Namibia second at All Africa Waterski Champs

The Namibian waterski team. Photo: Contributed

The 2024 All Africa Waterski Championships, a biennial competition, was hosted by the Namibia Waterski Association from 21 to 23 March.

The competition was scheduled to be held at the Von Bach Dam at Okahandja, but due to the drought and extreme low water levels it was moved and hosted at Lake Grappa, near Kakamas in South Africa.

Namibia was represented by a team of 16 skiers, who competed against South Africa and Mauritius. 

Namibian waterskiers set impressive performances and their scores contributed to an overall second place, with Namibia finishing closely behind the winners South Africa. 

For the first time a league category was created at the All African Championships.  This comprises of grassroots skiers and allows them to ski on a narrower course, with their scores being counted by the number of buoys they ski around in four passes and was included in the final team score. Namibia was represented by seven bambino skiers aged between 7 and 13 years, who performed admirably and continued to improve their personal best performances.

Zandria van der Merwe from Namibia was the winner of the League Division, while Olivia Hannam also from Namibia, took the bronze medal. 

In the under 14 age group, Luca Ahrens won the gold medal in tricks with 480 points and the silver medal in slalom with 2,5 buoys at 55km/h on a 18,25m rope. 

2012 Namibian junior sportswoman of the year, Natascha Röttcher, finished first overall in the individual women’s slalom category with an outstanding  score of two buoys at 55 km/h on a 12-metre line, which won her the title of All Africa Slalom women’s champion. 

Zaren Knight was placed second in slalom category with a score of one buouy at 55km/h on a 13m line, setting a new Namibian over 35 slalom record in the process. Knight also won the All African women’s trick champion title with a score of 1 270 points in tricks.

In the open men’s division, Luke Schmidt won gold in slalom with 3,5 buoys at 58 km/h on a 13m line and a silver medal in tricks with 1 320 points.

Dieter Kebbel took the gold medal in tricks with 1 720 points and the silver medal in slalom with three buouys at 58km/h on a 13m line. Jean-Paul Wehnert won the  bronze medal in the tricks event. 

The biggest category was the over 35 age category, which in the All African Championships includes the over 35, over 45 and over 55-year-olds. The men’s slalom division was won by Robbie Alexander of South Africa with three buouys at 55km/h on a 11,25m line, setting a new All Africa Championships record in the process.  From Namibia, in the slalom event, Ulf Zimmer came eighth, Nikolai Heger 10th and Gary Knight 12th.

In the over 35 individual trick division, Nikolai Heger came second with 2 190 points while he was awarded the silver medal for the IWWF All Africa trick champion. Gary Knight came sixth with 1 340 points.  

The Namibian team was complemented by a strong organisational and officials team.

Martin Schmidt and Bernd Kebbel both Namibians, were the only two international boat drivers, meticulously towing 35 skiers for four rounds in both slalom and tricks. Namibia’s international calculator Conny Kebbel and two national Judges, Maika Eysselein and Isabel Zimmer, also made a major contribution to the jury panel. 

Schmidt, who is also the president of the African Waterski Confederation, was awarded the IWWF medal for exceptional contributions to waterski on the African continent at the concluding prizegiving ceremony. 

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