One week ago, six Waterski athletes won the titles of World Champion at the bi-annual World Championships staged this year in Austria. Just one week later, at the Enniskillen Stop of the Waterski World Cup series in Northern Ireland, not all of the five World Champions who attended went home happy. This 19th Stop of the World Cup series had an intriguing mix of great weather conditions, a very picturesque site and some real drama on the water. Known as Lakeland County, the Fermanagh area is renowned for its Beleek Pottery, Boating, Fishing, Golf and its dramatic un-spoilt landscape.
With just four places available in the Finals for Ladies and six for Men, there was no room for error for the fifty one top ranked athletes from sixteen countries. Slalom came first. In the Ladies event, all were thrilled to see Emma Sheers (AUS) return to the big stage. Following her capture of the 2003 World Slalom title, she took a family break. Now she had the highest Preliminary Round score of 3 buoys on the 11.25m line. Surprisingly, Michelle Simpson (USA) and Clementine Lucine (FRA) failed to make the cut. In the Finals, Sheers did not fare so well and had to settle for fourth place. The 2006 defending Enniskillen Stop Champion, Natalie Hamrick Halt (USA), was in unbeatable form again and took the title with a score of 2.5 buoys on the 11.25m line.
Shortboard came next. World Champion, Clementine Lucine (FRA) ran in to uncharacteristic trouble in the Preliminary round. Mandy Nightingale (USA), the defending Enniskillen Shortboard champion, responded by making this her double victory with 7820 points.
As Jump approached, a light head breeze from the Enniskillen Castle end of the site, a large crowd of very enthusiastic spectators plus some warm sunshine, produced all the ingredients required for a great World Cup Stop conclusion. In the Ladies event, sadly Rhoni Barton Bishoff (USA) was forced to retire with the recurrence of a shoulder injury. So often in the past year, the World Jump champion Ageliki Andriopoulou (GRE) routinely took the gold medal Jump award. This was not the case here in Enniskillen. June Fladborg (DEN) was the Jump runner-up at this Stop in both 2005 and 2006. She was also runner-up in the 2005 World Championships. Equipped with her impressive pink 92 inch Stokes skis, and with a score 49.3m distance, Andriopoulou could not beat the Dane and had to settle for silver this time with 48.3m. As with Glen Campbell (GBR) in Slalom, Fladborg finally broke that runner-up jinx.
As the uplifting strains of the lone Bag Piper drifted across the River Erne, the athletes received their trophies and the spectators returned home with memories of another intriguing Waterski World Cup Stop in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. The sponsors too were impressed. Northern Ireland Events, Waterways Ireland, Fermanagh District Council and MasterCraft must soon consider the future of this Stop and all hope for a return in 2008.
For all the results details, see http://www.iwsf.com
This was the last World Cup Waterski Stop of 2007. The Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup series will continue with the final Wakeboard Stops in Singapore and Qatar on September 22nd, 23rd and November 3rd.
photos Janos Schmidt