SPECTACULAR START TO VANKE WATERSKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN TIANJIN, CHINA
Most World Championships kick off with an Opening Ceremony. In China, this is done on a grand scale. With CCTV providing live coverage for 800 million viewers, over 300 people involved in the Ceremony coordination and display, the 142 visiting athletes from 28 countries witnessed something very special. The perfectly timed night time programme included water ballet,the Beijing Opera, barefoot skiing, show skiing with two enormous pyramids, drums, dragons, lions and a show stopping fireworks display. This set a tone of excellence for the serious week ahead.
Today, Tuesday, saw the start of the Preliminary rounds – with Slalom for Men and Women first. Following three days of 34C / 98F temperatures, the forecasters predicted some rain today and better conditions for the following period. They were correct. The perfect 8.00am start saw 20 men ready for the challenge – followed by 23 women. These included the best athletes from the countries involved. All fell within the Series 3,4,5 or 6 Seedings. The superstars come later.
In Mens Slalom, a gusty side wind and Vanke World Championship nerves played havoc with some performances. On the unlucky end were Barry Galvin (IRL), Alejandro Lamadrid (MEX) and Carlos Chicharro (CHI). None could clear the 14m Slalom line pass. Both Olivier Fortamps (BEL) and Jachong Park (KOR) tied with scores of 3 buoys on the 12m slalom line. However, the star of these series was Jonathan Cannon of Chinese Hong Kong – with an inpressive score of 1.5 buoys on the 11.25m slalom line.It may not be enough for a Finals position.
As the Women Slalom Skiers prepared to try to qualify for the Finals, the weather forecasters looked more and more accurate – with stronger gusty side winds and rain on the horizon now adding to the challenge. Of the 23 women, six reached the 12m Slalom line. The best of these were Karina Nowlan (AUS) with a score od 4.4 buoys and Megan Ross (NZL) with 3.5 buoys. However, Britta Grebe Llewellyn (AUT) stunned all present with an outstanding score of 2.25 buoys on the 11.25m line. Having taken some years off to start a family with her famous husband Jaret Llewellyn (CAN), considering the deteriorating conditions, this was a great performance. We will have to wait a few more days to see if it was enough to see her in Saturday’s Finals.
At this point, the CorrectCraft boat was shrouded in driving rain and the driver was ordered back to the dock for the day by the Chief Judge, Thomas Ludwig from Germany. This will see the Tricks Preliminary round pushed forward to early on Wednesday morning.
One last piece of drama ! Reigning World Slalom Champion, Jeff Rogers (USA), has arrived ! His late decision to defend his title comes as great news for all. At the 2003 Waterski World Championships, he arrived on the morning of the event – having driven through the night to compete! His arrival will certainly ensure a very exciting Saturady Slalom final no matter what the outcome.
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