It is extremely rare to see the best ever competitive performance in a sport. It is infinitely rarer to see two go down in consecutive days and at the same venue. And yet that is what we saw at the Malibu Open as these records fell in women’s slalom and men’s overall. Indeed, the event served up some of the biggest scores of the season across the board, with another milestone in women’s jump.
Firstly, women’s slalom. There might have been a fear that the unusually small field would result in lackluster competition but the women present all skied to a very high standard through qualifying. Of special note Jaimee Bull, who is really accelerating towards the end of the season after a few weeks below her best that we saw during the Europe stint a couple of months back. Her dual 10.75m passes in qualifying were exceptional. Big scores will come at 10.25m before too long. But of course the star of the show was Regina Jaquess. The first round saw her round 3 at 10.25m for the first time since her knee surgery in May 2021. But then came the second round. A poor 1 at 10.25m left many thinking she wouldn’t get far. Not her. An incredible 2 and 3 gave her the space to turn 4 and complete an easy S-turn at 5 that gave her a new World Record, her 10th in succession since setting her first in October of 2010. Clearly overjoyed, Jaquess stated that it was even more special doing it at the Malibu Open with the world watching at a serious professional event. We here at Waterski Pro Tour wholeheartedly agree. Ultimately, the Jaquess had the moment of the tournament, Jaimee Bull prevailed in the event, thus wrapping up the Waterski Pro Tour title for the third consecutive year, an outstanding feat. Jaquess may well have more world records in her. Bull, 16 years her junior, will have her own opportunities to break records as she wins many events going forward.
Joel Poland, typically, did something unusual: overall World Records just generally aren’t set at pro events. With very few events offering all three disciplines opportunities are scarce. But Poland benefitted from the addition of the trick discipline as a closed, invite-only competition to add to the slalom and jump. He seized the opportunity with both hands. After a relatively poor first round he went to work on finals day: big scores in tricks and slalom (where he only just missed the final) left him needing a big jump to set a new World Record. His first, of 69.3m, gave it to him, his fourth. It was only the superhuman effort from Jaquess the day before that stopped him being the star of the show.
This 69.3m jump was in the lead until the very last skier and indeed the last jump after Freddy Krueger, top seed, had tied it on his second. Facing a run off Freddy went bigger (71m/ 233ft) to secure the win, his second in succession, to leave Poland in 2nd. Third was Luca Rauchenwald, a relative unknown until recently, as his latest personal best took him to his first pro podium.
An injury ravaged field and absent Jacinta Carroll has, mostly, left Hanna Straltsova in a fairly easy position of dominance for season. However her improvement this year has been marked and as she jumped 192 feet she became only the third to ever break 190 after Natalia Berdnikava. Needless to say, she took the win, her fourth in a row. This level of jump is not something that anyone would bet against winning an event, no matter who is present.
Men’s slalom saw veteran Thomas Degasperi become the oldest ever men’s slalom pro event winner at 42 years of age, eclipsing the great Andy Mapple. His performance of firstname.lastname@example.org belied his reputation as “Mr 3 Ball”. He becomes only the third men’s slalom winner on the Tour this year alongside Nate Smith and Freddie Winter. Importantly, the win boosts Degasperi above Will Asher into third place on the Klipsch Leaderboard; a duel awaits at Travers Grand Prix this weekend.
And with that, the jump season is over and the John K Philps Jump Leaderboard is finalized. Freddy Krueger, Jack Critchley and Taylor Garcia make up your podiums on the men’s side while Hanna Straltsova, Sasha Danisheuskaya and Giannina Bonnemann take the women’s podium.
The final placements on the Klipsch Marine Slalom Leaderboard will be decided this weekend at the Travers Grand Prix. After the incredible scene of last year, no doubt the conclusion will be as epic as the season has been thus far.