Melbourne's Moomba Masters breaks attendance records and course records in perfect weather conditions
With over 60 million participants worldwide in the sports of Waterski and Wakeboard, the first major calendar event of the year is always an attention catcher. Melbourne’s downtown Yarra River site runs parallel to next weekend’s Formula 1 track at nearby Albert Park. While this will be the 20th Australian F1 Grand Prix, it was the 55th Moomba Masters Waterski & Wakeboard Championships which attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators to the river banks at the weekend.
With Slalom, Tricks, Jump and Wakeboard involved, athletes from 18 countries created a fascinating four day spectacle against the City’s towering skyscrapers and manicured parklands. Organised by the Victorian Water Ski Association, it also included a highly successful two-day Junior Championships earlier in the week.
Eight finalists in Men’s Slalom included three athletes who held the title of World Champion in recent years and the current World Record Holder, Nate Smith USA. Water conditions were perfect. Italy’s Carlo Allais set the opening high score at 3 buoys on the 10.75m line. Canada’s Jason McClintock responded with 4 buoys. Much to the delight of the huge crowds, architecture student Joel Howley from Brisbane then streaked ahead with 1 buoy on the shorter 10.25m line. Two-time IWWF World Champion and past World Record Holder William Asher GBR quickly equalled this score. Italy’s defending Moomba Masters Champion Thomas Degasperi, a two-time past World Champion, was unsuccessful in scoring on that short 10.25m line. This left it open to current IWWF World Record holder Nate Smith to take on the challenge. To the roar of the packed spectator arena, he captured gold and the title with a very impressive score of 1.5 buoys on that 10.25 line.
Six finalists in Women’s Slalom included two past IWWF World Champions and the current Course Record Holder Whitney McClintock (CAN). At the final stages, two-time past Moomba Masters champion Karen Truelove (USA) really set the pace with 2 buoys on the 11.25m line. This passed the challenge to Australia’s Emma Sheers and Canada’s Whitney McClintock. Sheers has the unique achievement of having been both the World Slalom Champion and World Jump Champion. Her score of 0.5 buoys on the short 10.75m line was just 1.5 buoys short of the Course Record. However, it was not enough to take the title! Whitney McClintock was the one on form with 2 bouys on that 10.75m line which just happened to equal her own Moomba Course Record.
Tricks followed. Here both the Men’s and Women’s Course Records were broken in spectacular displays of skill. In the Women’s event, hot favourite nineteen-year-old IWWF World Record holder Erika Lang (USA) made her mark from the very start. She set a new Course Record in Round 1 of 9470 points. However, in the Finals she was not so fortunate. It was Natallia Berdnikava (BLR) who was in outstanding form. By coincidence, she had also set a Course Record at the US Masters back in 2012 of 9520 points! Her experience combined with past achievements made the difference. With a score of 9420 points, 350 points ahead of Lang, she took the title. Whitney McClintock (CAN) scored 8730 to take third. In the Men’s event, a similar pattern emerged. IWWF World Record Holder Aliaksei Zharnasek (BLR), broke his own Moomba Masters Course Record by adding 300 points to bring it to 11,870 points. The historic strength of French Trick skiing showed again with second and third places going to Pierre Ballon and Franck Desboyaux – all of whom were very consistent throughout.
In Jump, the towering city backdrop created some extraordinary photos in the press. With two current IWWF World Champions present, the level of competition was about as high as it gets. Although the Yarra River current creates challenges, this did not stop the spectators from roaring approval throughout. In the Women’s event, the pace was set by Finland’s Jutta Lammi Menestrina. She was the first to break a distance of 50m with a score of 50.3m. Marion Mathieu Ellis got close with 49.7m. The huge crowd then cheered the arrival of their own 22 year-old IWWF World Jump Champion, Jacinta Carroll from nearby Geelong. Her 53.7m distance raised the roof! Only Natalia Berdnikava (BLR) remained. Having set three IWWF World Records in recent years, her challenge was on. Although she recovered from a hard crash on her first attempt, it spoiled her attempt and Jacinta Carroll took the gold medal ahead of Jutta Menestrina and Marion Ellis.
The Men’s Jump event came towards the end of the day. Eight Finalists from seven countries took on the defending champion Freddy Krueger (USA). It was a fantastic contest. As often happens, it all got down to the last three contestants – Krueger, Ryan Dodd (CAN) and Bojan Schipner (GER). It was Schipner who set the pace with a very impressive 67.2m before Krueger took to the water. On Krueger’s second attempt, his 69.1m distance was breathtaking. That left Dodd with a huge challenge. His 68.5m second score showed he could take this title with one attempt remaining. However, cutting far too late to the Nautique Jump Ramp, he was forced to pass. With Krueger heading to the Moomba Podium yet again in gold position, Dodd and Schipner were not that far off!
With worldwide interest in Wakeboard at an all time high and with strong Olympic Games ambitions, Wakeboard brought the 2015 Moomba Masters to a spectacular close. The very best Riders in the world on site included Harley Clifford (AUS), Rusty Malinoski (CAN), Bob Soven (USA), Shota Tezuka (JPN), Cory Teunissen (AUS), Raimi Merritt (USA), Dallas Friday (USA), Bec Gange (AUS), Chloe Mills (GBR) and many more. It was the best of the best by any standards. Yet again, Harley Clifford (AUS) dominated the ProMen, ahead of Shota Tezuka (JPN) and Noah Flegel (USA). ProWomen saw a real battle between Dallas Friday (USA) and IWWF World Cup champion Raimi Merritt (USA). On this occasion Dallas Friday came out on top.
Nautique provided the boats and support services throughout.
The top Jumpers and Riders will now head to Western Australia for next weekend’s IWWF Mandurah World Cup Stop and Action Sports Games.
Moomba Masters Website & Scores