USA Adaptive Water Ski & Wake Sports has announced that Elisha Nelson (Woodland, Calif.) and Gregg Stokes (Rocky Mount, N.C.) have been selected the organization’s Female Athlete of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year, respectively, for 2020.
Combine a three-event skier with a determined attitude, the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of adaptive water ski tournaments, and you end up with three new national slalom records in a calendar year. Nelson (Adaptive, A-2 Category; Able-Bodied, Women 3 division) set her first national slalom record at the 2019 Disabled Water Ski World Championships where she medaled in all three events and placed second overall. When COVID-19 forced the cancelation of regional and national adaptive tournaments in 2020, Nelson took to the able-bodied world, where she competed in Women 3 (ages 35-44) in five tournaments. She broke her 2019 U.S. national A2 slalom record twice (July 11 and 12, 2020) at the Nor Cal State Championships, where she also placed first in slalom and tricks.
Skiing into the 2021 ski season, on Sept. 9, 2020 at the Liquid Zone 2021 ProStar Record Slalom tournament in Pleasant Grove, Calif., Nelson set her third national record and earned a first-place finish. Nelson placed second in slalom and first in tricks at the BAHA September Record 3 event tournament on Sept. 19 at Bell Acqua Lakes in Rio Linda, Calif. She backed that up with a first place in slalom at the BAHA September Record Slalom event on Sept. 20. Nelson finished 2020 with a first place in Women 3 at the NorCal MasterCraft Ball of Spray Cash Prize Tournament on Oct. 3, which was also held at Bell Acqua.
A pandemic and lack of adaptive water ski tournaments did not prevent Stokes (Adaptive, A-2 Category; Able-Bodied, Men 6 Division) from competing in 2020. Stokes, a three-event skier, competed in Men 6 (ages 60-64) in five tournaments, which resulted in his being ranked 19th overall in the U.S. in Men 6. Additionally, he placed second overall at the North Carolina State Championships, fifth overall at the VELUX Southern Regionals by MasterCraft and 10th overall at the GOODE Water Ski National Championships.
After a 30-year hiatus, Stokes commenced skiing again in 2010, later competing at adaptive tournaments. Stokes was the first adaptive water skier from North Carolina and the Southern Region to qualify for the able-bodied national championships (2018). He represented the U.S. at the 2019 Disabled Water Ski World Championships, where he medaled in all three events, earning second overall in his category.