Yass local Sam Longmore broke two Australian slalom records and came away with two medals at the Malibu 2022 Water Ski National Championships in Mulwala from March 31 to April 4.
In her first-ever competition, Sam won a medal in the seated slalom and seated trick ski and smashed an Australian slalom record in the disabled division by an impressive 24 buoys. Then three days later Sam broke her own record by one buoy.
Slalom water skiing involves the use of multiple buoys in the skiing course, which skiers must pass to complete the competition.
Typically, a slalom ski course will be made up of 25 buoys, with two entrance gates at the beginning and end of the course. It’s important to note that, six out of the 25 buoys are designated as turn buoys, meaning that skiers have to pass by these buoys in a zigzag pattern.
These turn buoys are placed 11.5 meters away from the course, so the skiers will have to exert extra effort to pass these turns. The remaining buoys serve to act as markers to ensure the towboat goes in a straight line during the competition.
Beginning at their chosen speed and rope length competitors must pass through the course before coming back around and repeating it again at a faster speed each time.
The previous Australian seated slalom record was four buoys at 31km/h on an 18-metre rope and Sam achieved four buoys at 43km/h on a 13-metre rope.
She said 43km/h might not sound like much until you’re behind the boat because when you skim across the wake from one buoy to another you almost double the boat’s speed like a slingshot across the water.
Impressively, Sam holds onto the rope with just one hand and doesn’t always have the best balance due to her disability. She’s been using a wheelchair for nearly nine years after a car accident on the Barton Highway, followed by another accident 45 minutes later when the ambulance transporting her to the Canberra Hospital also crashed.
“I’m only hanging on to the rope behind the boat with one hand so if I hit or steer the ski in one quick wrong direction, then I’m head butting that water very quickly,” she said. “It’s a great challenge for the mind and the body.”
Sam had wanted to enter a few competitions in the lead-up to Nationals but simply didn’t have the access. However, friend and coach Jason Sleep, who has been a part of the disabled water-skiing community for over 20 years, trained with Sam in Bridgewater, Victoria (about a seven-hour drive away).
She said it was really cool to be able to ski with the best in Australia.
“I did two days’ worth of skiing with him in the beginning, and he managed to make some phone calls and get me involved because he saw some potential, so that was really exciting.”
Sam only began training this season but first tried her hand at water skiing in 2019.
“I spent that whole season drinking most of the dam’s water that I was skiing in, just trying to give it a go.”
After Nationals, Sam said she had a few stacks on the trick board throughout the competition and described it as “headbutting concrete” due to the speed skiers zoom across the water.
Despite that Sam has always been rather sporty and enjoys being active.
“It is quite a tough sport on the body, and you have to be quite fit to do it well,” she said. “But also, the fact that I feel like everyone else that’s doing the sport – I’m very involved.”
“I’m doing exactly the same thing as an able-bodied person, just sitting down and that makes me feel good.”
“Even when you do fall off, you still get that time in the water to float and it makes your body feel just so weightless and so good, it’s almost pain-free.”
Sam said she also enjoys that her stack is exactly the same as an able-bodied skier’s stack.
“It’s not just a disabled sport if that makes sense. It’s a sport for everyone,” she said. “That was the best thing about being down at Nationals at Mulwala, we were celebrated just like all the able-bodied people were and that was an amazing feeling.”
Sam is still in a bit of shock about her big win but said she’s excited to see what’s next. The skier has already been picked up to attend the World Championships in September 2023. We’ll be rooting for you Sam!
By Brianna O’Rourke