|Today, Friday, was the second last day of the FISU World University Waterski Championships here at Dongli Lake in Tianjin in China. The schedule listed the Preliminary Rounds of Men and Ladies Jump to kick off at 08.30hrs, followed by the Slalom Finals and Prize Giving Ceremonies. Nature intervened with strong side winds arriving from the Sea about 40 km to the east. Chief Judge Jeff Smith made a wise decision to delay the start for safety reasons till 09.15hrs. By that time it had improved but those lateral breezes added a caution element to the Jump Rounds.|
With 26 Men chasing just 12 Finals places, there were a few hair-raising moments. Japan?s Shun Nagatomo was first on the water behind the flawless CorrectCraft Ski Nautique. He passed on jump one and lost his ski at the base of the Jump Ramp on jump two. The gasp from the audience said it all. Miraculously, he escaped injury. In total, 12 Jumpers did not take their first jump. However, the eventual scores were impressive. China?s Shu Zhenyi was the first to hit the headlines with a 50.2m / 165ft distance in Series 2. Poland?s Jakub Rutkowski was last off the dock in this section and pushed the best score up to 50.7m / 166ft. In Series 1, five more jumpers broke the 50m barrier. Adam Sedlmajer (CZE) came out on top with an impressive 54.8m / 180ft. Both of the Selsors (USA), Storm and Ryan, made it through to the Finals. Sam Haslam (GBR) was second best with 54.7m and he then lent his skis to Chile?s Rodrigo Miranda who also qualified with 52.4m / 172ft. ? Not bad on borrowed skis ! The Jump Finals tomorrow are scheduled for 13.00hrs.
It was then time for the 16 Ladies to go for their 12 Jump Finals places tomorrow. Eight exceeded 40m / 131ft. Again, as with the Men, that cross wind unsettled quite a few. Kate Adriaensen (BEL) qualified with 41.1m / 135ft but got a nasty scare on her final attempt. The battle for the top place was a real thriller. Regina Jaquess (USA) was first on the dock in Series 1 and her 44.4m / 146ft score set a high standard. Alex Lauretano (USA) who has looked very impressive all week, then landed 44.7m / 147ft and nobody could beat that today. Nancy Chardin (FRA), also very impressive all week, landed 43.9m / 144ft to take the third highest score of the day. The Finals on Saturday will be a real highlight of the weekend.
At this point, as the earlier weather delay put pressure on the timings, the Chief Judge decided to roll the Mens Slalom Finals forward to 08.30hrs tomorrow, Saturday. The Ladies Slalom Finals then provided the major focus of the rest of the afternoon. The 12 Finalists all knew that the cross wind would not produce records but that was not the objective. Getting on to the FISU World University Waterski Championships podium was the sole target. As soon as the CorrectCraft Ski Nautique pulled Maria Franka Volk (GER) into the course, the pressure was on. It proved too much for Maria and she went down early on pass one. Nancy Chardin (FRA) raised the bar to 3.5 buoys on the 13m line / 32 off and that remained the top score till our earlier Jump star, Alex Lauretano, pushed it up to 2 buoys on the 12m line / 35 off. Maryia Veramchuk (BLR) increased it again to 3 buoys on the 12m line and that was a possible podium score if one of the last three ran in to trouble. Unfortunately for Kate Adriaensen (BEL), it was not her day as she fell early on pass one. Canada?s Karen Steven?s 2 on the 11.25m line / 38 off gave her a well deserved podium place also ? leaving just Regina Jaquess (USA) a chance to go for gold if she could beat that. While others might have collapsed under that pressure, few have the focus, talent and experience of Regina. She raised the hand of victory on taking just an extra half buoy to become the 2008 FISU Ladies World University Slalom Champion.
As always in China, the attention to detail in the Prize Ceremony was very impressive and added greatly once again to this great occasion. The first Medal Winners are still smiling ? Regina Jaquess (USA), Karen Stevens (CAN) and Maryia Veramchuk (BLR)