In how many professional sports is it possible to point at a 48 year old that is still competitive? Or even competing. If there is such a list it would be a very short one. But at the top of it would be jump waterskiing. Why at the top? Well, because Freddy Krueger, our 48 year old, isn’t simply competing, is not only competitive but always, always at the very pointy end. This weekend, like so very many weekends before, he won. And his win at the MasterCraft Pro was not just another win. It was his crowning moment as the 2023 Waterski Pro Tour Jump Champion.
The MasterCraft Pro, in its fourth year, has been a destination for huge jumps since it’s inception. Many jumpers have soared to their personal bests at this event. It was the case during a much delayed - inclement and constantly undulating wind conditions - qualifying round for men’s jump. Though Krueger, champion of the event in 2021 and 2020, was outside of the final with one jump to go. Was it possible he would miss out at the event named after the boat brand his career has become synonymous with? Of course not. His next jump gave him top seed with 232 feet (70.7m), 8 feet ahead of British pair Joel Poland and Jack Critchley.
In the final Critchley was leading with 222ft as Krueger left the dock, though he was not hopeful of his second win of the season, knowing full well who he was up against. And Krueger took just one jump, a big one of 230ft, to take the win. By his own admission not his best approach, too out of control in the turn, so close to the corner of the ramp that he thought he’d bent his fin, but his legs did the work on the ramp and took him to a second win of the season. 48 years young and Champion of the John K Philips Jump Leaderboard for 2023. He will be back at 49.
Conversely the women’s jump field skews much younger, with only one competitor over 30. The Friday weather took away their qualifying round but the final was held under good conditions. Hanna Straltsova finalized her relentless march towards the Tour Championship with her third consecutive victory after an uncharacteristic third place at the start of the season. Her habit of 185ft+ jumps in finals serving her well. Giannina Bonnemann took her second podium in two weeks, her 2nd her best ever result in a professional jump event. Regina Jaquess took third. Not bad for someone whose knee surgery in 2021 suggested she might never jump again. More on her later.
The slalom event threw up surprises at the start. Klipsch Marine Slalom Leaderboard high flyers Jaimee Bull and Freddie Winter both ended the first round dead last after uncharacteristic crashes. They redeemed themselves very well through the rounds, however, each finishing 2nd. Bull ran an exemplary 39off (10.75m) in the final while Winter, starting at an audacious 38off in an attempt to set himself with a headwind 41 off (10.25m) ran 5 at that line length. Both were beaten by the last skier however with Regina Jaquess and Nate Smith doing just enough to hold them off with scores of 2 at 41off and 1 at 43off respectively. Smith increased his lead on the Leaderboard while Jaquess took a chunk out of Bulls lead. With two events left it really is a showdown between this pair as Jaquess attempts to win her first Waterski Pro Tour title and, in doing so, stop Bull winning her third in a row. Elsewhere Dane Mechler, took third in the men’s, just ahead of Cole McCormick who can count himself extremely unfortunate to run 4 at 41off and end up off the podium - exactly where Mechler ended up at the Lacanau Pro in France this summer. Whitney McClintock-Rini will be disappointed with 3rd after her incredible start to the season. No doubt she will push hard for the end of the season.
This weekend the Malibu Open finalizes the Men’s Jump Tour and offers penultimate chance for big moves on the Slalom Leaderboards before the curtain falls on the 2023 Tour at the Travers Grand Prix in two weeks. But before that set your sights for Alabama!