WORLD WATERSKI CHAMPIONSHIPS – 2001
DAY 6. SUNDAY Sept 30th- PART TWO
Now that the Slalom, Tricks and Jump Athletes have been crowned, the awards presented and the National Anthems played at the very impressive on-site lake-side Prize Podium, it’s time to move to Lake 2 for the start of the stand-alone Overalls competition. It’s hot, blue skies and perfect water. There is a real buzz in the air as the spectators pour in from the Milan area. Lot’s of Italian glamour around the site !
Four Men and four Ladies Athletes have qualified – based on their performances in the Preliminaries. At 2.00pm sharp, we kicked off with Slalom – and the Ladies were first on the dock. Here is the line-up – Rhoni Barton (USA), Angeliki Andriopoulou (Greece), Marina Mosti (Italy) and Elena Milakova ( Russia).
Rhoni was first off and secured an impressive 3 buoys on the 11.25m line. Angeliki followed with a big disappointment for her with just 2.5 buoys on the 12m line. Marina, the Italian audience’s favourite had everybody on their feet as she almost caught Rhoni with 1.5 buoys on the 11.25m line. It was now all down to the current Overall World Record holder Elena – but the best she could do was 1 on the 11.25m line. So in Overall points, Rhoni had the maximum 1000, Marina had 973..68, Elena had 964.91 and Angeliki had 885.86. It was looking good for Rhoni and looking somewhat doubtful for the World Record holder Elena.
Now it’s Mens Overall Slalom – Thomas Fenzl (Austria), Javier Julio (Argentina), Oleg Deviatovski (Belarus) and Jaret Llewellyn (Canada,) the runner-up to Patrice Martin in the last Worlds at Idroscala, Milan. Thomas kicked off in perfect conditions with 4.5 buoys on the 11.25m line. Good start. Javier was next – recovering from a serious injury. He has a big Italian fan club and you could hear them in Corsica ! He had the day of his life with a brilliant 1 buoy on the 10.75m line – giving him both a new Personal Best score AND a new national record for Argentina. The talented Overaller Oleg was next and he went even deeper with 3 buoys on the 10.75m line. Only Jaret could topple him now – but he ran into unexpected trouble at 3.5 buoys on the 11.25m line. Now the stage was set for Tricks with maximum Slalom points of 1000 going to Oleg, 968.25 to Xavier, 928.57 to Thomas and just 912.70 going to Jaret. This had all the appearances of being a surprise outcome.
The same running order continued – Rhoni first. She got her whole run completed in time and scored a very impressive 6630 points. With her 1000 in Slalom plus this, she was now looking very good for the medals. Angeliki was very downhearted after Slalom but showed terrific focus in Tricks with a huge 7490 points. She really needed this to stay in the game. Marina deserved a medal just for being here as she had qualified for EVERY Final – Slalom, Tricks, Jump and Overall. In spite of this, to the great disappointment of all, a bunch of problems gave her a score of just 4530 points. Elena had a big mountain to climb also after her third place in Slalom – but typical of her determination her score came in at a respectable 6560 points. At this stage the accumulated Overall points were now fascinating. Angeliki’s great Trick score made her the leader with 1885.96 points to date – just a whisper ahead of Rhoni’s 1885.96 ! Elena was now surprisingly down in third place with 1840.79 and Marina was just about out of the game with 1554.45. What a battle we were going to have in the Jump event.
Thomas knew he had a huge task in Tricks with the standard of the others on the dock. While his 7700 score is great by most standards, Javier Julio was next and got huge applause for 10,150 points. Were we about to have an Overall Champion from Argentina ? Oleg always Tricks well but the most he could produce was 9740 points and he would have liked well over 10,000. Jaret was in trouble after a fourth place in Slalom and just had to go for it in Tricks. Go for it is exactly what he did and 10,650 points turned the tables in his favour. At this stage, as in the Ladies Overalls, we had a fascinating accumulated set of Overall points scores – Xavier was now in the lead with 1921.3, Oleg was second with 1914.55, Jaret had crept up to third with 1912.70 points and Thomas was just about out of it with 1651.57. Now we all moved over to the Jump lake for the final onslaught for the World Overall titles. The enormous scramble for lake side seating said it all.
It’s Ladies first on the 1.65m Ramp. Scorching sunshine, great Ramp, flawless CorrectCraft with Perfect Pass Cruise Control and an overwhelming air of anticipation. This was decision time for the new Champions. Rhoni had very high hopes – in second place at this point and one of the best Jumpers in the World today. As is often the case, her second Jump was the best at 47m / 154ft. Was this going to be enough ? Angeliki was next – the leader at this point – and failure here would have spelled disaster. She didn’t disappoint – and got an ovation for a big 47.9m / 157ft distance. Was this to be her Championships ? Marina was next but must have been really despondent after the first two events. Although she raised the roof with a courageous 50.2m / 165ft, the points gap was just to big for this to make up the difference. As usual, it was now all down to Elena, our current World Overall Champion. She had to exceed 49.5m / 162ft by our calculations to make up her shortfall and take the title. You could hear a pin drop. Her cut to her very first jump was late, very late, and flawless. The distance – drowned out by the cheering sun baked crowd was a magnificent 50.9m / 167ft. Elena Milakova (Russia) was the 2001 World Overall Champion – Angeliki picked up the Silver and Rhoni the Bronze. Congratulations to all the Ladies for one of the best Overalls for many years.
Now it’s the closing minutes of a great week in Recetto. The moment of truth has just arrived for the Men – and it’s Jump time. First off the dock is the very confident Javier Julio from Argentina with his new Argentine Slalom National Record etched in into his brain. Before Jump, he is in the lead. He needs a big one to win. His recent injury has unfortunately restricted him to the 1.65m ramp. It’s about as tense as it can get. His best of the set was 58.2m / 191ft. – excellent on that lower ramp but hardly enough to take the Gold Medal. Only three Athletes to go as the sun begins to sink behind the snowy peaks of the Alps. Thomas Fenzel arrives with enormous pressure as he is in the last spot coming into Jump. His best is 61.2m / 210ft. Again, hardly enough to win. Now it’s the last two Athletes. Belarus overall expert Oleg Deviatovski is on the water. The pressure is just too big and he has to settle for 55.8m / 183ft. At this point we were all on our feet. The red and white speed suit of Jaret Llewellyn looked tiny on that lonely starting dock. His father Don could barely look. This was a magical Worlds last chapter with all kinds of possibilities. Jaret was near exhaustion. He had already skied in the Slalom Final – and now he had also completed the Overall Slalom and Overall Tricks. Could he do it ? He had to beat 59m / 194ft. to make it. The crowd hushed. Jump number one was on the way. Would he play it safe and test the ramp first. His set up at the 180m mark looked aggressive. His final cut was definitely LATE. He kicked that ramp as if it was the last jump of his life. We waited five seconds for the distance – and it was a whopper of 64.7m / 212ft. What a way to take the Overall Title ! As the cheering continued we were then able to confirm that Javier Julio (Argentina) was in Silver position and Oleg Deviatovski (Belarus) got the Bronze. By the way, on of the first to congratulate Jaret was an ecstatic and great sportsman, Javier Julio.
THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAM AWARD
Given the circumstances, this was a very special event in the hearts of all in these Recetto Worlds. Many of us were uplifted at the sheer determination and courage shown by our Waterski Athletes in making it to Italy at a time when tourists all over the World were cancelling their vacations, business people were delaying their travel plans and to the east of Italy, the political atmosphere was highly unstable. When we totted up the scores to identify the new World Team Champions, we knew that Great Britain had won the Slalom top points – but it was the USA which dominated both Tricks and Overall. Yes, the perfect ending to a perfect World Championships. As the USA Team Manager, Frank Harrison proudly lined up the USA Team for the awards and the strains of the USA National Anthem drifted across the flat waters of Recetto, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. This was one of the greatest moments of sports solidarity in memory and one which those of us present felt honoured to witness.