Some of the world’s biggest names in wakeboard and waterskiing contested the finals today in Mandurah for the Action Sports Games, incorporating the first Australian International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) World Cup Stop.
An enthusiastic crowd gathered on the foreshore in Mandurah to watch the action as light winds and perfect weather greeted competitors early in the day for the Men’s and Women’s Shortboard (Tricks) Finals.
It was a great morning for the world’s best as both of the current Shortboard World Record-holders excelled in ideal conditions. The Women’s Final saw French star Clementine Lucine take the Gold Medal from America’s Danyelle Bennett and Maria Camila Linares of Columbia. Lucine punched the air jubilantly at the end of her second run knowing she had posted a score that would sit her atop of the podium. Her score of 7540 was well ahead of second placed Bennett (5,810) with Linares (5,230) in third.
The performance of Lucine, the Women’s World Record Trick holder, was then matched by her male counterpart in the next final. Aliaksei Zharnasek of Belarus was exceptional in the Men’s Shortboard (Tricks) Final. Having posted 9680 points in the semi-final on Saturday, the rest of the field was feeling the pressure from Zharnasek. Midway through the final Frenchmen Pierre Ballon and Alexandre Poteau both posted scores over 9000. This placed the onus onto the top seeds and the moment proved too much for highly ranked Americans Russel Gay and Jimmy Siemers who both fell on their second runs. But Zharnasek was up to the challenge with two terrific runs, posting a score of 10,160 to take the Gold Medal ahead of Poteau (9,260) and Ballon (9,080).
“It was actually quite tough out there, you get a lot of backwash. It was challenging, but I did my best and it worked quite well for me,” said Zharnasek after the final, “But it’s so dependent on the conditions and with the winds here you need to be so much stronger and really slow down to get the results.”
Current Women’s World Jumping Champion and waterskiing pin up girl Natallia Berdnikova from Belarus left it to the last jump of the day to clinch the Women’s Jumping Final. Maj Lund Jepsen of Denmark set the mark to beat of 34.5 metres as the penultimate jumper, which proved too much for Berdnikova on her first jump when she could reach only 30.6 metres. But Natallia produced under pressure with her final jump launching to a winning mark of 38.6 metres.
Earlier in the final American Lauren Morgan was the first to clear the 100 foot mark when she headed the field with a jump of 31.5 metres. Morgan joined Berdnikova and Jepsen on the podium. Berdnikova was ecstatic when she exited the water, playing it up to the large crowd. “It’s so amazing to have the support of all these people here,” she said. “I felt great out there, the conditions weren’t too different from yesterday so I didn’t have to make too many adjustments.”
Following the women was the final featuring the man that everyone had come to see. Freddy Krueger, the current Men’s World Waterski Jumping Champion, was the last skier to jump in a dramatic final. Whilst a large pod of dolphins played leisurely around the ramp throughout most of the 50 minute final, the world’s best jumpers struggled to deal with the pressure to get onto the podium. A number of massive crashes marked the Men’s Final with the jetski rescue drivers regularly attending to injured jumpers.
As the Men’s Jumping Final progressed it seemed clear that it would come down to the top two qualifiers. American Scot Ellis missed on his first jump but called to the large crowd lining the banks on his second run as Freddy Krueger watched from the dock. Ellis soared 44.1 metres on his second jump to beat the mark of 43.7 metres set by both Australian Joel Wing and Felipe Miranda of Chile earlier in the competition.
That placed the pressure on to Krueger as he left the dock. But the multi world champion and current world record holder seemed unfazed as he aggressively attacked the first jump, thundering off the ramp to an incredible distance of 56.6 meters, then saluted the large crowd lining the banks as he did a victory lap back to the dock. It was a one-jump statement by Krueger as he again underlined why he is the best in the world.
“The conditions were challenging and with only two jumps the pressure is on you. That was a very exciting jump! When I was at the peak I knew I had a good one, so I just hung on for the ride and enjoyed it with the crowd”, said Krueger who has enjoyed his time in Western Australia. “I love it here, it is an amazing event with all the other sports and the crowds have been totally awesome.”
The estuary waterways remained perfect for the Wakeboard Finals and the rivalry in the Women’s event between the princess of Australian wakeboarding, Amber Wing and American teenager Raimi Merritt soon had the water boiling. Both of the women attacked their runs with intensity in front of an energetic crowd that was quick to cheer for the local rider. But the pressure of local favouritism got to Wing as she fell on the second run ending what could have been a Gold Medal performance. Instead Merritt was the one to remain calm under pressure as she did more than enough to top the podium ahead of Wing and Australia’s Bec Gainge, who took bronze in her first World Cup event.
The first Australian IWWF World Cup stop culminated with the Men’s Wakeboard Finals and the standard was high from the outset. American Steel Lafferty nailed down an impressive run scorching to the top of the finals with a score of 76.57 as the other top seeds could not reach his mark. Then 18 year old Japanese wakeboarder Shota Tezuka, who seemed happy just to make the final, left the dock looking very relaxed and waving to the crowd as he came under the Mandurah bridge. The chilled approach worked for the World Cup rookie as he dazzled with a number of crazy tricks, hitting each wake with reckless abandon and posting an enormous top score of 80.21 to top the rankings.
So the stage was set for Australia’s current World Champion Harley Clifford as he hit the water to the cheers of the massive crowd lining both banks of the estuary. It turned into a walk-in-the-park for the child prodigy as he blitzed the field on his first run, starting with a backside 720, hitting a crow-mobe 540 in the middle and finishing with a toeside 900 to pretty much have the event won at his first pass. He pumped up a number of tricks for the crowd on his second pass to register a score of 90.0 before doing a lap of honour on the Mastercraft double-up run.
Clifford was thrilled to start the IWWF World Cup schedule with a win in Australia. “I knew what I had to do in the final and just got out there and did it – and things lined up,” said Clifford in an interview straight after the win. “I am super-pumped and have been riding every day this Summer while home in Australia and I can’t wait to get over to the US and attack the rest of the season.”
A summary of the IWWF World Cup Final results for today follows:
Women’s Shortboard Finals – 1.Clementine Lucine 2.Danyelle Bennett 3.Maria Camila Linares
Men’s Shortboard Finals – 1.Aliaksei Zharnasek 2.Alexandre Poteau 3.Pierre Ballon
Women’s Waterski Jumping Finals – 1.Natallia Berdinakova 2.Maj Lund Jepsen 3.Lauren Morgan
Men’s Waterski Jumping Finals – 1.Freddy Krueger 2.Scot Ellis 3.Felipe Miranda
Women’s Wakeboard Finals – 1.Raimi Merritt 2.Amber Wing 3. Bec Gainge
Men’s Wakeboard Finals – 1.Harley Clifford 2.Shota Tezuka 3.Steel Lafferty
Over 60 athletes from 23 different nations competed over the weekend at Mandurah, Western Australia. The IWWF has travelled through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, China, South East Asia and now Australia. Mandurah will be home to the IWWF World Cup for the next four years, making it the first time in IWWF history that the event has been held in the same place for four consecutive years.
The Action Sport Games Mandurah is supported by the State Government through Eventscorp’s Regional Events Program, which is funded by Royalties for Regions. The event also included a BMX and Skateboarding competition as well as Freestyle Motocross demonstrations throughout the weekend.