Barefoot trio walking on air

By Fraser Walker-Pearce

THREE Echuca locals have returned victorious from the barefoot water skiing nationals in Mulwala.

Sub-junior Fletcher Ball, men’s division one category Justin Chapman and men’s open Brett Sands all claimed medals while up against the best in the country.

Ball, competing in the junior section, took home a gold medal in the sub-junior jump event and in doing so earned a spot on the Australian junior wider training squad.

Chapman also nabbed silverware, finishing top of the podium in the men’s one jump event, one tier under the open section.

Sands won the open men’s pro slalom — his ‘‘favourite event’’ — and an event he has won before, in 1994.

Sands said it was a monstrous effort from the three Echuca locals.

‘‘Fletcher Ball in the juniors, he picked up a gold, making the Australia junior training squad. He finished in other events really well too,’’ Sands said.

‘‘Justin, he finished gold in jump men’s one. I was in the open class, so he was only one level below the open and he finished second overall in the men’s one category too, so he won two or three on the day.

‘‘I was in the open men’s pro and only skied that one event. Barefoot slalom is and always has been my favourite event.

‘‘I didn’t win that by much — another half dozen skiers were really close.’’

Sands said it was a special moment to once again claim a national title as he and the Australian squad once again look ahead to an international competition.

‘‘It’s been 25 years since I won my last slalom, and it’s my seventh national slalom title. I haven’t won it since 1994,’’ he said.

‘‘The worlds are next year in Sydney so this is basically qualifying for that. Fletcher is in the junior squad, the wider training squad and I’ve made the open squad and will have another crack at the worlds in April 2020.’’