Luitings of Janesville show age is no barrier to water-skiing skill
WISCONSIN DELLS--Take a close look at Gerry and Cathy Luiting moving fast and gracefully on water.
Gerry lifts Cathy, his 102-pound wife, above his head while water skiing. Then he flips her like a pizza.
You would never suspect this couple, known for doing flawless doubles, are the oldest water skiers with the Tommy Bartlett Show this summer.
Gerry, 56, and Cathy, 52, are performing alongside some of the best 20-something water skiers in the country.
Janesville residents recognize them because they are longtime and highly skilled members of the Rock Aqua Jays.
“When we were in our 40s, people said: 'Shouldn't you be retired by now,'” Cathy said. “Now they look at us and say we are an inspiration to them.”
In addition to performing as a couple, Gerry ski jumps, skis barefoot backward and maneuvers a hang glider at the Bartlett show. Cathy swivel skis, does every position on the four-high pyramid and smoothly performs the ballet line.
The couple thought of retiring in the 1990s.
“I'm so thankful we didn't,” Cathy said. “I feel we are getting a chance to relive our youth.”
Their 19-year-old son Aragorn, who began skiing at age 2, also skis at the Bartlett show. Aragorn graduated from Craig High School in 2013 and wants to be a physical therapist.
“Skiing together is an amazing thing that we do as a family,” Cathy said. “Some of the best moments we had with Aragorn growing up were in the boat while he was skiing. “
For the past two years, Gerry and Cathy skied part time with the Bartlett show. When Gerry retired from the Janesville Fire Department after 34 years in December, he was free to perform full time.
After 20 years of marriage, the Luitings are a team on and off the water.
“It takes a lot of trust to perform together,” Cathy said. “We carry our trust from our marriage onto the water.”
Both have extensive professional and amateur show-skiing experience. Both have taught clinics all over the globe, including China, India and Lebanon. Both have won seven National Strap Doubles championships and many international and regional competitions.
They met in the early 1980s when they skied for the first time with the Bartlett show. Both were in ski partnerships with someone different and competed against each other. Eventually, they began dating. When Gerry proposed, he told Cathy he wanted a son named Aragorn after the character in Lord of the Rings.
Cathy is inspired daily by her late brother, who had muscular dystrophy.
“He used to say today is my best day,” she said.
Cathy takes the philosophy to heart and strives to make each day her best.
Gerry calls life too short to miss an opportunity such as skiing with the Bartlett show.
“Skiing began as a creative outlet for me,” he said. “After a while, I found out I was good at it.”
His advice to others who think they are too old to fulfill ambitions.
“Chase your dreams,” he said. “Live your life.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org