With over 30 million participants and 52,000 competitors in 92 countries around the World, rising to the top of such a group is a daunting test of skill and dedication. However, those gifted few who succeed against such odds truly deserve the spotlight as we prepare for another new season on the water.
The International Waterski Federation comprises six disciplines, Wakeboard, Barefoot, Cable, Disabled, Racing and Tournament skiing. Each elects their own very best Male and Female competitor of the year. When all are selected, both the Male and Female Athlete of the Year is then selected from this list of talent. These can be selected from any of the six disciplines.
The one overriding factor which isolates both 2004 Athletes of the Year on this occasion is consistency. Winning a major event is a reward in itself but winning consistently is the stuff of champions. Here are the result:
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - JARET LLEWELLYN (Canada)
Llewellyn began his Tournament Waterskiing career almost 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada. In 1980, he was Canada's Provincial Overall Champion. That was just the beginning. His current trophy list includes 11 World Records, 8 Moomba Masters Overall titles, 5 US Masters Overall titles and many more. He was selected as Flag Bearer at the 2003 Pan Am Games and just this week was elected to the Athletes Council of the Canadian Olympic Committee. He has won 4 Gold and 2 Silver medals at the Pan Am Games. He still holds the World Ski Fly Record of 299 feet / 91 meters. Now living with his wife Britta, a past European Champion Waterskier and son Dorian in Lake Worth Florida, Llewellyn is recognized as one of the greatest talents of all time in the sport of Waterskiing. His selection as the 2004 Athlete of the year follows a season's achievement of 11 major podium positions, a Gold medal in Jump and Tricks at the Pan Am Games - and IWSF World Rankings of No.2 in Overall, No.3 in Jump and No.6 in Tricks.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - EMMA SHEERS (Australia)
Born in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, Sheers has been a full time Elite Waterskier for 13 years. Consistency in both Jump and Slalom have been her unique trade mark. Her current trophy list includes 2 World Jump titles, 2 World Slalom titles, 5 World Records, 5 US Masters titles, 7 US Open titles, 14 Moomba Masters titles and a total haul of 55 Pro titles. In 2003, from 11 major competitions, she took 8 first places and was on the podium in all 11 events. She was elected Athlete of the Year as a result. In 2004, from 12 major competitions, she took 10 first places and was again on the podium at every event. Currently ranked No.1 in the IWSF Elite Ranking table in both Jump and Slalom, she is also the current World Champion in both disciplines. Again, Emma Sheers was elected Athlete of the Year for the second time. Some months ago, she was also selected by the Australian Institute of Sport to join an Australian squad to train for the Skeleton in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. This is the Head First version of the Luge! Currently training at the track in Lake Placid in the USA and making solid progress, she hopes to make it through the selection process in Germany in the next month. Now living in Pelican Waters, Queensland, Australia, she is married to Rick Habermann who acts as her coach and mentor at all major events.
Each Council within the International Waterski Federation put forward the following as the most outstanding 2004 Skier of the Year of their category:
BAREFOOT WATERSKIING - David Small (GBR)
CABLE WATERSKIING - Thomas Bauer (GER)
DISABLED WATERSKIING - Toon Van der Ploeg (NED)
WATERSKI RACING - Marty Wells (USA)
TOURNAMENT WATERSKIING - Jaret Llewellyn (CAN)
WAKEBOARD - Phillip Soven (USA)
BAREFOOT WATERSKIING - Rachel George (USA)
CABLE WATERSKIING - Julia Meyer Gromyko (BLR)
DISABLED WATERSKIING - Katie Mawby (USA)
WATERSKI RACING - Ann Proctor (AUS)
TOURNAMENT WATERSKIING - Emma Sheers (AUS)
WAKEBOARD - Caroline Jansson (SWE)
For additional biographical information on athletes, see the full details on iwsf.com.