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Linton puts best foot forward



Carterton barefoot waterskier Sarah Linton came home with a team’s silver medal and as sixth-best woman from the 2023 world championships in Australia. 

Competing in her seventh world championships, which were held last week on Lake Mulwala in southern New South Wales, Linton improved one spot from her seventh-place finish at the previous world championships in 2018 in Canada after a fifth place in the open women’s jump, sixth in the tricks, and seventh in the slalom.

The 29-year-old was also part of the New Zealand team, who claimed only their third silver medal in the history of the championships. 

“I made the semi finals for all three events, which was my goal going into the world champs,” said Linton. 

“I was very consistent, standing up all my runs and landing every single jump; it’s always great to have no falls in a tournament.”

In the tricks, Linton narrowly missed a place in the five-women final, falling 10 points short of a personal best with a score of 2350. She followed that with seventh in the slalom with scores of 10.10 in round one and the semifinals.

The drama, however, came in the jump, where Linton had to “jump off” with Kimberly Smit from the Netherlands for a place in the final, after both had recorded jumps of 9.9m in the semifinals. 

“We both had to go in the boat and go jump for jump alternating. It was a very exciting event for the spectators but pretty intense for us in the boat. Luckily we are good friends, and we both just tried to enjoy the whole experience.

“I jumped 8.9m, she jumped 9.2m, I got 9.4m, she got 9.2m, I got 8.9m, and then it all came down to her last jump. She managed to get 9.6m, and I missed the finals by only 20cm. We were so close with our scores and definitely put on a great show for the crowd.”

The women’s competition was dominated by Australian Ashleigh Stebbeings, who won the slalom and tricks and was runner-up in the jump behind leading New Zealand woman Georgia Mathis.

The Kiwis’ team silver medal repeated the effort of the first world championships in 1978 and the 2014 event, also held at Mulwala.

“We had 15 skiers skiing across the junior, under 23 and open divisions, and our team managed to bring home two gold, five silver and two bronze individual medals, and the junior team earned bronze in the teams overall behind Australia and USA, and the open team earned silver behind Australia and ahead of USA,” said a proud Linton, who also acted as a team manager along with her father, Ross.  

One of the highlights for Linton was being asked to participate in the night jump on Saturday night, where the barefoot skiers turned on a stunning show of jumping in front of a big crowd of over 1000 people, although she admitted the fun event was a bit daunting. 

“Skiing up to the ramp in the dark with only a couple of lights lighting up the jump is always a pretty crazy feeling; it’s always a little scary but also a lot of fun, especially in front of such a huge crowd,” she said. 

Ninety-five skiers from eight countries competed in the championships.

Linton learned to ski barefoot when she was six years old and has competed since she was 14. As well as being her seventh world championships, it was her 11th event representing New Zealand. 

The highly talented and motivated Linton will now focus on her goal of representing New Zealand in Muay Thai.

However, the national championships planned for Gisborne this weekend have been postponed because of Cyclone Gabrielle, throwing her plans into turmoil. 



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Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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