.8m, were the only ones less than 60m. Patrice Martin landed an impressive 60.9m. Scott Smith (USA) overcooked two attempts but got a 61.7m on his final attempt. Britain’s Jason Seels got 100% for style but was just a little short with 61.4m. At the end when the Overall scores were in, Gold went to Patrice Martin, Silver went to Jason Seels and Bronze went to Tom Asher. Britain’s Team Captain, John Wood, was full of praise for his team and rightly so.
The Barefoot Slalom Finals were outstanding. A major battle was expected between the wonder-woman from South Africa, Nadine de Villiers and USA star Rachel George. On this occasion, Nadine won very convincingly with a score of 9.4, but her nearest opposition was from Kirsten Gronvik of Norway and not Rachel. This set the scene for the Overall Ladies World Games title. Nadine’s Trick score of 3500 points was 1240 ahead of next best Rachel – and by that stage, the medals owners were becoming more predictable. By the time Jump arrived, Nadine’s inverted distance of 16.9m was the clincher. The Overall scores gave Nadine de Villiers Gold, Rachel George (USA) got Silver and the Bronze went to Norway’s Kirsten Gronvik. The Men’s Barefoot Finals were a big attraction for the 4,000 spectators. The favourite, Keith StOnge (USA) had it all his own way in both Tricks and Slalom. Terry Gregory (Germany) took the Jump title with a big distance of 23.7m. Britain’s 17 year old David Small, caused a sensation with a second place in both Slalom and Tricks. When it came to the Overall calculation, Keith St Onge was no surprise with the Gold Medal. However, David Small’s Silver achievement was outstanding - with the Bronze going to Evert Aartsen of the Netherlands. The Barefooters were well organised, very prepared to help wherever needed and left a very positive impression on all concerned.
Wakeboard in Japan is big business – 280,000 Riders ! The field of 23 was whittled down to 3 Ladies and 8 Men in the Finals today. Two Japanese competitors made it into both the Ladies and Mens events - making all the difference for the spectators. Japan’s 13 year old sensation, Mero Narita’s score of 44.3 was enough to win her Gold. The Ladies Silver went to Australia’s Leza Bugden and Japan’s Kiyomi Suzuki took Bronze. The Men also put on a great show – thanks to the Commentary help of Japan Wakeboard Chairman Katsu Susukida. Italy’s Fabrizio Benelli nailed down his Bronze Medal with some enormous Indy Tantrums, 540’s and Backrolls. Morgan Krause (RSA) got the applause and Silver Medal for his big High Side Fuji Glide and Switch Scarecrow. The Gold was very definitely earned by Rodo Vinh-Tung (FRA) with KGB’s, and Elephant and 540.
Presenting the World Games Medals were Graziano Tognala IWSF Secretary General Max Kirwan, IWSF President for Asia / Australasia, Kuno Ritschard, IWSF President for Region EAME, and the Mayor of Ogato, Kita Kurose. Press photos secured were impressive and the highlights were featured nightly on prime time NHK TV. With 3500 Athletes involved at 21 locations, this is an impressive major event. The 7th World Games scheduled for Duisburg in German in 2005 should see an even greater Waterski presence. The Japan Waterski Assocaition and the International World Games Association deserve great praise for an outstanding event.