WORLD WATERSKI CHAMPIONSHIPS – 2001
DAY 5. SATURDAY Sept 29th
The weather forecasters were right – it did rain today – all day! However, it really didn’t make much difference as the great Skiing took our minds off the cool damp surroundings.
Today’s programme included the last of the Preliminaries – Jump Men series 2 and 1, and the Finals of Ladies and Mens Tricks, the Ladies Jump Final and the Prize Giving Ceremony for the finalists. As usual, it all started exactly on time – and today this was at 9.00am sharp.
A total of 24 Men in series 1 and 2 Jump were chasing the 8 Finals places plus the qualifying Specialists. Jump conditions were a real test – cold air, non stop drizzle and no breeze. Few Jumpers reached their full potential but that did not lessen the battle. The first series 2 Jumper, Christian Rampinelli (Italy) raised the focus level immediately with a solid 61.2m / 201ft. How about that for openers ! Specialist Ryan Fiits (USA) had a major wipe-out and all were amazed to see that this tough Athlete recovered immediately. At 46 years of age, Austrian superstar Franz Oberleitner received an ovation for his great 56.2m / 184ft performance. Finally, the three top Jumpers in this series were Kyle Eade (NZ) 61.3m / 201ft, Ryan Green (Australia) 61.8m / 203ft and Austria’s Thomas Fenzl 63.5m / 208ft.
Now it was time for the 12 series 1 Jumpers. Although the rain was not much better, the atmosphere was electric. Only two Jumpers did not exceed 60m. Denmark’s Jesper Cassoe opened up with 61.4m / 202ft and Bruce Neville (Australia) immediately upped this to 62.3m / 206ft. Swiss star Sebastian Di Pasqua nudged it up further to 62.5m / 205ft – and then the great Freddie Krueger (USA) entered the arena. His final distance of a great set was an enormous 66.5m / 218ft and Team Captain Frank Harrison’s smile said it all. Was this the best of the day ? Well, Curtis Sheers ( Australia) 62.4m, Christoph Duverger (France) 61.7m, Jason Seels (GB) 64.3m and Scott Ellis (USA) 64.3m couldn’t beat it. Jaret Llewellyn (Canada) entered the stage and you could hear the hush. Only the powerful hum of the flawless CorrectCraft boat broke the silence. With a personal best score of 70.3m / 231ft, the expectations were unfairly high. Jaret’s father Don watched intently as his final jump landed at 66.5m / 218ft from the ramp – EXACTLY the same as leader Freddie Krueger. The stage is set for a perfect Final tomorrow. (The cut off point was 61.3m / 201ft – and all those above who broke this are in the 12 finals places – including the specialists.)
Now it’s 12.30pm and time for the first Final – Ladies Tricks. It’s still raining as we move ten meters to the Slalom and Trick Lake 2. Nine qualified including the French specialist, Brigitte Lethem. The fact that only three Athletes beat their qualifying scores in the Finals reflects the degree of tension and excitement in today’s cool damp air. Brigitte Lethem – third off the dock, set the standard at 6940 points. Now the battle was on. The talented 17 year old student from Georgia in the USA, Regina Jaquess, was next out. Instead of being phased by the huge challenge, she tricked to perfection – and raised the bar to 7400 points – 230 points better than she had ever achieved before ! Italy’s Marina Mosti was next – having qualified for EVERY Final this year. She got close with a great 6950 points, just 240 points below her own personal best score. The next three Athletes all ran into some trouble during their tension filled passes – Rhoni Barton (USA), Angeliki Andriopoulou (Greece) and Frederique Savin (France). That left just Elena Milakova (Russia), the current World Overall and Jump Record holder. Her passes were also flawless. However, when her final score of 7060 points was called, the biography of the talented 17 year old from Georgia in the USA, Regina Jaquess, had changed forever as she is now the new Ladies World Tricks Champion. The playing of the USA National Anthem brought a tear to the eyes of many present.
Quickly, we moved to the Mens Tricks Finals. The cut off to reach this was 9470 points ! The best Preliminary score was 11070 points – that’s the kind of company we have now entered. The first two Athletes on the water ran into early and unexpected trouble – Marco Riva (Italy) and the young Australian Athlete Joel Wing. Jaret Llewellyn (Canada) changed all that with a flawless 10650 performance. He wants to reach those Overall Finals and a Trick medal along the way would not go astray either. Specialist Russel Gay (USA) was third last off the dock – but surprisingly ran into trouble on his second pass. Nevertheless, his 10940 score put him ahead of Jaret. Now we had two to go – Cory Pickos (USA) versus Nicolas LeForestier (France). Both had scores to settle. Cory has broken the World Trick Record a staggering 24 times – his first at 13 years of age, but has not won a World Championships Gold Medal since 1983 – 18 years ago ! Nicolas came second in the World Championships in 1995, 1997 and 1999 – and does not want to be the runner-up ever, ever again ! Cory’s passes were an inspiration but he ran out of just a little time on his first pass. Was this opening the door for Nicolas ? Cory’s score came in at 11150 points – hardly suggesting that the door was open. Nicolas watched everything closely and as the last Athlete, he had the advantage of knowing what he had to do. We have rarely seen him look so determined. His score came in at a blistering 11620 ! Yes, he had realised his dream. So, the Gold, Silver and Bronze went to Nicolas LeForestier, Cory Pickos and Russell Gay. Nicolas is the new Trick Worlds Champion. What an event !
The day was not over yet. It’s still drizzling rain but the spirits are high. We move back to the Jump lake for the Ladies Jump Finals at 3.00pm as per the programme.
The cut-off point for qualification was 47.5m / 156ft. Eight Athletes lined up on the dock with high expectations. Full of confidence from her outstanding achievement in Tricks, Regina Jaquess was first over the ramp. Her best was 44.6m / 146ft and that set the standard for those following. Britta Grebe Llewellyn was next and she pushed the target up to 49.7m / 163ft. Italy’s Marina Mosti got closest with 49.2m – just a half meter off. Toni Neville (Australia) was next with her enormous 90 inch Jump Skis and her 49.5m / 162ft put her just ahead of Britta. Now it was down to the last two, Emma Sheers (Australia) and Elena Milakova (Russia) to change the leader board and the spectators enjoyed every minute of the battle. Emma Sheers had good reason to feel she had a good chance to take the title with four previous World Records under her belt – and Elena Milakova now holds the new World Record at 55.1m / 181ft. However hard she tried, today, Emma’s best was 47.9m and this left the door open for Elena. Showing total commitment, all of Elena’s perfect three jumps today were over 50m and her last one of 51.1m / 168ft clinched the World Champion title. Elena Milakova is the new World Champion, Britta gets Silver and Toni gets Bronze. This was a perfect ending to a perfect Waterskiing day – and we never really noticed the rain ! Tomorrow’s forecast is for some sunshine. We hope it’s correct.