By Joey Gilroy
The Waterski Pro Tour continues this weekend with the first Slalom and Jump Stop of the year! May will consist in two back to back events. The King of Darkness and Swiss Pro Slalom will feature over 90 skiers across the two events. The King of Darkness will beginon Thursday, May 4th with night final on Saturday May 6th and will follow with Swiss Pro Slalom on May 7th.
Who will be the Kings and Queens of Darkness?
King of Darkness will kick off on Thursday May, 4th at 8:00am EST with Jump Round 1 and 2 and will follow with Slalom Round 1. Friday will have Slalom Round 2. In Slalom only the top 4 Women and the top 4 Men will advance to the Head to Head final under the lights on Saturday. In Jump the top 6 Women and the top 8 Men will advance to Saturday’s final. Thirty-five elite slalom skiers from all over the world are coming together to test their skills under the lights.
The field of twenty men is being headed by top seed Will Asher who managed to ski into 43off (9.75m) three times in 2022! Asher is being challenged by other top seeds Nate Smith, Freddie Winter, Thomas Degasperi, and Dane Mechler. All of the top challenging skiers have proven that they can ski into 43off, so don’t be surprised if our eventual Slalom King of Darkness has to run 41off (10.25m) in order to secure their title.
The women’s field is for the Slalom Queen of Darkness is very top heavy with Jaimee Bull, Whitney McClintock-Rini, and Regina Jaquess all competing with each other for the crown. Each of these three women have proven that they can ski into 41off in the past and it would not be surprising to see our winning passes at that rope length.
The preliminary jump rounds will start on Thursday, May 4th at 8:00am EST. Seventeen of the greatest water ski jumpers in the world will come together to decide who will be the next King and Queen of Darkness. Our two reigning monarchs are Freddy Krueger who won the title with a 234ft kick, and Hanna Straltsova who claimed her crown with a 179ft jump! These two skiers will be defending their titles against a wide field of competitors.
In the men’s division we have twelve skiers all vying for the right to call themselves the King of Darkness. Aside from our current king, some skiers to watch out for are Taylor Garcia, Joel Poland, and Dorien Llewellyn. Taylor is our second seeded jumper with recent jump scores ranging 209ft through 220ft. Poland and Lewellyn are the next two highest seeded jumpers, each seeking not only to win the event, but to also increase their prestige as two of the top overall skiers in the world. Last week when the two rivals met at the Swiss Pro Tricks Tournament, Poland pulled away winning the event, with Llewellyn placing second. This week while they compete in jump, they will be challenging jumping stalwarts Taylor Garcia and Freddy Krueger, with neither jump specialist looking to be usurped by an overall skier.
On the women’s side of the tournament, Straltsova is being challenged by five other jumpers, notably Aliaksandra Danisheuskaya and Giannina Bonnemann. The two challenging skiers will have their work cut out for them this year. Straltsova’s recent personal best scores are in the 180ft+ range (56m), while Bonnemann and Danisheuskaya have both jumped closer to the 175ft range (53m). Hopefully, a new year and an intense offseason have allowed the challenging skiers to hone their skills enough to get the extra distance needed to knock off Straltsova.
Swiss Pro Slalom
After the King of Darkness finishes up, forty incredible slalom skiers are meeting in Clermont, Florida Sunday morning for the Swiss Pro Slalom Tournament. Undefeated Regina Jaquess and defending champion, Nate Smith will be ready to defend their spot.
At last year’s event, Regina Jaquess won the tournament in a runoff with Whitney McClintock-Rini. The two skiers tied the final round with scores of 2@41off (10.25m) and went on to compete head-to-head for the title. Jaquess won the runoff with a score of email@example.com (10.75m).
This year, Jaquess’ title is being challenged by many talented skiers, with the most threatening competitors being top seed Jaimee Bull, Whitney McClintock and Allie Nicolson. Bull and McClintock-Rini both have several scores in the 41off pass, and are looking to add more to their record books. If any of the three skiers get into that pass this weekend, they have the potential to be the first athlete in almost 10 years to beat Jaquess at the Swiss Pro Slalom. Nicholson has also been skiing very well in the past year, narrowly missing her 39.5off pass in three separate tournaments. This weekend, it is probably going to take at least 1@41off to secure the first slalom title of the year.
In the Men’s division, Nate Smith is defending his slalom title. At last year’s event, he won by scoring 5@41off three times during the tournament. Smith’s consistency is unparalleled in the sport, but that does not mean other skiers cannot beat him in any given tournament. This year Smith’s top competition comes from rivals Freddie Winter and top seed Will Asher. Both skiers are incredibly talented to the point where it is no longer surprising to see either of them end a tournament with scores into 43off (9.75m). Many of the men’s skiers in this weekend’s tournament have scored into the record pass, either in regular rounds or as part of runoff situations. It really is anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top of the podium at the end of the tournament.
Aside from our top competitors, our two featured skiers of the weekend are slalomers Charlie Ross and Ali Garcia. Ross currently holds the U17 World Slalom Record of 3@41off. With the way that he has been skiing, he just may be the next person to take a pass at 43off. Garcia is a student at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette who won her most recent tournament, the Fleur de Ski, with a score of 2@38off (11.25m)! Both skiers are participating in both tournaments this weekend, so be sure to watch for them on the water as they try to better establish themselves at the professional level.