Leaving the Pyramids and Sphinx behind in Cairo and its 25 million residents, this Wakeboard World Cup Stop took place on the turquoise blue waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea at Hacienda Bay. By any standards, this Palm Hills project is a huge development and is certain to change the entire landscape in the coming years. Luxury Villas and Apartments will overlook the golden beaches. With the swimming pools and refreshment areas already complete, this was the perfect World Cup backdrop.
With unusual weather patterns now almost commonplace globally, the beach area location for the event developed rough water in the early part of the Preliminary Round. It was at this point that a decision was made to bring the Wakeboard Riders into the man-made Palm Hills Lagoon within the actual swimming pools and entertainment area. Adopting an Obstacle format made this a highly successful decision. What impressed all of the very large numbers of spectators was the response from the Riders themselves as they constructed the wide range of obstacles in less than one hour ! Andrew Adkison (USA), Rusty Malinoski (CAN), Phillip Soven (USA) Jeff Weatherall (NZL) and Dean Smith (AUS), did a first class construction job. One of the real crowd favorites was a huge two tier floating pontoon and launch ramp in the Lagoon. Starting off in the tight arena surrounded by several thousand Egyptian spectators, the first obstacle was this massive pontoon. It was followed by eight rails of varying sizes around the perimeter and designed to test all levels of skill. At one point, Australian commentator Kristen Bower positioned himself on top of the structure and reigning World Cup Rider Phillip Soven (USA) succeeded in clearing both the huge pontoon obstacle plus Bower to receive an enthusiastic response from the spectators standing just an arm’s length from all the action. It was also perfect for the Photographers and TV crews.
The complexity of the Palm Hills Lagoon course pushed some Riders to their absolute limit and for several Pro Women, it was quite a test. China’s Chen LiLi fell on one rail maneuver and survived. The experienced Denise DeHaan (NED) also struggled and especially with the high floating pontoon obstacle. World Cup and international star and US 2008 Masters Champion Dallas Friday (USA) had not fully recovered from an earlier eye infection but was still able to secure the bronze medal here at Hacienda Bay. The final battle was between the multiple Pro Wakeboard Tour winner, Californian Shelby Kantar (USA), and the talented 15 year old two-time Girls World Champion, Raimi Merritt (USA). On this occasion, it was the 15 year old Merritt who dominated with a superb performance on both the daunting Palm Hills pontoon and the rails.
The Pro Men Riders kicked off with four Heats to decide the Finalists. The eleven countries represented included Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Egypt, New Zealand, Netherlands, Republic of South Africa, Korea, Italy, Canada and Switzerland. These Heats produced some real surprises. Losing out in Heat 1. was Britain’s Dan Nott but making it through was Australia’s young 15 year old sensation Harley Clifford. Those who also reached the highest scores were Quentin Delefortrie (BEL), Nick Davies ((GBR), Trevor Hansen (USA) and past World Cup Champion Jeff Weatherall (NZL). Philip Soven (USA) and Rusty Malinoski (CAN) also made it through.
As the Pro Men’s Finals began, the spectators packed the Palm Hills Lagoon shoreline and the enormous sound system created a perfect atmosphere. Surprisingly, first to feel the pressure was the reigning World Cup Champion Phillip Soven (USA). He struggled with the large pontoon. This was not his day. The layout of the bunched up rails in the Lagoon also made it difficult to score them all. Likewise, Jeff Weatherall (NZL) and Trevor Hansen (USA) ran in to trouble. Canada’s Rusty Malinoski almost made it to the Podium and was just clipped by the young rising star Harley Clifford (AUS). It was also encouraging to see Egypt’s National Wakeboard Champion, Ahmed Hossam, perform so well on his first obstacle course. The final points battle was eventually between Nick Davies (GBR) and World Wakeboard Champion Andrew Adkison (USA). To the surprise of many, it was Nick Davies who eventually took the gold medal on this occasion and his first major international podium victory.
Sherif Seif Nasr, Senior Vice President of Palm Hills Developments, presented the impressive medals and trophies. Also in attendance were Kuno Ritschard, President of the International Water Ski Federation, Hisham El Keshen, President of Styrx Sports Marketing and Emile Wassan, Vice President of the Egyptian Waterski Federation.
With music filling the evening air, the warm Mediterranean breeze cooling the sun drenched Palm Hill spectators and the sun setting on the horizon, this first Egypt World Cup experience was one for all to remember. Egypt is definitely now on the World Cup circuit.
Thoughts will now move to the next World Cup Stop in Singapore on October 10/12 – and then on to Malaysia and Qatar to round up the 2008 season.
1. Raimi Merritt (USA)
2. Shelby Kantar (USA)
3. Dallas Friday (USA)
1. Nick Davies (GBR)
2. Andrew Adkison (USA)
3. Harley Clifford