Water-ski worlds ready for lift-off

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Get ready to get wet.

The perfectly titled Drenched Fest music festival portion doesn't get going until Thursday, but anyone waiting for the 2009 World Water Ski Championship can get close enough to the action at Predator Bay to feel the splash of the slalom tail kick off the course this morning.

The biennial international competition gets underway at 8 a.m. at the water ski club just southeast of Calgary -- the first time the worlds have been in Canada in 30 years.

"It's been something that's travelled the world but hasn't been back to Canada for quite some time," said organizer Stephen Carter, whose event combining a world championship and music festival is creative to say the least.

"We kind of brought the whole Calgary atmosphere to it. Not only are we gonna do it, but we're gonna do it bigger than everyone else -- and make sure everyone has a spectacular time."

The music festival, featuring Finger Eleven, Sloan and Gob among others, is just a small part of that.

Just as exciting -- at least to anyone who has witnessed some of the amazing tricks and massive jumps the athletes have been putting together over the years -- are names like Jaret Llewellyn, Ryan Dodd, Freddy Krueger, Whitney McClintock, Clementine Lucine, Regina Jaquess, Natalia Berdnikova and Angeliki Andriopoulou.

They're the best water skiers in the world, and each is looking for the overall title and individual golds in slalom, tricks and jump events.

Competition will be tough with 175 skiers from 35 different countries taking part.

"This is only the top-perch skiers," Carter said. "The world-class skiers."

Not everyone will recognize the names.

Canada may be a powerhouse in the sport, but it's not one that has grabbed many headlines since the worlds left the country after the 1979 championship.

Common thought is that water-skiing is something you do recreationally, but it's not something that's very exciting to watch.

"That's something we want to turn on its ear," Carter said. "We want to show people just how exciting water skiing is. When you see full-on water-skiing professionals, it's pretty special.

"That's one of the reasons Canada went after the worlds."

A Canadian, Llewellyn, is the reigning overall champion after earning the title in Austria in 2007.

Better yet, he's an Albertan, from Innisfail.

He'll be battling up-and-comer Dodd, who calls Olds home, and American jump-master Krueger as the favourites.

Ontario-born McClintock is a favourite to upset France's Lucine, American Jaquess, Belarus' Berdnikova and the Greek Andriopoulou for an overall title on the women's side.

The opening ceremonies don't take place until Thursday, but scores are being recorded as of this morning as the 10-skier series ramp up to the world's highest-ranked competitors later in the week, with the six finals coming Saturday and Sunday at the man-made lakes near the shores of the Bow River.

"It's gonna be a great week. It's gonna be spectacular," Carter said. "The site is so cool."

Drenched (www.waterskiworlds.com and www.drenchedfest.com) may live up to its name weather-wise early in the week, but long-range forecast suggests sunshine on the weekend. Light rain is predicted for much of the week.

"It would take a pretty spectacular storm to shut us down," Carter said.


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