Following successful Stops of the Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup in France, Russia, and Great Britain, it was now time for China’s first Stop in Changshu – a short drive from last weekend’s Shanghai Formula 1 Grand Prix site. Athletes from 15 countries arrived on 31 Flights to continue their battle for a slice of the season’s $650,000 total cash prize.
This first event in China was scheduled to include Slalom, Tricks and Jump. The programme listed one day for Practice, one for the Preliminaries and one for the Finals. Preparations at Lake Shang, located in manicured public park land, were impressive. Over 1km of advertising signs circled the entire arena. To cover the Stop, seven TV Companies with 22 cameras were on site. The estimated viewing audience for the two and a half hour live broadcast was estimated to be 200 million viewers on this national holiday.
During the Practice Day, a worrying warm wind prevailed. This made Jump practice a hazardous exercise. Day two showed little improvement. For Slalom, the 12 Women athletes had to opt for a postponement pending improved weather. For the Men, some improvement appeared but all struggled to get even close to their usual standards. With 18 athletes chasing just 8 places in the Finals, none backed off. A total of 10 Slalom Skiers achieved scores on the 11.25m rope – outstanding in the circumstances. The winner of the London Waterski World Cup Stop, Chris Parrish (USA), received a well earned ovation on achieving 4.5 buoys on the short 10.75m rope. This was a full 6 buoys better than 2nd place Terry Winter (USA). Two athletes tied 3rd – Michele Gallegra (ITA) and Kyle Eade (NZL). The stage was now set for the Finals to follow later.
Attention now switched to the Ladies Tricks – Preliminaries. The powerful 6 litre MasterCraft ProStar competition boat was perfect for these testing windy conditions. The opening scores were low, not surprisingly. However, Ageliki Andriopoulou (GRE), following a 5th place in the Dubna Russia Stop, was delighted with her 5360 points and grabbed one of those 4 Finals places. Clementine Lucine (FRA), wearing the Yellow Bib as the World Cup leader from the Russia Stop, pushed the scoring up further to 6330 points. American Rhoni Barton did even better with a score of 6540 points. Last out was the current World Champion, Mandy Nightingale (USA). Having taken 2nd place in Russia, the pressure was on her. This time her outstanding score of 7170 points gave her the lead going in to the Finals.
In Mens Tricks, the hot favourite was Nicolas Le Forestier (FRA). As both World Record holder and Yellow Bib wearer, the odds were on his side. With 16 athletes chasing just 6 Finals places it was still going to be a battle for all. However, none of the first 9 athletes could score greater than 4500 points. Again, the strong warm winds created a boiling cauldron and at this stage it was worsening. Aliaksei Zharnasek (BLR) somehow managed to reach 6000 points and this showed it could be done. Australia’s Ryan Green also dug deep to score 5920 points. Javier Julio 8ARG) also survived to reach 5560 points. Next came Russell Gay (USA) – and the skies above were darkening rapidly. Having lost his skis in transit, he brought the house down on borrowed equipment. Halfway through his second 20 second pass, a mini hurricane struck. As flags, signs and umbrellas were ripped from their moorings, Russell’s score was announced at 8020 points. With two athletes yet to go in these preliminaries, the site had to be abandoned for the day.
Saturday was Final’s day. The scene on arrival was one of extensive overnight damage. The perfect preparations of the Chinese Waterski Federation were delivered an unfair blow. Nature had reminded us all of who is in charge! The Jump Ramp was unusable. However, blue skies and warm sunshine created an uplifting spirit. By unanimous agreement, it was decided that the show must go on. At 08.00 sharp, the two Trick athletes remaining from Friday’s Preliminaries were on the dock. Canada’s Jaret Llewellyn proved yet again to be a total athlete. His score of 7000 points gained an instant pass to the Finals. Last off was the current World Record holder, Nicolas Le Forestier (FRA). What followed was unprecedented for him – a total score of 1000 points – and that was over 11,000 points below his World Record! Even he could not beat the elements.
With 200 million viewers due to tune in at 09.00 for the150 minute live broadcast, the pre-prepared emergency programme was called in to play. An exciting event had to be provided for the seven TV companies on site. In the meantime, water conditions at this stage were close to being unskiable. The athletes and organisers commitment to ensuring that all would enjoy the day was to be admired. The emergency programme included a Slalom demonstration by most of the top six Slalom skiers in the World, a Womens Tricks presentation and an exciting Trick Flip contest. All thoroughly the challenge and proved that even freal weather conditions cannot stop the show if a positive attitude prevails. The loud applause from the large enthusiastic audience proved the point.
As the Jump event had to be abandoned, and both the Slalom and Trick Finals were rendered impossible, The Tricks and Slalom places were awarded based on the scores achieved in the Preliminary round. Many sports around the World have been upset by freak storms this year – and now it was the turn of Waterskiing! All greatly admired the skill and perseverance of the Chinese Waterski Association. The Changshu Stop created an overwhelming atmosphere of friendly cooperation and this ahs certainly added greatly to the momentum of the 2004 Waterski World Cup.
The next Stop will take place in Singapore on October 30 /31 – Wakeboard only. Already it is fully subscribed by many of the World best Riders.
1. Chris Parrish (USA) – 4.5 x 10.75
2. Terry Winter (USA) – 4.5 x 11.25
3ex Kyle Eade (NZL) – 3.5 x 11.25
Michele Gallegra – 3.5 x 11.25
1. Mandy Nightingale (USA) – 7170
2. Rhoni Barton (USA) – 6540
3. Clementine Lucine (FRA) – 6330
1. Russell Gay (USA) – 8020
2. Jimmy Siemers (USA) – 7890
3. Jaret Llewellyn (CAN) – 7000
Official Towboat Sponsor for 2004 World Cup
Changshu – Official Sponsor of the 2004 China World Cup Stop