International competitors prepare for weekend ski show tournament
JANESVILLE Show ski teams from China, Australia, Belgium and Canada hit the water at Traxler Park for the first time Wednesday, practicing in advance of this weekend's inaugural World Water Ski Show Tournament.
A slight breeze and blue skies made for a idyllic scene as competitors in bikinis, swimming trunks and wetsuits gathered along the Rock River, chatting over the sounds of Top 40 radio blaring from a public address system.
Ramon Horton of Perth, Australia, said Team Australia is made up of members of all four of the country's show ski teams. Australia held its first national show ski tournament last year. Horton said Team USA is the team to beat this weekend.
After three hours practicing on the water, Team Belgium was packing its equipment in a trailer when Eric Gran of the Badgerland Water Ski Show Team brought out a few boxes of doughnuts from Dunkin' Donuts.
"Hey, what about anything healthy?" asked one slightly portly Belgian man in a wetsuit. "Look, I have a very healthy body, I must eat healthy."
"Nope, just fat and sugar around here," Gran retorted.
The Belgian team came together in November, practicing in gymnasiums and swimming pools, said Gilles Hardy, a college student from Ypres, Belgium. "We went to several teams' home lakes beginning in May," Hardy said.
The Belgian team arrived stateside Tuesday, bringing some equipment—mostly different types of skis—with them. They're borrowing the rest from Badgerland, which is acting as the assigned liaison team to help Team Belgium adjust and prepare for the tournament.
Team Canada's journey to Janesville lasted 14 hours in two recreational vehicles. The team is composed of members from Canada's largest water sports team—Summer Water Sports—that performs a couple hundred shows each summer. Team Canada member Jenna Pickell said she's visited the United States before but never skied competitively in the United States before.
"I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity," Pickell said.
Pickell's teammate Whitney Newlands brushed off a question about which team is the favorite this weekend.
"Which team is having the most fun? Team Canada, of course," Newlands said.
"Our ski season just ended a couple days ago, but we're still rocking," said Geoff Hulet of Team Canada. Hulet also complimented the venue, saying it was ideal for show skiing.
"Everything went pretty well, considering it was the first day of practice," said tournament organizer Duane Snow. "It's a great opportunity to showcase Janesville and Wisconsin."