28Aug07 Day One Full Of Surprises at Waterski World Championships

Following a very ritzy Opening Ceremony in Linz, the 2007 Waterski World Championships kicked off with a bunch of surprises today, some really great performances and perfect weather. The competition site and event organisation is also first class.

The menu for the day covered Slalom and Tricks for Men and Ladies. The Seeds ranged from Seven to Three. Slalom came first with flat water, 22C / 74Fh and a flawless CorrectCraft Nautique boat. The first skier on the water at 7.30am was Ireland?s Rodney Watson. His 2 Buoys on the 11.25m line was not expected so early in the day. In fact, of the following 42 Skiers, nobody exceeded this score. Three equaled it. They were Ingus Buks of Latvia, Alexander Anthony of Great Britain, and Aliaksei Zharnasek of Belarus. It may take a score of something on the 10.75m line to gain a place in the top twelve in the Finals, but these were the stars today.

Womens Slalom had two very emotional moments. Listed to compete were Elena (Milakova) Thomsen (SUI) and Kristi Overton Johnson (USA) ! Was this a typo ? Elena had a new life with two children but still held the 2002 World Jump Record of 56.6m. Kristi had a family almost reared and a serious hip injury but still held a 1996 World Slalom Record of 1 Buoy on the 10.25m line. All present knew that something special could happen today. Elena was 9th off the dock and blew all away with a score of 1 Buoy on the 11.25m line. Nineteen skiers later and at the end of Slalom, she was still on top. What a performance ! It may just take one or two more Buoys to make the Finals, but this was an amazing return to high level competition. Now all wonder what will happen in Tricks and Jump. All we can do is wait ! Kristi had a perfect 14.25m pass on the Slalom Course. All looked just right. This was the Kristi we all remember. At Buoy 5 on the 13m line, something went wrong. Instead of heading for the dock, she turned to the shore line and took her back foot out of the binding.. That hip had returned and Kristi knew there and then that the old injury was still alive. Sad to witness but what a joy to see her do what she had done so well for so long.

The rest of the day was Tricks. We had two headline performances. Francisco Miranda from Chile put in a stunning performance of 6,300 points in Seed 3. Only one other got close. Can you believe this ? The legend Cory Pickos (USA) had his first World Championships at 14 years of age. Today, the eleven year old Nikolaos Plytas (GRE) rewrote history. He tricked 6030 points for second place ! By the way, he can also jump 30m and get 1 Buoy at 14.25 in Slalom at 55kph. A Finals place may require a score of more than 9,000 points but you never know. Plytas has to be a name to remember.

In the Ladies Tricks event, Tanya Niebuhr (GBR) was unbeatable for much of the afternoon with her score of 5960 points. Russia?s Tatiana Churakova just two weeks ago took fourth place in the Dubna / Russia World Cup Stop but today her 6940 points score put her top of this pile. Our guess is that this will be enough for a Finals place and Tanya will be close. Day One in Linz proved yet again that there is always something very special about the Waterski World Championships. Watch out for Day Two !