This final Stop of the Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup series, supported by the Singapore Sports Council, had it all ? hot sunshine, 16,500 spectators, perfect water conditions, outstanding performances and a fair share of drama.

The 2006 Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup series included Stops in Qatar, France, Northern Ireland, Russia, China and Singapore. This final HSBC sponsored Singapore Stop was for the wakeboarders. The Waterski final Stop was in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland in August. For the 31 wakeboard stars from 13 countries present, the stakes were high. At stake were the Cash Prize of US 60,000 dollars, the end-of-season bonus of US 30,000 dollars, plus the coveted World Cup Series titles.

In the Saturday preliminary rounds, a combination of 30C temperatures and heavy monsoon rains added to the pressures on the athletes. Sunday weather was perfect with hot sunshine and flat calm water at the downtown Bedok Reservoir. A record crowd filled the arena for these Finals.

Ten pro women competed early in the morning in two five person semifinal heats. There were no surprises in the six who made it through to the afternoon finals with dominant scores coming from Emily Copeland-Durham (USA), Dallas Friday (USA) and Maeghan Major (USA). Denise De Haan (NED) also performed very well. This was where the drama began.

The hot favourite, Dallas Friday, with her gymnastics background was third last to enter the finals arena. She had already won the World Cup stops in both Qatar and Beijing. At the closing stage of her outstanding performance, she landed badly on her board off the wake. The excellent Changi Sports Medicine rescue operations were on the spot immediately, but, unfortunately, a suspected broken leg removed her from further competition. Nevertheless, her score of 54.23 points was impressive by any standards.

Emily Copeland-Durham, the defending Singapore World Cup title holder, pushed the leading score up to 54.76 in spite of some miraculous recovery movements in her routine. The current World Cup series points leader, Maeghan Major (USA), was last off the dock but her disappointment of a 46.56 score was only good enough to secure third place on this occasion, passing the 2006 Singapore World Cup title to Copeland for the second successive year. All three podium places were taken by USA riders in spite of tough competition from China, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

The pro men’s head-to-head competition began with eight riders grouped into four pairs in the quarter finals behind the MasterCraft XStar boat. The big battle here was between Phillip Soven (USA), the overall 2005 World Cup series winner, Rusty Malinoski (CAN), who won the Beijing stop last June and Danny Harf (USA), the current World Cup series points leader.

Soven dominated round one. The four survivors in the semifinals were Chad Sharpe (CAN), Phillip Soven, Andrew Adkison (USA) and Danny Harf. This line-up was a dream combination for the thousands of cheering spectators and it delivered some extraordinary performances on the water. Eventually it was an all USA finals head-to-head showdown between Danny Harf and Phillip Soven with Sharpe and Adkison dropping out in Round two. This pitched the overall 2006 Series leader against the 2005 Singapore reigning World Cup champion.

It may have been the event pressures, but Harf ran in to all sorts of uncharacteristic problems on this occasion and Soven took the 2006 Singapore title with a stunning performance and a score of 79.12 ? over 30 points ahead of Harf. Soven also won the stop at Enghien-les-Bains near Paris last June. This final Stop in the 2006 Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup calendar had some really novel innovations. The spectators were encouraged to vote by SMS message for their HSBC Zero Gravity Rider of the day ? and the popular Danny Harf captured most votes plus a healthy cash bonus for doing so. In Singapore?s glorious sunshine, a RipCurl Photography Competition on site also generated a record number of entries.

With a committed focus towards the future, HSBC also launched a Junior Riders development programme nine months ago. This involved the Singapore Waterski and Wakeboard Federation coaching 120 youngsters aged ten to eleven every weekend. The best 16 from nine local Primary Schools then competed at this World Cup Stop under exactly the same conditions as the international wakeboard riders present.