As the hot sun sank over the flat calm Volga River in Dubna, Russia, and the MasterCraft boats were moored for the night, many of the 37 competing countries agreed that this was one of the most outstanding IWWF World Waterski Championships in living memory. It had everything. The extensive hospitality of the hosts, enthusiastic volunteers, action filled week-long programme of ceremonies and entertainment, packed Nekhaevskiy Watersports Stadium, extensive live TV and Webcast coverage, and most of all, the extraordinary level of competition.
The results were special. In all nine sets of podium presentations, for those who made it through to receiving World Championships medals, each had a unique reason for success. The thousands of cheering Dubna spectators at the elaborate floating stage for the spectacular Bolshoi Ballet Opening Ceremony and the final medals presentation, did justice to this occasion.
In the Ladies and Mens Slalom Finals, a combination of talent and experience took the gold medals. Whitney McClintock CAN, had an extraordinary World Championships in Calgary, Canada, two years ago. Her Slalom gold medal in front of her home crowd received an ovation at that time. To repeat this in Dubna, Russia, this weekend with a score of 3 buoys on the 10.75m line was a great achievement. In taking the silver medal, Nicole Arthur GBR also did something quite rare. In spite of her young years, she now has a collection of World Junior, World U21 and World Open gold medals. Adding a silver medal this year proves her rare talent. Bronze medalist Regina Jaquess USA is another phenomenon as she somehow combines her career as a pharmacist with these world-class performances.
The Men's Slalom finals were equally enthralling. Italy's Thomas Degasperi did the almost impossible. Having taken the gold and silver medals in past World Championships, capturing gold yet again in Dubna with a score of 3 buoys on the 10.25m line must have been a dream come true for him. New Zealander Aaron Larkin has exploded on to the World stage recently following a very impressive earlier career. His silver medal in Dubna after his Moomba Masters gold medal in Melbourne last March confirms his ranking status. Most who know the tough sport of Slalom skiing were stunned by the performance of the bronze medalist Nate Smith USA. His 10.75m Slalom pass was possibly one of the best ever witnessed.
In Ladies Tricks, again the final outcome just felt right. Natalia Berdnikava BLR may have recently lost her World Record to Clementine Lucine FRA, but when it comes to pressure situations, few can outperform her. Her score of 8720 points was 140 points ahead of Marion Aynaud FRA, who is certainly a future gold medalist at her young age. Surprising many, Maria Camila Linares COL beat the remaining 39 athletes to take the bronze medal - a very popular winner.
The Men's Tricks Finals were truly a battle of the giants, but not as we know it. World Champion and World Record Holder Aliaksei Zharnasek BLR received an ovation each time he entered the Nekhaevskiy Watersports Stadium. As more or less the local hero, his performances were breathtaking. His gold medal score of 11,570 reflected a flawless display. The miracle French man came next. A series of injuries, family commitments and an international career in banking IT and in the later years of his career, Nicolas LeForestier should have been satisfied with merely a Finals qualification. In fact he outperformed all but one of the 37 qualified contestants from nineteen countries in this discipline. In taking the bronze medal, Oleg Deviatovski showed once more that Belarus now has a firm grip on the medals where it really counts.
As the afternoon sun beat down on the Dubna Jump Ramp, it was time for the final event of a very special week. The twelve athletes from eight countries who made it through to the Women's Jump Finals were ready for their last challenge. Yet again, the results had an air of justice about them. Natalia Berdnikava BLR is certainly in a zone of her own these days. Her totally professional approach has paid dividends. This time she took the gold medal in style with a distance of 51.2m . In all, four athletes broke the 50m barrier. Only 0.4m behind the seasoned Berdnikava in the silver medal slot was another dream come true. At just 18 years of age, recently emerging from junior ranks, Australia's Jacinta Carroll was a sensation. Her coach Ray Stokes must have been elated. This is certainly a future gold medalist. The bronze medal was also a truly well deserved victory for Marie Vympranietsova GRE. Also coached by Ray Stokes, she returned from injury in style with a score of 50.0m.
The Men's Jump event had an air of inevitability about it. All awaited the performance of Freddy Krueger USA. His successes as World Champion and World Record holder have given him legend status. However, the other greatly admired legend Jaret Llewellyn CAN actually outperformed Krueger in the elimination round. This element of doubt added to the magic of the occasion. Both were caught by surprise. As the only athlete competing on the lower 1.65m Jump Ramp, another 18 year-old Australian caused a sensation. Timothy Bradstreet was the first of the twelve finalists into the Nekhaevskiy Watersports Stadium. His distance of 67.5m stunned all present. The Jump Ramp was then raised to 1.8m. As it turned out, only one of the remaining eleven athletes could outperform Bradstreet. This is unprecedented. Rodrigo Miranda CHI got close with 66.0m, enough to take the well-deserved bronze medal. Krueger pushed himself to the limit. He fell short of Bradstreet's distance on both his first and second attempt. True to his championship form, Freddy's last jump of 69.5m secured the gold medal for him with the silver going to the sensational performance of Bradstreet.
The Ladies Overall gold medal winner was no surprise. Natalia Berdnikava BLR had truly earned it, ahead of Regina Jaquess USA and Marion Mathieu FRA. While Adam Sedlmajer CZE truly deserved the Men's Overall title, all were delighted to see the legend Jaret Llewellyn CAN take the Silver medal and Ryan Green AUS take the bronze. Their levels of commitment have earned them these medals. Not surprisingly, Team honours were taken by Blearus, France and USA, in that order.
In his closing remarks in front of the packed Stadium, Mayor Valery Prokh received an ovation, not just from the citizens of Dubna but also from those who travelled from 37 countries to share in this special experience. The city created a Waterski World Championships in the true spirit of the sport and to be remembered for long years to come. Congratulations to the city of Dubna.