Edged out in jumpoffLlewellyn misses out on a double gold
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- The problem for the flagbearer was to be able to run the flag up the flagpole.
Jaret Llewellyn of Innisfail was involved in one of the most amazing waterski jump finals, certainly in Pan-Am Games history, and likely in all of international waterskiing. And he lost it. In a jump off. To a guy aptly named Freddie Kruger of the U.S.A. By a half a metre.
"Jumps is my thing,'' said Llewellyn.
"It was driving me nuts. All of a sudden, it put a lot of pressure on me to win tricks. I'm not the best tricker in the world. On a scale of 10, I'm a nine. And Russell Gay of the U.S.A. is a 10.
"I couldn't help but think that this isn't going to look good in the eyes of the media back home who don't really know how close the jumps were here, what an amazing event we had. I was thinking that all anybody will see is that I didn't win gold, that the flagbearer let the Canadian team down.''
Llewellyn had to put all those thoughts out of his head and get the flag up the pole somehow. And he did.
'I DIDN'T CHOKE'
"I didn't choke,'' he said.
"If I hadn't won, I'd have gone home upset. My performance was great. But I would have gone home upset because I think Canada was counting on me.
"And it was so good to come out of the water and have people tell me that my event had put us ahead of Brazil in the medal standings.
"That was pretty nice. Brazilians were punching me on the shoulder.''
The flagbearer had done his bit with a gold and a silver and carried the torch for a Canadian team which mined two more gold and a bronze out of the Rio Isabela on the last full day of XIV Pan-American Games competition yesterday.
Only one event, the cycling men's road race remains before the closing ceremonies.
For Llewellyn and the waterskiiers, this was their Olympic Games. For a year, they believed the sport was going to be part of Athens 2004. But the IOC decided not to add another sport.
When you watch an event like the jump final with Llewellyn and his old adversary Kruger going at it in a spectacular TV-friendly show while sports like shooting, archery and the like stay in, you have to wonder what the IOC guys are smoking.
It was sensational stuff.
Ryan Dodd of Olds qualified to be third last to take his three jumps and hit one for 64 metres to assure himself of at least a bronze behind Kruger and his teacher from 30 km up Highway 2.
Kruger hit for a best of 67 metres on his second jump. Llewellyn matched it with his first attempt but couldn't beat it.
So they went to a two-jump jumpoff.
"I've never seen it tied in metres before,'' he said. "Not for first place. No in a major international event.''
Kruger managed 63 metres on his first jump and then hit for 66.5 on his second.
Llewellyn flew for 65.6 on his first and 66.0 on his second.
Lost it by that much.
Even though it was half a metre, Llewellyn knew he'd come up short. As he passed the pier, he pointed at Kruger.
"I was saying 'It's yours.' Hats off to him. And he wasn't feeling well today.''
With that Llewellyn went back to get his focus for the tricks event.
"I knew I shouldn't really win it. But I'd won the event at the other two Pan-Am Games and I decided to get what happened in jumps out of my head and do what I did in Winnipeg and Mar del Plata.
"I didn't try to beat Russell, I just decided to do what I do. And it worked. Now I've won all three Pan-Am golds in the event and I've won them all the same way. The guy under pressure after me didn't do it.''
FOUR GOLDS, TWO SILVERS
Llewellyn, who has now won four of a possible six golds plus a pair of silvers at the Pan-Am Games, scored 10,300 points. Gay ended up with 10,200.
The flagbearer having run the flag up, he said he was as happy for his protege from Olds getting the bronze in jumps and the other two golds in slalom.
"Those other two golds weren't expected,'' said Llewellyn.
Karissa Wedd of Vancouver and Drew Ross of Belleville, Ont., were surprises.
"I thought I might be able to win the bronze medal,'' said Wedd. "It's almost sweeter because it wasn't expected. And I beat two of the best in the world. It's just awesome.''
Ross said he didn't come here with a lot of confidence.
"I've had mixed results this year. I'd been tentative. I told myself, forget the year, I'm here. Be strong and aggressive.''
Team leader Stew Bush said the unexpected golds were good, Llewellyn saving his day was great but the best part was Ryan Dodd.
"It was great what Ryan did. He's only 18. He's the next one.''
Maybe someday there will be a flag for him to carry for Canada.