The fifth edition of the Lake 38 Pro Am saw some familiar faces in the top 3 in both the women’s and men’s slalom with 5 of the 6 skiers who made it onto the podium in 2022 repeating that feat in 2023.
The competition at Keith and Karen Albritton’s purpose-built lake in Quincy, near Tallahassee, Florida, was the third slalom competition of this season’s Waterski Pro Tour, following on from the King of Darkness and Swiss Pro Slalom held on consecutive days in early May.
The format was two preliminary rounds for the 10 women and 17 men, held on Saturday 4th June. The top eight women and top eight men went through to Sunday’s finals.
The women’s final was set to be a fierce battle between two great rivals, the defending champion, Regina Jaquess (USA) and last year’s runner-up, Whitney McClintock-Rini (CAN). The two could not be separated after the first two rounds. Both scored 2 @ 10.25m (41’ off) in both preliminary rounds where they were the only women to get into that line length. They went into the final as joint top seeds.
As the penultimate skier, Regina successfully ran her 10.75m pass in a tailwind, only to crash heavily on the next to score 1.25 @ 10.25m. It left the door open for Whitney. In gusting winds, the Canadian fought hard to run 10.75m (39.5’ off) and then held on to score 2 @ 10.25m for a third time over the weekend and secure the win. From the three WPT slalom stops this season to date, Whitney has two victories and Regina one.
The USA’s Allie Nicholson – third here last year too - completed the women’s podium with her best score of the weekend, 4 @ 10.75, one buoy off her PB.
Special mention goes to 20-year-old Colombian Luisa Jaramillo, who got a PB in round two of 2.5 @ 10.75m and almost matched it with 2 @ 10.75m in the final to finish 5th. Good luck to Luisa in her next tournament, the World U21 Championships in Mexico later this month.
The men’s competition was missing a few of the big names (Will Asher, Thomas Degasperi, Jon Travers) but the field was, nevertheless, stacked with talent and it was clear early on that a big score would to be needed to win.
Freddie Winter (GBR) set the bar high going into the final as top seed, scoring an impressive 5 @ 10.25m in both preliminary rounds on a new ski he’s been using for just a few weeks. In the final, the early leader was ‘The Sledge’, Adam Sedlmajer (CZE), whose 3 @ 10.25m proved he’s back after missing last season. Adam lost out on a spot on the podium when Rob Hazelwood (GBR) went out and equalled his score. With just Freddie and Nate Smith (USA) to go, Rob was guaranteed third place ahead of Adam on countback, having scored higher than Adam in the earlier rounds.
It was then down to what Nate and Freddie could do. Nate opted to start on the 12m line which would mean taking the crucial 10.25m pass in a tailwind. He clearly thought he could run it, maybe even get a shot at a headwind 9.75m (43’ off) – and he very nearly did. His 5.5 @ 10.25m put the pressure on Freddie who could manage only 3 @ 10.25m, the same score as Rob and Adam but enough to give him the runner-up spot on countback, ahead of his compatriot.
So, the Nate Smith bandwagon rolls on. The current World Champion and world record holder has topped the men’s podium in every pro slalom so far this season (three WPT stops, Moomba and the Masters).
Coming next: the pros cross the Atlantic for the European stage of the Waterski Pro Tour.
Lake 38 Skier of the Day (TWBC audience vote): Allie Nicholson