By all reports over this past week, the 2009 Wakeboard World Championships of the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) in Chuncheon City in South Korea were one of the most successful and enjoyable to date. The combination of the very picturesque Lake Uiam site, first class organization by the Korea Waterski and Wakeboard Association, sponsorship by MasterCraft,  and outstanding performances by the athletes, set the standards for many future events to come. Some Riders from 25 countries are returning home with medals but all are returning home with many happy memories.

While most of the Riders from the competing nations had high expectations, the final gold medals were dominated by four of the 25 competing countries. Given that there are an estimated 100,000 active Riders in Korea, it was very encouraging to see the host country also make it to the podium. While the weather and water conditions were excellent for most of the World Wakeboard Championships on Lake Uiam, the last days saw some unexpected and challenging wind and rain create a major test for the top athletes. This added to the drama of the closing stages.
Korea’s most famous actress and also a Wakeboard enthusiast, Song,ji-hyo, made a guest appearance during the event.
Both the Open Men and Womens’ Wakeboard Finals were loaded with surprises.

In the Mens’ Open event, the 2009 Mediterranean Games Wakeboard Champion, Giuliano Molli ITA, was just beaten into fourth place by Wakeboard instructor Austin Hair USA, who also has over five years of Pro Tour experience. Twenty two year-old Brad Smeele NZL, a past Wakestock winner and one of the few who is capable of landing a 1080, took the silver medal. The prestigious title of IWWF World Wakeboard Champion however was won by the 2009 Pan Am champion, 24 year-old Adam Fields, from the USA. His score was significantly ahead of the competition and in testing weather conditions, this was an outstanding achievement. With his 12 years of coaching experience, including the position of head coach at Rollins College in Florida, it was a landmark career achievement for this experienced athlete.

In the Womens’ Open event, three Riders outperformed the field by some distance. China’s Chen LiLi is a very consistent podium medalist and she took the World Championships bronze medal in style this time. Her World Cup experience and in particular her World Cup triumph in Singapore, got her to within three points of the silver medal. Canada’s 24 year-old Ashley Leugner had a goal in Korea and that was to reach the Finals. Last time around, she came seventh. This time the talented Saskatoon Rider achieved her dream in style by taking the silver medal. Following an injury in 2008, till this point in her career Raequel Hoffman USA was seen as a rising star. Her earlier win at the 2009 Pan American Championships hinted at greatness ahead. As only the second female Rider to ever land a 720, her achievements now include the title of IWWF Wakeboard World Champion. In fact, her score was so far ahead of the competition, this 20 year-old Californian, known to her friends as Rae, is now an international Wakeboard star.

The other World Wakeboard Finals included the categories of Boys and Girls, Junior Women and Men, and Masters Men.

It was in the Boys Finals that Korea’s In Sang Jung won a silver medal. He is certainly a Rider to watch for the future. Australia’s 14 year-old Queenslander Bradley Teunissen took that gold medal. In the Girls Finals, Italy took both the gold and silver medals. It was the 12 year-old Cable Wakeboard specialist Giorgia Gregorio who captured that gold medal ahead of her fellow Italian Rider Sara Di Lelio. In the Junior Women Finals, Holland Finley USA, took the gold medal ahead of Sweden’s Caroline Djupsjo and Australia’s Caitlin Blauuw. Ireland’s Rider David O’Caoimh was unlucky to miss a podium place by just five points in the Junior Mens’ Finals. The gold medal went to Japan’s Shota Tezuka. He starred in the recent Yokohama Wake Lab which attracted 40,000 spectators to the City’s 150th anniversary. Both the silver and bronze medals went to Australia’s Ryleigh Pfitzner and Jacob Hore. The Masters Mens Finals saw another success for Australia with Luke Matson taking that gold medal ahead of Duncan Zuur NED and Daniel Duquesnoy FRA.

In the Overall Team scores, it was Australia which came out on top at these Championships, ahead of USA and Italy.

This prestigious biennial Wakeboard World Championships event, organised on this occasion by the Korea Waterski & Wakeboard Association, is the 8th Wakeboard World Championships to be sanctioned by the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF). It is also part of the 2009 International Leisure Games which includes 12 sports and 1,400 athletes, leading up to the 1st World Leisure Congress which will be held in 2010.

Chuncheon City in South Korea is also known as the City of Festivals. There was certainly a festive atmosphere throughout the 2009 IWWF Wakeboard World Championships and all were full of praise for the first class organization of all aspects of this major event by the Korea Waterski and Wakeboard Association.

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