With a calendar of seven Stops around the globe in 2006, this year’s first Stop of the Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup series organized by the International Waterski Federation (IWSF) took place in Doha, Qatar. The season’s Cash Prize of US$780,000 is the largest to date.
Qatar has a major sports focus. The US$2.3 billion investment in the new Sports Dome facilities for the Asian Games in December has created a unique and positive atmosphere. Against this dynamic background, IWSF World Cup sponsors Qatar Marine Sport Federation and Aspire, the Academy for Sports Excellence, not only supported this IWSF World Cup Stop, but also the Arab Waterski Championships, the Qatar Open Waterski Championships and the Aspire Waterski Coaching programme for 180 children – all during this high profile World Cup weekend. MasterCraft again supplied all the boats and technical support and will continue to do so throughout the year. With 46 of the highest ranked athletes present from 15 countries, the World Cup was set for an exciting start. This first Stop included Wakeboard and Shortboard (Tricks) categories for both men and women athletes.
In 32C / 94Fh sunshine on Doha’s Arabian Gulf Corniche Promenade, the spectator facilities were excellent. The ever-changing backdrop of the high-rise skyline also created a first class setting for the Waterski Shortboard Preliminary Round on day one. This produced some real surprises. In the Ladies event, reigning World Champion, Mandy Nightingale (USA) dominated. However, 16 year old Michale Briant (AUS) surprised all by taking the second highest score of the day ahead of the World Cup 2005 Shortboard Champion, Clementine Lucine (FRA). This created the possibility of some real upsets for the Finals. In the Mens Shortboard event, the World Cup Champion and World Record holder, Nicolas LeForestier also caused a sensation by falling early, automatically knocking himself out of the Finals. In Wakeboard there was also a major surprise in the early heats. Jeff Weatherall (NZL), the 2005 World Wakeboard Champion, failed to make the grade. However, the other superstars Phillip Soven (USA), Danny Harf (USA), Daniel Watkins (AUS) Dan Knott (GBR) and Rusty Malinoski (CAN) all sailed through as expected.
On arrival on site for the Finals, hot air and perfect flat calm water added to the level of anticipation. The Ladies Finalists were first to enter the clear blue Arabian Gulf – starting with Shortboard. On this occasion, the pressure was just too much for the young 16 year old  Australian Michale Briant. Early falls spoiled her score. However, the other young finalist Danyelle Bennett (USA) captured a very well earned fourth place. Her IWSF World Rankings have jumped from 11th to 7th in the past year alone. Hot favourite Mandy Nightingale (USA), ranked number one in the world, was just 100 points behind Rhoni Barton (USA) and this gave Nightingale third place with Barton in second slot following a scare in the Preliminaries. However, in spite of two very nervous Flips at the end of her run, the 2005 World Cup Shortboard Champion, Clementine Lucine (FRA) set the standard of the day with 7580 points and was duly crowned World Cup Shortboard Champion at this first Stop of the season. Her chances of retaining her 2005 World Cup Shortboard title look promising.
Womens Wakeboard followed. Three of the top USA Riders dominated from the start. Meaghan Major missed her flight to Qatar and arrived only just in time to take third place. Emily Copeland, three time US National Champion and 2005 Gravity Games Champion, had the highest score of the day – that is till Dallas Friday (USA) entered the arena. Last year her winning run included the X-Games, US Nationals, Pan American, Pro Tour, Wakestock UK and Masters titles. In spite of suffering from a severe cold, Dallas Friday put in a stunning performance to take the Doha Wakeboard World Cup title in style. Her Gymnastics background just gave her that extra vital edge.
Mens Shortboard followed with eight finalists. In a new development for the World Cup, the top two would proceed to a Super Final to fight for first place. At this time, the 32C / 94Fh hot Arabian Gulf breeze had gathered some force and made conditions quite challenging. The relatively unknown Canadian Richard Abelson, ranked 11th in the world by the IWSF, was second off the dock. He surprised many with a big score of 8310. Four Skiers later, Jimmy Siemers (USA), ranked number four in the world, stole this lead with a thrilling performance and a big score of 8700. Russell Gay (USA) followed but dislocated his shoulder, forcing an early retirement. Belarus athlete Aliaksei Zharnasek was last on the water. In spite of encouraging roars from the spectators, he had to settle for a score of 8280 and third place. This put Siemers and Abelson into the Super Final – and they just happen to be close training partners. Abelson, first off the dock, ran in to trouble in the salty choppy waters and had to settle for a score of 6860. Siemers, true to form, was well able to beat this with 7070 points to take the Doha Shortboard World Cup title, in spite of a quick recovery having forgotten some of his routine in the drama of the closing moments !
The last event was a major Head to Head Wakeboard battle. Eight of the World’s best Riders qualified for entry and this was one of the best line-ups ever seen in the World Cup series so far. From the start, a dramatic situation arose when the 2005 World Cup Wakeboard Champion, Phillip Soven (USA) failed to show on time, giving his opponent, the Pro Tour legend Danny Harf (USA) a pass to Round Two. This also meant that Soven sacrificed his chance to take the top US$15,000 cash prize. In this Round, the best rose to the top. Daniel Watkins (AUS) almost doubled the sore of opponent Rusty Malinosky (CAN) to earn his place in the Finals. Danny Harf took on Andrew Adkinson (USA). This  produced a much closer battle with Harf emerging the victor by just seven points. Eventually it was Harf versus Watkins. The crowd sensed that this would be a very special clash of the titans ! Harf’s Wild Card entry set a whole new standard for the World Cup series and his stunning performance rightfully earned him the 2006 World Cup Wakeboard Qatar Stop title.
1. Dallas Friday (USA)
2. Emily Copeland (USA)
3. Meaghan Major (USA)
4. Amber Wing (AUS)
1. Danny Harf (USA)
2. Daniel Watkins (AUS)
3. Andrew Adkinson (USA)
4. Rusty Malinosky (CAN)
1. Clementine Lucine (FRA)
2. Rhoni Barton (USA)
3.  Mandy Nightingale (USA)
1. Jimmy Siemers (USA)
2. Richard Abelson (CAN)
3. Aliaksei Zharnasek (BLR)
The next Stop of the Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup series will take place in Enghiens-les-Bains on the outskirts of Paris, France, on June 16/18. A DVD of the Qatar Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup Stop will be available in May on on the World Cup page.

CONTACT : Des Burke-Kennedy, Media Chairman, International Waterski Federation

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