With seven worldwide Stops scheduled for 200
4, the opening event of the Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup took off with a perfect start in France. Over 20,000 spectators packed the Enghien-les-Bains lakefront site just 12 km from Paris. In the shadow of the famous Enghien Casino, Mayor Philippe Sueur warmly welcomed the 28 Wakeboard Riders who came from 12 Countries to compete for their share of the total series cash prize of US$ 650,000.
Wakeboarding is similar to Snowboarding – except that each Rider is towed on the water surface. Two passes are provided for each rider to complete complex gymnastic manoeuvres. Points are awarded for Execution, Intensity and Composition.
In near perfect conditions, Wakeboard Riders competed from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, France, Sweden Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy, USA, China, Russia, South Africa and New Zealand. These included the four time World Champion Darin Shapiro (USA), Athlete of the Year 2003 Daniel Watkins (AUS), 2004 Asian Championships winner Chen Lili (CHINA) and local star Yann Calvez, two time French Champion.
With only 8 places in the Men’s Pro Finals from a starting pack of 20 Riders, there were some real surprises in the Elimination Rounds. Losing out were the British brothers Julz and Nick Heaney, Russian star Nikita Martinanov and the 2004 Junior US Masters Champion, Jonathan Nadolski. Daniel Watkins (AUS), had the biggest day of his life scoring highest marks and taking home the US$15,000 top prize of this Stop. Only 1.7 points behind, was his 22 year old countryman Josh Sanders, followed by New Zealander, Jeff Weatherall.
The 6 Ladies Pro Finalists saw the hot favourite Cathy Williams (USA) pull off a big Heel Side manoeuvre in spite of a hand injury. After a very strong Preliminary Round, she crashed too early and had to settle for third place. Argentina’s 22 year old Robi Rondo celebrated her birthday with a strong second place. Yet again the top spot went to an Australian. Having just scraped into the event through the Last Chance Qualifier, Hayley Smith from Sydney scored a big Air Raley to come out on top.
The new policy of the International Waterski Federation to bring the very best Waterski and Wakeboard athletes to downtown locations this year received an enormous vote of confidence in Enghien-les-Bains. The full capacity crowd, Show Ski demonstration from the Stars of Florida and the fireworks display created a hugely popular formula. Ian Birdsall of MasterCraft, sponsor and supplier of the impressive X Star boats for the World Cup, stated that this excellent start to the season ensures that the new city centre based formula for 2004 is a winner.
Attention now switches to Dubna in Russia for the second Stop next month. This is scheduled for the weekend of July 24th. Already, Waterskiers from 17 countries are listed for the event. This will be followed by Stops in the UK, Singapore, China, USA and Qatar.
Official Towboat Sponsor for 2004 World Cup