With 22 Nations represented in this 32nd Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup Stop of the Series, this again attracted one of the largest numbers of spectators to date. The spectacular Linyi City purpose built World Cup Stadium on the downtown Yihe River bank in Shandong Province is an architectural masterpiece. The finishing touches were completed exactly on time as the overseas athletes arrived this weekend.
Following two days of Practice and Preliminary Rounds, Sunday's World Cup Finals took place in 23C sunshine with excellent water conditions. Beijing TV, CCTC5 and LYTV covered all four Wakeboard and Waterski Jump events. Sponsors MasterCraft provided the competition boats and technical support.
At the very impressive formal Opening Ceremony, Kuno Ritschard, President of the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF), congratulated Linyi's Mayor, Mr Zhang Wufeng, the Secretary of the CPC Standing Committee of Linyi Municipality Mr Zhang Ahaojun, Mr Wang Jun VP of the Chinese Olympic Committee and Mr Huang Sheng, Vice Governor of Shandong Provincial People's Government, on their outstanding efforts which made this World Cup Stop possible.
The Women's and Men's Waterski Jump Finals commenced at 09.00hrs. Four women and six men qualified from the earlier Rounds. Denmark's Maj Lund Jepsen set the early pace with a distance of 46.8m. Fully recovered from injury, Marie Vympranietsova GRE quickly increased the lead score to 47.5m. At this point, the 18 year-old sensation from Australia, Jacinta Carroll, yet again took all by surprise with a perfect distance of 47.5m to take the lead. This left an enormous challenge for the remaining Finalist, World Champion Natalia Berdnikova BLR. With excellent water conditions and a very slight tail breeze, not only did the Belarus athlete score a winning distance of 50.8m on her very first Jump but she then went on to increase it to 52.1m on her final attempt. This was a very impressive win.
Stephen Critchley GBR set the pace in the Men's Jump event with a solid opening score of 61.4m. Chile's Rodrigo Miranda could not beat this. However, Thomas Asher GBR did so with a score of 62.3m. That left three World Cup Stars on the dock. Scot Ellis USA got a rousing ovation by increasing the lead score to 63.5m. At this point, the moment all Jump fans were waiting for had arrived ! Twenty year-old Zack Worden USA versus the World Record holder and World Champion Freddy Krueger USA. Worden actually beat Krueger at the Madrid Open in Spain a few weeks ago. When the score-board showed 66.0m for his very first attempt, all knew that Freddy Krueger had a serious challenge on his hands. Zack Worden could barely force himself to watch. The outcome was extraordinary. Freddy Krueger got within 0.1m of Worden's distance with 65.9m. On this rare occasion Freddy Krueger had to settle for second place. A nagging ankle strain was costly on this occasion for him.
Women's and Men's Wakeboard came next. Eighteen year-old World Champion Raimi Merrit USA took the World Cup title in Kuching Sarawak Borneo just a week ago. She was the Women's favorite here. That is not how it worked out ! China's Chen LiLi had thousands of spectators on her side. She did not let them down with an impressive 55.34 point score. None of the other finalists could match this till we got to Australia's Amber Wing. Having already captured the Silver Medal at both the recent IWWF World Championships in Italy, plus last week's Kuching City World Cup Stop in Sarawak, Borneo, her outstanding score of 65.34 points passed a major challenge to Raimi Merrit. It may have been the pressure or just an off-day, but World Champion Raimi Merrit's score of 57.57 points was only good enough for this World Cup's Silver Medal. Amber Wing is the Linyi World Cup Stop Champion.
With some outstanding performances, the Men's Wakeboard Final was more predictable. The first big performance came from World Junior Wakeboard Champion Daniel Powers USA with a score of 70.12 points. This left a major challenge for the last two competitors, past World Champion Andrew Adkison USA and current World Champion Harley Clifford AUS. Adkison was superb. He took the lead with a score of 85.78 points. It forced Clifford to work hard. This he did and took the World Cup Linyi Wakeboard World Cup title in style.
For all visitors, Linyi was a special experience. None have ever seen such a clean and tidy city. The excellent organization and generous support from the Linyi Municipality, Shandong Provincial People's Government and the Chinese Waterski Association created a perfect Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup Stop. Hopefully the World Cup Series will return here again.
1. Harley Clifford (AUS)
2. Andrew Adkison (USA)
3. Daniel Powers (USA)
1. Amber Wing (AUS)
2. Raimii Merrit (USA)
3. Chen LiLi (CHN)
1. Zack Worden (USA)
2. Freddy Krueger (USA)
3. Scott Ellis (USA)
1. Natalia Berdnikova (BLR)
2. Jacinta Carroll (AUS)
3. Marie Vympranietsova (GRE)