Apart from the Olympic Games, the next most prestigious for an athlete are the multi sport games governed by the Olympic Council and staged every four years. These include such events as the PanAm Games, the Asian Games and the Mediterranean Games. They are enormous competitions with all the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics. No athlete competes without feeling that they have been part of a very special occasion.
The last Asian Games were held in Doha, Qatar and attracted 45 Nations, 39 sports and 13,000 athletes. The last PanAm Games were held in Rio de Janiero and attracted 5,634 athletes from 42 countries. Last weekend, the Mediterranean Games held in Pescara Italy involved 4,000 volunteers, and approximately 5,000 athletes from 23 countries. Both Waterski and Wakeboard were featured as exhibition sports. Their impact was certainly significant.
Despite the recent tragic Abruzzo earthquake nearby, the Opening Ceremony was as impressive as any seen in recent years. Attended by the IOC President, Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Mediterranean Games Amar Addadi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a display by the Italian Air Force set the scene. It was a very well organized show on a very large scale. Our Waterski and Wakeboard athletes entered the Stadium with their fellow countrymen and women carrying the flags of their nations. These included some of our highest ranked competitors, Ageliki Andriopoulou GRE, Anais Amade, Clementine Lucine and Jean Baptiste Faisy FRA, Matteo Luzzeri, Giulano Molli and Ginevra Gentile ITA, It was also great to see the very large teams from Turkey, Spain, Serbia, Croatia and the Lebanon, amongst others.
The Waterski and Wakeboard site was on the nearby Pescara Beach and within a protective rock barrier. This was overlooked by thousands of colorful parasols which stretched for over 75 km up the coast ! The disciplines were Slalom, Tricks and Wakeboard. Fortunately, in spite of occasional dark clouds, the weather was kind and water conditions were good throughout. RAI TV covered the Finals live and Getty Images were the Games appointed photographers.
In Tricks, World Champion Clementine Lucine FRA took the title with a score of 8220 points, 440 ahead of Iris Cambray FRA. Ageliki Andriopoulou GRE was third. Young Alexandre Poteau FRA, the 2008 EAME bronze medalist, took gold this time in the Mens event with 10,080 points ? 620 ahead of Matteo D?Alberto ITA. Nicolaos Plytas GRE took the bronze medal and also set a new Greek Junior Record with 7840 points.
In Wakeboard, Italy had a bumper day ! Ginevra Gentile ITA outscored Lauriane Masson FRA to take the Womens gold medal, and Giuliano Molli ITA did likewise to beat Lucas Langlois FRA for his gold medal.
Slalom was the final event and it was one of the most dramatic seen for some time. The Womens Final was the more straightforward with Anais Amade FRA fighting a shoulder injury to take the gold medal with a score of 3 buoys on the 12m line ? one ahead of Clementine Lucine FRA. However, the Mens event almost ran out of daylight ! Matteo Luzzeri ITA was third last off the dock and took the lead with 3.5 buoys on the 12m line. George Hatzis GRE scored just one less. Last off, Jean Baptiste Faisy FRA then equaled Luzzeri?s 3.5 on the 12m line. Both then had to leave the dock on the 13m line. Now the large crowds edged closer to the warm Mediterranean waters to see both score 3 buoys on the 11.25m line. Another run-off as the sun began to set. An exhausted Faisy then scored 2.5 buoys on the 11.25m line, putting enormous pressure on the equally tired Italian Matteo Luzzeri. Now the large Italian audience could be heard in North Africa ! All Luzzeri had to do was get anything better than 2.5 on the 11.25m line. He scored 3. A perfect ending for him at the end of a perfect day for Waterski and Wakeboard.
For those who have never attended one of these IOC multi sport games, it is difficult to fully appreciate the impact participation has on the athletes. This is recognition at the highest level. It was also very encouraging to have two extended visits from Amar Addidi, President of the International Mediterranean Games. With 29 sports involved, this support was a very positive sign. IWSF President Kuno Ritschard explained the details and Addidi was particularly impressed by the Judging organization and technical equipment, headed up by Chief Judges Vincenzo D?Elia and Colin Hart. Enormous praise must also be given to Silvio Falcioni, President of the Italian Waterski Federation. His association with a wide number of influential senior people in Italy greatly increased the level of attention given to our participation throughout. EAME President Alain Amade also worked closely with Silvio Falcioni to make this a very successful event for Waterski and Wakeboard. The next Games in 2013 will be staged in Greece. Already plans are developing to catch even more headlines there !