Everyone has now heard of snowboarding, and water-skiing is old hat. But not that many people are aware of wakeboard, a cross between the two. The Swiss championships get underway near Lake Geneva this weekend.This content was published on August 17, 2000 - 16:50
The Swiss have been among the pioneers of this sport in Europe, and many of the world's best wakeboarders will be in action on a small lake just over the border in France at Divonne-les-Bains.
The organisers said the site was chosen for its still waters, which it says guarantee a high-quality competition.
Among the big names of the sport expected at the competition are the current European champion, Andy Meyenberg, and the number two in Europe, Nicolas Chevalley, as well as the winner of the European Tour in 1998, Cyril Cornaro.
Other prominent competitors are the former junior European champion in 1998, Julien Gafner, and Justine Charrière, who came third in last year's junior European championship.
The Swiss Wakeboard Association (SWBA) believes the prominence of the Swiss on the international scene is due to the speed with which the sport caught on in Switzerland. Imported from the United States, the first wakeboard competitions were held in Switzerland five years ago.
The first European championship in 1998 confirmed Switzerland's strength in the sport. Sixty-five wakeboarders took part, and the Swiss walked away with 18 medals: nine gold, six silver, and three bronze.
In order to preserve Switzerland's dominance, the SWBA has started organising a national tour this year. Three competitions throughout the summer are intended to boost the popularity of the sport and help discover new talent.
But competition is growing as the sport attracts more media coverage in Europe. The television channels, Eurosport, MTV and France's M6 all cover the discipline.
by Malcolm Shearmur
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