Top competitors earn praise for aerial antics

By Jared Smith

They flew higher and glided further with both their hands and toes as the annual Gold and Silver Star meeting on Lake Wiritoa continues to attract the top skiers in the country.

Around 38 competitors from around the North Island took part in the two-day event on the Wanganui Water Ski Club's season opening weekend.

While headlined by the slalom, the windy conditions at the lake on Saturday made conditions choppy so organisers held both rounds of the trick events that afternoon.

The competitors had 20-second runs to perform as many different recognised manoeuvres as possible for the judges watching back on shore via live video-camera linkup.

Earlier in the day, Hamilton's James Wortman got everyone talking by cracking the 37m mark off the 5ft ramp during the jump.

Organiser Ron Bakker said if Wortman reached 38m, then the ramp could be raised to 5.5ft for him a nationally recognised benchmark.

Wortman had to settle for a 37.7m personal best, which with his combined scores saw him finish second overall in the boys' divisions with 2604 points.

Whangarei's Curtis Williams was first overall with 2683 points, while Wanganui's Brent Meade came third.

Bakker heaped praise on Meade's younger sister Lily for her efforts over the two days.

"For the first tournament of the season, she would have impressed the New Zealand selectors for sure."

Lily Meade, 12, recently named in the New Zealand under-14 squad, was also satisfied.

"[It went] pretty good actually, I had a good slalom and a good trick," she said on Saturday.

By the end of competition her scores of 73.00 (slalom) and 1760 (tricks) were results that would be recognised nationally.

Meade said she was pushing herself to get the best scores she could in the trick competition before departing with the New Zealand team to compete in Canberra.

While in some sports that have quick-fire limits it can feel like the pace slows down, Meade said their competition is the opposite.

The seconds to pull off the tricks go by extremely quickly, meaning the athletes must keep their concentration and "not panic" by trying to get everything in before the clock runs out.

In other results, Waikato's Ethan McKenzie won the sub-junior (under 10s) division, with his brother Hunter in second and Mitchell Williams - younger brother of Curtis - third.

Bakker said the field of half a dozen in the youngest division had been at the lake for several years.

"It's phenomenal to have the juniors coming through."

The senior men's divisions do not compete in the jumping events.

In the signature slalom, Cambridge's Paul Tunley won the Senior 3 (55-years plus), with Wanganui's Iain Bill second and Hank Wortman, father of James, in third.

Karapiro's Campbell McCracken won the Senior 2 (45-years plus) grade, followed by Rotorua's Steve Kline and Bakker third by just half a point.

Tunley will be returning to complete in water skiing at the New Zealand Masters Games, which will be held at the lake from February 8-10.

After that will be the West Coast North Island regional championships, from March 16-17.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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