With 182 athletes from 41 Countries participating, the performance standards reached in Austria impressed even the most experienced of the several thousand fans present. In Slalom, the World Championships Men’s record was equaled. In Ladies and Men Tricks and Jump it was exceeded. Twelve Finalists in each discipline enjoyed perfect weather conditions at this northern Austria location. The blue and white CorrectCraft Ski Nautique boat was gleaming in the sunshine as the athletes prepared to commence the challenge for the title of World Champion.
The Slalom Final came first. The defending champion Regina Jaquess (USA) did not make it out of the Preliminary Round. Three ladies achieved scores on the 10.75m line. The more experienced Karen Truelove (USA), ranked second in the World, scored 1.5 buoys and a Silver Medal. However, two of the younger rising stars earned well deserved podium places. Karina Nowlan (AUS) took third place with 1.5 buoys. The new World Slalom Champion, Nicole Arthur (GBR), had a magnificent score of 2 buoys and Scotland has gained a new sports star !
In Mens Slalom five athletes reached the 10.25m line. The defending World Champion, William Asher (GBR) was not one of these. Again, a new rising star took the title in style. Thomas Degasperi (ITA) scored 3 buoys on this short line. The two runners-up had to compete in a run-off for their places. In the end, past World Record holder Jeff Rogers (USA) took second place and Slalom specialist Christopher Rossi (USA) took third.
In Tricks, the scores achieved were never before seen at a World Championships. In the Ladies event, each of the Podium places went to athletes who scored over 8,000 points. The defending World Champion and World Record holder, Mandy Nightingale (USA) took third place with 8150 points. Second place went to yet another young rising star Natalia Berdnikova (BLR) with 8160 points. The winner, Clementine Lucine (FRA) took the title with a score of 8430 points, having set a new World Championships record in the Preliminary Round with 8510 points.
In Mens Tricks, the big question was if the defending World Champion, Nicolas LeForestier (FRA), could do it one more time. Recovering from a neck injury added to the anticipation. Six athletes scored more than 10,500 points. Five athletes scored more than 11,000 points. Belarus took both second and third places with Aliaksei Zharnasek (11470) and Oleg Deviatovski (11140). LeForestier did the impossible with a new World Championships record in the Preliminary Round of 11960 and a Gold Medal score in the Finals of 11680 to retain his title.
Jump came last. World Championships records were set in both Finals. The crowd filled their seats one hour before the start. All were fascinated to see the 2002 World Jump Record holder Elena Thomsen (Milakova) (SUI) return to the water following a family break. Her achievement in taking second place with a distance of 53.1m was outstanding. Again Belarus took a podium medal. In this case it was a Bronze for Natalia Berdnikova who had also taken Silver in Tricks. In taking the Gold and title, the defending World Champion, Ageliki Andriopoulou (GRE) did it in style with a World Championships Record of 54.9m.
The Mens Jump Final was everything all expected. Drama till the very end. Eleven athletes exceeded 60.0m, six exceeded 65.0m and two exceeded 70.0m. Jason Seels (GBR) took the Bronze Medal in Tianjin in China in 2005. This he repeated in Austria. As happens on so many recent occasions, the remaining two athletes were Jaret Llewellyn (CAN) and Freddy Krueger (USA). Llewellyn, the defending World Champion, set an enormous challenge for Krueger with a distance of 70.7m. At this point the crowded arena in Linz-Steyregg was cheering as never before. Krueger pushed hard on his first attempt and landed 67.5m from the Jump Ramp. Not enough. On his second attempt, the distance of 72.4m gave him a standing ovation, a new World Championships Record and the title of World Champion. Kuno Ritschard, President of the International Water Ski Federation stated “This was a perfect ending to a week of sheer Waterski excellence in Austria”.
Only the Overall Titles and Team Titles remained to be resolved. A full report will follow.
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