In one of the most fascinating World Waterski Championships in recent years, four Championships records were established and history was made in the Men’s Overall contest. With all eight defending World Champions on site, only two succeeded in actually holding these titles for another two years. The magnificent Lago los Morros site on the outskirts of Santiago Chile created a perfect mix of thrills and heart break in these fascinating International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) World Championships.
In glorious 26C / 79F sunshine all week, with a slight head wind on occasions, the athletes from 32 countries could not have hoped for better. With World Records falling regularly during this year, expectations were high as Slalom began – and we were not disappointed. While the defending World Champions Whitney McClintock (CAN) and Thomas Degasperi (ITA) put in great performances once again, it was Regina Jaquess (USA) and Nate Smith (USA), who established new World Championships Records in securing their new titles of World Champion on this occasion. Jaquess was the first woman ever to achieve a score on the short 10.25m / 41 off Slalom line in a World Championships. Her score of one buoy made history. Nate Smith also set a World Championships Slalom Record of 3.5 buoys on the 10.25m / 41 off line. These two athletes are also the current holders of World Slalom Records. Whitney McClintock (CAN) and Clementine Lucine (FRA) took silver and bronze in the women’s event. Will Asher (GBR) and Fred Winter (GBR) did likewise for the men.
Again in Tricks, the current and new World Record holder Erika Lang (USA), at just 18 years of age, went on to set a new World Championships Tricks Record of 9570 points here in Santiago this weekend. This was just 10 points ahead of Iris Cambray (FRA) who took the silver medal. Clementine Lucine (FRA), the first woman ever to exceed 10,000 points, took the bronze medal. In the Men’s event, Aliaksei Zharnasek from Belarus, the current World Record holder, was one of only two World Champions to retain his title this time around. Twenty four year-old Pierre Ballon (FRA) took the silver medal with the highly experienced Oleg Deviatovski (BLR) securing the bronze. In both the men and women’s events, clearly there is enormous young talent rising to the top. The future of Tricks looks very bright.
As ever, in perfect conditions, the Jump event thrilled once again. With outstanding performances, dramatic crashes, many surprises and lots of emotion, the spectacle of bravery, skill and total commitment had the packed arena totally captivated. To fully appreciate the emotion involved, when Australia’s Jacinta Carroll’s father jumped into the water to hug his daughter for her 56.0m / 184ft winning gold medal performance, this meant a lot more than many might have realised. Jacinta’s long-time coach Ray Stokes was taken by cancer not too long ago, and for many, this emotional moment was also his. Her outstanding performance here set a new Championships Record. Finland’s Jutta Lammi, a past World Games Champion, took second place ahead of the defending World Jump Champion, Natalia Berdnikava (BLR) who is recovering from injury. The Men’s Jump event was just as dramatic. With spectacular crashes from Damien Sharman (GBR) and Scot Ellis (USA) who both survived injury, the defending World Champion, Freddy Krueger (USA), was not only recovering from injury but he also struggled to even qualify for these Finals. The best he could do during the week was 64.6m / 212ft. This put him in the middle of the pack in the Finals running order. His opening jump was extraordinary against this background – 69.0m / 226ft. It proved once again that this is a rare athlete with exceptional talent. Not only did it provoke a standing ovation from the cheering Chilean audience, it totally reflected the character of the man. At this point, with six jumpers still on the dock, the pressure was on. Right through to the final jumper, none could outperform Krueger. The last competitor, Ryan Dodd (CAN), was the one who might do it. His second jump was 68.5m / 225ft, equalling his Preliminary Round score. Could he find another half meter on his final attempt? The cheering audience and waving Canadian flags knew that this was the moment. Dodd’s personal best score of 71.4m suggested that gold was within reach. Unfortunately, his second distance of 68.5m was to be his best on this occasion. Freddy Krueger (USA), World Champion once again, was only the second athlete to successfully defend his title here in Santiago Chile.
Usually, once the Jump event is over, that is the end of the drama. However, a totally captivating Overall story now emerged as the complicated score calculations to identify these winners were finalised by Chief Judge Candido Moz (ITA). This is the Triathlon of Waterskiing involving performances in Slalom, Tricks and Jump. Firstly, in the Women’s event, Regina Jaquess (USA) showed that her Slalom skills are unbeatable. As World Champion, World Slalom Record Holder and World Championships Record Holder, this strength gave her the perfect edge in Overall scores. It also gave her the well deserved Gold Medal. Defending champion Whitney McClintock (CAN) and Clementine Lucine (FRA) took Silver and Bronze. The Men’s Overall battle was unique this year. Again there is some background to this. Almost 20 years ago, the creator and owner this beautiful man-made Lago los Morros site had a dream – to build a perfect lake and have at least one of his son’s become a World Open Champion. Not only did he construct a magnificent facility but his son Felipe Miranda had almost achieved his dream. In recent years, he already secured the World Overall title for IWWF Juniors and U21 and now the Open title was the final hurdle. With two past World Open Overall Champions to beat – Adam Sedlmajer (CZE) and Javier Julio (ARG), this was the moment! While Sedlmajer performed well in Slalom and Tricks, his Jump score was disappointing. Julio’s Trick’s score also let him down on this occasion. Martin Kolman (CZE) was also very strong in Slalom and Jump. However, it was time for a miracle. Felipe Miranda was crowned World Overall Champion and his father’s 20 year dream came true. This was a perfect ending to a first class World Waterski Championships.
While the Team results really showed the dominant strength of Team (USA) once again, the battle between Canada and France for second and third places was unequalled. In the end, Team Canada took the Silver Medal by a margin of just over three points. France needed just a little extra in Slalom and Jump but it was not to be on this occasion. Congratulations to Team (USA).
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