Put 56 Journalists, 10 TV Companies, 54,000 spectators and the best World’s best Waterskiers together and the result is a guaranteed masterpiece. Given substantial support from the Governor of the Region of Moscow, Boris Gromov and the Mayor of Dubna, Valery Prokh, the outcome has to be impressive. The City of Dubna, both an international research centre and Russia’s new watersports location just outside Moscow – had two enormous celebrations this weekend. It was Dubna City’s 48th anniversary and the City elected to celebrate by hosting the second Stop of the 2004 Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup. All of this took place in the new Watersports arena on a Volga tributary.
Following the success of the Wakeboard Stop in Enghien / Paris some weeks ago, it was now the turn of the Waterskiers. The highest ranked Athletes from 18 countries put on a stunning display for the spectators. The official head count on Saturday was 24,000 and it peaked at 30,000 on Sunday. This was an all-time record for any such event. If fact, it was so successful that the City has already invited the International Waterski Federation back again with the World Cup in 2005.
With a season jackpot of US$650,000 at stake, this was a battle of the highest order. The newly constructed facilities delivered a perfect stage for the contest. During the practice and preliminary rounds, a worrying north easterly wind put a strain on even the most experienced Slalom, Trick and Jump Skiers. However, this was soon to change with warm sunshine and great water conditions arriving for the Finals.
With only six Final’s places available for the Women and eight for the Men, there were some surprises. In Slalom, athletes Marina Mosti (ITA), Jill Knutson (USA), Will Asher (GBR) and Steve Cockeram (NZL) ran in to unexpected trouble and failed to make the cut. In Tricks, Olga Kashitsina (RUS), Jason Seels (GBR) and Kyle Eade (NZL) fared likewise. In Jump, June Fladborg (DEN), Ageliki Andriopoulou (GRE), Aurelien Serrault (FRA) and Javier Julio (ARG) also had to accept defeat.
The Finals were a a special experience due partly to the enormous cheering crowds in the arena seating, on the banks and even in lines of cars stopped on the overlooking highway. The official head count for the Finals was 34,000 and this created a perfect atmosphere.
First came Slalom. All but two of the Women got on to the short 11.25m ski line. World Slalom Champion, Emma Sheers (AUS), was last off the dock and so the others knew that a special performance would be needed to out-perform her. Karen Truelove (USA) two time US Open Champion was third last out and set the challenge at 1.5 buoys on the 11.25m line. Next came Natalie Hamrick USA National Slalom Champion last year – and recent winner of the Recetto Italy Slalom title. She increased the pressure with a great 5.5 buoys on that same 11.25m line. This presented a tough challenge for World Champion Emma Sheers and after an all out effort, she had to settle for 1.5 buoys less than was needed to win. Natalie Hamrick was crowned the Waterski Slalom Champion of the Dubna Stop.
Nobody could have predicted the outcome of the Men’s Slalom event. World Record holder, Jamie Beauchesne (USA) got stuck at 3.5 buoys on the 11.25m line. Terry Winter and Marcus Brown from USA tied at 4.5 buoys on the same line. Only Glen Campbell (GBR) could get passed this point and he finally finished with an outstanding 2 buoys on the 10.75m line – and a new Course Record – to take the Slalom title.
Now to Women’s Tricks. With World Champion Mandy Nightingale (USA) in the lead after the Preliminaries, it looked like a clear run to the title. Being last off the dock in the Finals also gave her an advantage. However Clementine Lucine (FRA) had other ideas. Ranked number three in the World and with a personal best of 7380 points, she scored within 70 points of this and put all the pressure back on the World Champion. In the end, Mandy Nightingale had to settle for a second place score of 7290. Olga Pavlova (BLR) earned a popular third place with 7030 points.The top three Men’s scores all exceeded 10,000 points. The World Record holder, Nicolas LeForestier (FRA), was recovering from a groin injury and this could have opened up the field. Jaret Llewellyn, who took the Moomba Tricks title last March in Australia, was a hot favourite but a score of 10650 was only enough to earn him third place. Russell Gay (USA) six time USA national Trick Champion, looked set to take the title with an enormous score of 11290 points. The injured Nicolas LeForestier then entered the arena – and blew all away with a final score of 11810. This was yet another Course Record.
Jump came last – and at this stage the spectators were applauding every athlete on the dock. All were moved by the enormous Dubna response. Every woman exceeded 45 meters distance. Rhoni Barton (USA) landed an impressive 47.5m. However, this was only enough for third place. Clementine Lucine (FRA), having already taken the Tricks title, landed a distance of 48.3m. – and this gave her a second place finish. The World Jump Champion, Emma Sheers (AUS) has been unbeatable this year with wins in the French Masters, the US Masters and the Australian Moomba Masters. She did it again in Dubna. Her distance of 48.5m earned her a standing ovation – and the Waterski World Cup Dubna Jump title.
Finally, it was time for Mens Jump. The lineup included the World Champion, Freddy Krueger (USA), plus the National Champions of New Zealand, Great Britain, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. While the distances were a little less than expected, the competition was fierce. The Course Record was broken fifteen times in the Preliminary round alone. While all exceeded 55 meters distance, only two broke the 60 meter mark. Most had forecast a battle between Jaret Llewellyn (CAN) and Freddy Krueger (USA) for the title – and that forecast was correct. Jaret Llewellyn was second last off the dock but his best of 64.4m was 1.1m short of Freddy Krueger’s big 65.5 m winning distance.
The entire audience remained for the Award Ceremony on the giant purpose built floating podium. Native Dancers, Russian music and magnums of champagne brought an outstanding event to a very successful conclusion. This was yet another reminder that the new strategy of the International Waterski Federation to bring the very best Waterski athletes to downtown locations is already a resounding success.
Official Towboat Sponsor for 2004 World Cup