Nautique Moomba Masters draws record crowds to Melbourne's downtown Yarra River site
With Melbourne’s population of over four million, it appeared that most took part in the annual Moomba Labour Day Festival at the weekend – and the centre-piece was certainly the Moomba Masters Championships. On the perfect stretch of water beside the Rod Laver Stadium and Melbourne Cricket Grounds, the hot weather made this an ideal stage for athletes arriving from 19 countries.
Over the four day preliminary rounds of the Nautique Moomba Masters, the first of the Waterski Finals was for Men and Women Tricks. One year ago, Erika Lang (USA) took second place in both the IWWF World Waterski Championships in Paris and the Moomba Masters. A past IWWF World U21 champion, she has three IWWF World Records to her credit. As the lowest scorer to qualify here in the semi-finals, she was first off the dock in the Finals, with an impressive 9,240 points score.
A very nervous wait followed before all six competitors completed their runs. This time she got back on top and is the new Moomba Masters Tricks champion – ahead of Natallia Berdnikava (BLR) and Giannina Bonnemann (GER).
The Men’s event was full of major surprises. IWWF World Record holder Aliaksei Zharnasek (BLR) fell on a difficult Ski Line 7 trick. This loss of 800 points pushed him down to third place. Canada’s 21 year-old super-star, Dorien Llewellyn, with 21 national records already to his credit, scored a very impressive 9740 points for second place. To the delight of all and surprise of some, 36-year-old Jimmy Siemers (USA), 2003 World Tricks champion, secured 9920 points to dominate here and take the Moomba title.
Slalom came next. With 21 Women and 31 Men, including both Nautique Moomba Masters defending champions, gusty winds and varying currents tested even the most experienced. The major challenge was to reach the 11.25m Slalom line which is unusual for this level of athlete. In the Finals, Semi Finals and Prelims, only two did so. Whitney McClintock Rini (CAN), the 2015 and 2017 Moomba champion scored three buoys to take the Moomba title once again. Manon Costard (FRA), took second place here in 2016 and 2017 and yet again this year ! Absent for some years, Venessa (Leopold) Vieke returned in strength to take third place with 2.5 buoys on the 12m line.
The larger Men’s starting list contained three past IWWF World Champions and the current IWWF World Record holder. In challenging but exciting water conditions, it was not till the Finals that a score on the short 10.25m line arrived. In fact, five of the eight finalists achieved this. The big surprise was to see two past IWWF World Champions, Thomas Degasperi (ITA) and Will Asher (GBR) both struggle to score more than one buoy on that 10.25m line. Degasperi, as the defending Moomba Champion, was clearly bitterly disappointed. Stephen Neveu (CAN) took 6th place here a year ago but his 2018 score of two buoys on the 10.25m line was enough for second place and just one short of a Course Record.
Benjamin Stadlbauer (SUI) took third place to repeat last year’s achievement. To those fans worldwide of Slalom, the name Nate Smith (USA) has already achieved legendary status. Beaten last year by Thomas Degasperi, the IWWF World Record holder made no mistake this time around. His score of three buoys on the 10.25m line took the title and also equalled the Course Record.
At precisely 15.30hrs, with the Nautique 200 boat purring at the dock, it was time for the Jump finals. With over 200,000 spectators expecting something special, they were not disappointed. The Women’s Course Record set in 2017 was 56.7m. In the Preliminary Round, IWWF World Champion and World Record holder Jacinta Carroll (AUS) had already pushed her Course Record yet again up to 57.5m. Having over 30 consecutive victories to her credit, her domination continued to take the 2018 Moomba Masters title with a distance of 57.1m. By a gap of over four meters, Natallia Berdnikava (BLR) and Marion Mathieu Ellis (FRA), took second and third place.
For the Men, the Miranda brothers from Chile, Rodrigo and Felipe, are rarely off the podium. This time, it was Felipe who took third place with an impressive distance of 64.8m. Scot Ellis (USA) captured the hearts of all in this extreme sport. He took part here back in 1998. The 46-year-old secured a Finals place in style and with a distance of 60.2m, took seventh place.
As many expected, the showdown and title challenge between Freddy Krueger (USA) and Ryan Dodd (CAN) had arrived. The atmosphere was electric! Krueger, with eight IWWF World Jump Records to his credit, and Dodd, the current World Jump Champion and new IWWF World Record holder, this was a perfect match. Krueger won here a year ago by beating Dodd by over 2.5 meters. Neither spoke on the starting dock. This was serious stuff! Krueger improved with every Jump and left a big 66.1m on the scoreboard for Dodd to beat, quite a challenge. Dodd looked anxious with attempts of 60.6m and 65.3m but still almost a meter too short. Dodd explained later that technically these were solid attempts but disappointing. On his third attempt, this Nautique sponsored athlete threw the rule book out the widow and just turned on the rocket fuel! This worked and 68.5m gave him the Nautique Moomba Masters 2018 Jump title. A perfect ending to a perfect event.
In the Overall event, stunning performances gave the Nautique Moomba Masters 2018 titles to Joel Poland (GBR) and Giannina Bonnemann (GER).
Organised by the Victorian Water Ski Association and sanctioned by the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF), all results are available here : http://www.iwwfed-ea.org/classic/18AUS320
Moomba Masters: https://www.moombamasters.com.au
International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation: http://www.IWWFED.com
Nautique Boats: http://www.nautique.com
Nautique Team: http://www.nautique.com/team
Des Burke-Kennedy | Media Chairman | International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation