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Qatar hosts World Waterski & Wakeboard finals.

THE CORNICHE IN DOHA PROVIDED a breathtaking venue for the finals of the International Waterski Federation's World Cup Championship in December. With towering palm trees and modern skyscrapers providing a spectacular backdrop, the stage was set for a thrilling conclusion to the tournament. The season had included previous rounds in France, Russia, England, China and Singapore. The event in Doha presented the much-awaited final battle for the 2004 World Cup titles in the four disciplines of Slalom, Tricks, Jump and Wakeboard. Only the very best waterskiers and wakeboarders from 13 countries around the world qualified for this ultimate round.

With a civilisation dating back over 4,000 years, Qatar is full of surprises. Strong historical links exist with not only the surrounding Arab nations, but also with Portugal, Britain and even the Ottoman Empire. Doha, the capital on the palm tree-lined east coast, is seen as a major international sports and cultural centre. It has successfully hosted the Athletics Grand Prix, Formula Power Boat Racing, Tennis Open, Golf Masters, Football World Cup (U19s), World Trade Organisation Conference and the Islamic Conference Summit. In 2006, Doha will host the Asian Games--one of the world's largest sporting events.

The Qatar Marine Sport Federation was one of the major sponsors of the championship and took charge of the detailed local organisation. Their experience of hosting previous powerboat racing tournaments clearly showed as the event ran smoothly through its programme without any hiccup. Boats and equipment were imported from the US, UK and Germany. In conjunction with this major logistical challenge, Qatar's Academy of Sports Excellence, known as ASPIRE, provided Waterski lessons for 180 Qatari children with the assistance of the multiple world waterski champion, Patrice Martin (FRA).

The competition leaders who battled their way to the top in the previous five stops included the following: Slalom--Chris Parrish (US), Tricks--Russell Gay (US), and in Jump--Freddy Krueger (US). In Wakeboard--Daniel Watkins (AUS) and Phillip Soven (US) created an enthralling clash of skills. Athletes from Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belarus, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, UK, Tahiti, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina and Mexico, battled for their share of the season's $650,000 cash prize.

In glorious sunshine along the 7km Corniche, the preliminary rounds of the Waterski and Wakeboard finals were played out, reducing the total field of athletes to eight in each discipline. The big surprise in Slalom was the UK's Glen Campbell narrowly missing the qualifying mark. In Tricks, New Zealander Kyle Eade was unlucky to fall short of the cut-off point. Time constraints gave all nine jumpers a pass to the finals.

In Wakeboard, the very best in the world made it through. These included the newly crowned world champion, 15-year-old Phillip Soven (US) and current World Cup leader, Daniel Watkins (AUS). Doha was Watkins' 31st competition of the year.

With a gentle cooling breeze blowing through the tall palm trees, the Slalom skiers were the first finalists to compete against a spectacular backdrop of the city's exotic high rise buildings. The favourite, Chris Parrish (US), fought hard to gain fifth place. However, he still hoped that he would have accumulated enough points to take the World Cup title. The anticipation of those final calculations was almost unbearable for him. Close on his heels throughout the year had been the UK's Jodi Fisher. And this was Fisher's lucky day, his score of five buoys on the short 10.75m rope was enough to gain him first place in the Doha World Cup Stop.

In Tricks, it was a case of the world champion, Jimmy Siemers (US), battling against the World Cup accumulated points leader Russell Gay (US) and the world recordholder, Nicolas LeForestier (FRA). After a performance glitch in choppy waters in China, the Frenchman had a point to prove in Qatar. Three athletes clocked up scores exceeding 10,000 points but LeForestier's score of 10,820 was unbeatable--and gave him the Doha World Cup Stop title.

In Jump, there were a host of surprises. Few jumpers had ever performed on sea water before and the Arabian Gulf offered some special challenges. Austria's Thomas Fenzl and New Zealand's Kyle Eade took second and third place against very tough competition. Just two weeks earlier, Canada's Jaret Llewellyn set a new pending World Jump Record and he was determined to finish his year on a high note. True to form, his 57.5m/189ft distance was enough to ensure he took the Doha Jump title back to Canada. In Wakeboard, a similar pattern emerged. The event was nailbiting as hot favourite, Daniel Watkins (AUS) almost failed to qualify for the final round, only scraping through in the Last Chance Qualifier round (not too different from a play-off). However, the recently crowned 15-year-old World Wakeboard Champion, Phillip Soven (US), rose to the fore once again with a magnificent performance as the sun set below the palm trees in the nearby desert just beyond the striking coastal skyline. His 61.23 points score made him unbeatable. Very close behind in second and third place were Brett Eisenhauer (AUS) and Morgan Krause (RSA). On this occasion, World Cup leader, Daniel Watkins (AUS), had to settle for fourth place.

As the sun set over the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf, the winner's crystal trophies were presented by Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al Thani, president of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, and QMSF general secretary Sami Abu Shaikha, both of whom played a major role in bringing the final 2004 Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup event to Qatar. Kuno Ritscard, IWSF president, hailed the tournament a success and looked forward to next year's event.

On the Sunday, an awesome exhibition of skills took place when the winners staged a display in a non-competitive atmosphere, constituting a truly spectacular finale to a successful and remarkable tournament.
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Title Annotation:Mosaic
Author:Jain, Ravi
Publication:The Middle East
Geographic Code:7QATA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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