When the news broke a month ago that Nate Smith was out with an ankle injury for at least a few events, many would have imagined the level of competition in men’s slalom skiing would go down a touch. This prediction was, to say the least, wide of the mark. In the last three weeks over as many tournaments we have seen a back and forth battle between Will Asher and Freddie Winter that will live long in the memory, especially this latest event at the Travers Grand Prix.
Asher started the weekend off with the best ever score in a pro tournament – 2@43off (notwithstanding Smith’s 3@43 from Swiss Pro in 2017 – subsequently ruled out for boat path issues) and setting a new European Record in the process. Following him in qualifying was his fellow Brit whose record he had just taken, Freddie Winter, who made it two 41offs in a row (scoring 0.5@43off). It would not be a long wait for a repeat.
With Asher and Winter left to ski in the finals, Jon Travers, Thomas Degasperi and Brando Caruso were all piled up at 4@41off – a score that would have won the MasterCraft Pro and Malibu Open of the last two weeks. Winter pushed on with his 3rd 41off pass of the event, taking the lead with 1@43off, setting Asher a huge task. As Asher came in everyone on site new that a piece of history was in the offing: a pro title had never been decided at 43off. As Asher rounded 6 it became clear that record would be broken and, after Asher took no chances securing 1@43, a new one was set up as the first ever run-off starting at 41off was about to occur.
Winter, going out first due to his inferior seed from the qualifying rounds, was the first ever skier to start at 41off. Typically, he attacked but blew the tail, setting Asher the relatively easy task of taking a full 1 buoy for the title, which he managed without any fuss.
Asher, perhaps the only athlete in living memory across any sport to have his best ever season the same year he turned 40, took his fourth title of the season and his second of 8 days after Malibu Open last week. Winter, 2nd, will lick his wounds as the highest scoring loser ever but has followed his title at MasterCraft Pro two weeks ago with two 2nd places in run-offs with Will Asher after tying in the finals. Caruso, unfortunately pushed off his first Tour podium of the year by countback to qualifying at MasterCraft Pro, took 3rd as his qualifying score put him ahead of Degasperi and Travers.
The level in the women’s field was just as impressive. The second round of qualifying was the highest scoring in history as three women scored 2@41off. Going into the final, the recently unassailable triumvirate of Regina Jaquess, Jaimee Bull and Whitney McClintock-Rini, each with a title in the last three events were set to battle it out for the win. Allie Nicholson however, cemented her highest scoring event with a 4@39off, a score McClintock-Rini, unusually, could not match after a strange tail slide at 3@39off. Bull, on her home lake and the venue for her World Championship win 51 weeks ago, narrowly missed 2@41off with Jaquess left to ski, leaving the door ever so slightly open. Jaquess made amends for uncharacteristic mistakes at MasterCraft Pro and California Pro-Am as she took her second title in a week with an imperious 2@41off.
Asher’s win and Bull’s 2nd place confirmed their possession of the 2022 Waterski Pro Tour titles. However the positions below are all to play for with one event left. The Miami Pro – in four weekends time – will finish out the Pro Tour season in style.