Canucks own water-skiing world

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

A more dramatic finish couldn't have been scripted.

But the ending could use a bit of a re-write.

Needing one of the best jumps of his life to better American Freddy Krueger with jump and overall titles on the line at the 2009 World Water-Ski Championship, the last competitor to strap on his skis, Jaret Llewellyn, had just one pass remaining.

His previous hop was 68.5 metres -- 225 feet. Nothing to sneeze at.

Everyone at Predator Bay knew the disappointing result before Llewellyn even took air on his final attempt, however, as he turned sideways on his takeoff and fell short of a goal the 39-year-old from Innisfail has been dreaming of since the worlds were scheduled to return to Canada for the first time in 30 years.

"In your home country, it hurts a little more," said the most decorated water-skier of all time. "You want to try and step up. It would have been pretty unbelievable to win the jump event and take the overall."

He settled for second, with Olds' Ryan Dodd finishing third as they helped Canada win the team gold after an impressive week.

None were better than Whitney McClintock, who added to her gold in tricks with another in slalom yesterday afternoon, claiming the overall title and a third gold medal for the week.

And she's only 19 years old.

"It's pretty amazing," McClintock said of the feeling she had after such an incredible week on the water. "Being home and having all the support here makes it more special."

In her fourth world championship -- which only takes place every second year -- she was finally considered a favourite.

For good reason. As a 15-year-old, she finished fourth overall and in the tricks event. Only an ankle injured four days before the 2007 worlds in Austria prevented her from improving two years ago.

There was no stopping the girl from Cambridge, Ont., this time around on home soil.

"This one, I was healthy, I was strong, and went out and won them," she said with a smile before collecting her hardware on stage.

"I've definitely been training super hard for this. I took the semester off from school to make sure I was dedicating my whole self to water-skiing."

It paid off.

Putting her accomplishment on the world stage in perspective was Llewellyn, who was as happy for her as he was hurt that he couldn't join her on the podium.

"Whitney's just off the chart. Back in 2001 in Italy, I won tricks, I won jump, and I came second on overall -- and it was really, really close. That was unheard of, for someone to win three medals like that," the defending overall world champ said. "For Whitney to come in here and win three golds, it's just crazy.

"She's the golden girl today."

Demolishing her personal best and tying a world record with 8,740 points in the tricks final Saturday, McClintock found herself in an unusual state of mind yesterday as she competed in her favourite event.

"Getting the tricking the other day was just encouragement. It kind of lit a fire that didn't go out until today. The slalom event was perfect, too," she said.

But there wasn't much pressure.

"Winning the trick gold made me more confident," she said with a laugh. "I knew I won the overall before I went out. That's two golds under my belt. I was like, 'Why not take one more?'"


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