It was a dramatic gold medal event this weekend for both the USA and Australia. In fact, Australia took an unprecedented six of the nine World Cup medals available! With Typhoons in the area, the 29C sunshine and excellent water conditions remained throughout for this World Cup Stop.
The successful World Cup Series of the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) was incorporated into the First China Yihe International Waterski Open in the city of Linyi, located between Beijing and Shanghai. With Riders from 13 countries involved, some of the greatest performances witnessed this year made it a World Cup Stop to remember.
Following the usual heats, last chance qualifiers and semi-finals, riders from seven countries eventually made it through to the finals – Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and USA. This involved six men and six women, including the two current IWWF World Champions, Harley Clifford (AUS) and Raimi Merritt (USA). Apart from some very experienced international World Cup stars, several relatively new stars were on board to challenge for medals this time – including Larissa Moralles (MEX), Cory Teunissen (AUS) and David O’Caoimh (IRL). Each impressed greatly as the finals unfolded.
With ladies Wakeboard setting the scene for the enthusiastic Linyi spectators, Mexico’s rising star Larissa Morales was the first athlete on the water. To the surprise of many, she clocked up an impressive score of 49.78. This may well have been enough for a podium place later for the youngster. World Champion Raimi Merritt (USA) is still recovering from injury but she then grabbed the attention of all with a huge score of 73.22 to take the lead and showing a level of intensity which few can match. The champion was back! Australia’s experienced Amber Wing responded with a very impressive 67.33 to drop in to second place with three athletes remaining. Nicola Butler (USA) just had a bad day. She was forced to settle for a score of 40.56. Now it was down to Bec Gange (AUS), a World Cup gold medalist at Mandurah, Western Australia, and Sweden’s Caroline Djupsjo who has trained extensively in the USA this year. Gange called on her experience to score 61.67 to push Moralles back in to fourth slot at this point. She was unlucky to fall on a Moby Dick manoeuver. This was then the target score for Djupsjo to beat for a podium place. Last off the dock in glorious sunshine, Djupsjo’s best was 48.56 – not enough for the podium in Linyi today. Raimi Merritt, with the most high-end tricks on her score sheet plus the best composition, was back at the top of the sport again.
Congratulations to gold medalist Raimi Merritt (USA), Amber Wing (AUS) taking silver and Bec Gange (AUS) the bronze medal. 

Dan Nott (GBR) was the first man on the water. His score of 64.89 was impressive but he suffered on weaker execution and intensity. The quality of the athletes on the dock was just too high for this to be a winning score. Tony Iacconi (AUS) came next and immediately took the lead with a fantastic performance and a score of 88.56. His composition and execution were first class. The standard was now set and it was a very high one. Young Cory Teunissen (AUS), one of the relative new comers to the World Cup Series, was next. However, the pressure was just too much for him this time out and as with Dan Nott, he had to settle for a relatively low score of 68.78. Japan’s super-star Shota Tezuka was next on the water. A Red Bull sponsored rider, he really struggled to get through the preliminaries and so was determined to make his mark in the finals today. While not quite catching Tony Iacconi, with his score of 81.22, this put him into second place. Ireland’s David O’Caoimh was second last out as he paced the starting dock with World Champion Harley Clifford. This was quite a sensation as he is also a relative newcomer to the World Cup series. All he needed to do was repeat his outstanding semi-final performance which only World Champion Harley Clifford could beat so far. This would also give him his first World Cup podium place. Although showing the spectators the second best performance up to the finals, two falls then now forced him to settle for fourth place with 69.67 points. Last out was Harley Clifford, generally regarded as the most talented Rider in the world today. The reason was clear to see as he executed a perfect run which included two 900’s and four Mobe 5’s. In spite of a niggling shoulder strain, he somehow managed to score the most grabs of all finalists, plus the highest level of intensity. This gave him a very narrow 1.22 margin over Tony Iacconi but it was just enough to secure the World Cup gold medal in Linyi. 
Congratulations to gold medalist Harley Clifford, silver medalist Tony Iacconi and bronze medalist Shota Tezuka.
This World Cup Stop was hosted and created by a major community effort which included China Watersports Administration, Linyi Municipal Bureau of Sport, Linyi Municipal Bureau of Parks, Linyi Municipal Water Conservancy Bureau, the State Water Sports Development Co. Ltd., and the IWWF. Their combined efforts certainly paid off. MasterCraft provided the competition boats and support services as they have done for the past ten years.