TORONTO -- Since the introduction of water ski into the Pan American Games in 1995, the U.S. and 2015 host nation Canada have endured a friendly rivalry that has seen each country win the tournament medal count twice and share the honor once. On Wednesday, the story continued as Whitney McClintock of Canada took the women’s overall gold, while Team USA’s Regina Jaquess claimed silver for her 11th Pan Ams medal.
Four-time Pan Ams competitor Jaquess set out to defend her 2011 title as overall champion, beginning the day as the top seed in the competition. With longtime rival and three-time Pan Ams athlete Clintock also in the program, Jaquess knew she needed her best effort to have any hope of defeating the five-time world champion.
“She’s (McClintock) a strong competitor,” said Jaquess. “She’s always going to be one that’s going to be there and be on top.”
The overall competition is made up of three events: slalom, jump and tricks. Athletes earn their spot in the overall based on the amount of points accumulated in the preliminary round.
Jaquess, the women’s world record-holder in slalom, jumped out to an early lead after clearing 4.5 buoys at 38 feet off to finish first. Due to a technicality in McClintock’s final run, she fell behind in the standings, but made up ground in tricks. McClintock scored 8,370 points, while Jaquess suffered a fall on her hand tricks pass and could only muster 5,610 points to finish fourth.
“I really messed up badly in the trick event,” said Jaquess of her performance.
Meanwhile, billed as the top tricks athlete in the competition, 19-year-old Erika Lang of Team USA impressed in the preliminary round, setting a Pan American Games record with 8,590 points. Lang would ultimately finish fourth in the overall competition.
“Tricking is her specialty,” said Jaquess, 31, of her young teammate. “By the time she gets to her next Pan Am Games, she’ll have more fierce competitiveness in her for the slalom and jumping event. It’s just time that she needs to get her slalom and jump better.”
Heading into the final portion of the overall competition, jumping, Jaquess stood 200 points behind McClintock in the standings, putting the gold medal just out of reach. In the windy conditions and choppy waters, jumping the extra 20 feet that would be needed to reclaim the top spot in the rankings just didn’t seem possible.
“It could have maybe been done, but with it being so gusty. … It’s just hard to really get the full amount that you need,” she said.
Although she actually jumped further than McClintock, it wasn’t enough to seal the gold. McClintock had accumulated 2,796.3 overall points, while Jaquess finished with 2,670.3.
With more medals up for grabs in women’s slalom, tricks and jump later this week, Jaquess will look to bounce back.
“It will be another day,” said Jaquess. “I’ll put all my effort into all three of them and see where we end out on each of those three events.”
On the men’s side, U.S. water skier Adam Pickos did not compete in the men’s jumping preliminary run, but accumulated enough points in tricks and slalom to earn a bid for the overall final. Pickos ultimately opted not to participate in the overall competition, saving his energy for the tricks and slalom final, which will be held Thursday, July 23.