Posts Tagged ‘brutal falls’

2012 US Nationals from Mike Holts, “Holtzy”, eyes.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Sunday Evening August 5th, 2012

I arrived in Waco, Texas today about 12 noon. I want to get familiar with the time zone, the site, boat, equipment, and the water so that I’m most prepared to ski the 2012 National Barefoot Championships.

I stopped at the site today; the entry gate to the facility was locked. Did that stop me? I DON’T THINK SO. So I quickly developed Plan B to figured a way in; I parked the car, squeezed past the gate and walked about ½ mile and found ‘life,’ Heath Cooper my buddy who installed the 409 PCM motor in my boat two years ago, I love this guy.

Mike Holt from tumble up flyer

Heath gave me a tour of the facility, there is a water-ski cable par, multiple water ski lakes, and some special breed animals; it’s an amazing venue –  HYPERLINK “http://www.barefootskiranch.com/” \o “http://www.barefootskiranch.com/” http://www.barefootskiranch.com/.

The facility has two ski lakes; Lake 1 is long and wide; the good part is that the length gives the skier lots of set up time, but bad part is that when the wind pick up, the lake can get choppy. Lake 2 is shorter and narrow; the bad news is that the short length requires a quick ‘set up’ which places pressure on the skiers to rush. Short set up can cause a skier to loose concentration, often without positive results. The good news is that the water should be less choppy in Lake 2.

After the tour, I see my former ski partner David Small, the current three-time World Champion. We hang out for an hour or so; it was very enjoyable and we plan to ski in the morning. This is why I arrived early; find someone to give me some pulls behind the boat on the water I’ll be competing, but to have the current World Champion be my driver/coach was beyond what I was praying for. David and I planned on dinner later tonight and maybe some ‘night barefooting.’

David Small jumping

I get to my room, the air is cool, and I’m excited to just chill out for the evening. THEN I realize that I’m to meet David for dinner at 8 pm and ‘night barefooting.’ I’m thinking … I don’t think those are good ideas now that I’m in my room.

Problem solved, I text David and blow him off; I’m at peace with my decision because I want to be ready for some serious practice in the morning. A few hours later I get a call from another ski buddy and he wants me to go to the site to do some skiing, but again I’m comfortable just relaxing tonight, so I blow him off.

Monday August 6th, 2012

I stopped by the site today to ski with David Small, I have a knot in my stomach and I’m stressed out; my big concerns in skiing at a different venue behind a different boat include:

How is the ‘table’ behind the boat?

What is the top speed can I expect?

How fast does the boat get me ‘out of the hole’?

Overall how do I feel?

What does the water feel like?

The answers were all very positive.

The wake is ‘no worries’.

I need 46.5 mph in slalom and the boat is fine.

The pull out of the ‘hole’ was soft and I need to adjust my call.

The water is interesting, the temperature is hotter and the water feels ‘soft.’ Not sure what to do, maybe I should ‘up’ my speed.

It was just David and I and felt like old times, I feel better now after practice, handle at the end of all runs.

Tuesday August 7th, 2012

Stopped by the site today and skied with Keith St Onge (KSO) who is a two-time World Champion and No. 1 rated skier in the world with his wife Lauren St Onge (she’s so sweet). I’m not relaxed because it’s hard to ski with a World Champion and be relaxed, but I do feel better knowing the venue, what to expect from the boat, and the water.

WHAT do you mean we are not skiing today behind the boat I skied behind yesterday! Great, skiing with KSO and now I have to start all over again ‘testing.’ KSO skies amazing (I feel so small). I’m very pleased with this boat, except the boat doesn’t get 46.5 mph; it’s a max of 45… not good. The water feels soft and I’m confused, do I call for more speed than normal, or stick with my standard call… big question.

I’m judging for the first time at these Nationals, so I spend 4 hours reviewing videos of skiers so that I can be prepared for the next day assignments.

Wednesday July 8th 2012

I wake up early to do more video review, have a great breakfast and go to the site to ‘hang’ with my barefooting ‘tribe members; We ‘get it,’ we understand the years of commitment to excellence, the sacrifices required, overcoming injuries, pain, disappointments along the way, we all want to do out best, but sometimes we show our worst. Competitive barefooting can be a terrible ‘head game….’

A few hours pass and I’m in boat to judge; I’m satisfied with my performance, I’m prepared. After an hour break I go into the next ‘boat crew’ to judge Open Pro Men in Tricks. My first day at Nationals I’m judging the best skiers in the planet that do so many complicated tricks in such a short time? I visit with an official and explain that this is my first time judging at National; did they ‘really’ want me in the boat? They said you’ll be okay “Holtzy”, we have video backup if needed.

I’m in the boat, skiers ski in a ‘seeded’ order where the lowest ranked skier is first and the top rank skier (KSO) is last; this allows me to warm up my skills. All of my preparation in video judging the past two years and judging elite skiers in our Southern Regional tournaments prepared me well. I did a good job in the boat and out of 32 pulls we (not just me) had to do ‘video review’ of 5 runs.

What I learned in judging the best in the world is that out of the 16 skiers there was only a handful that didn’t fall. These skiers are doing the most difficult tricks in the world and one slight mistake is disaster.

This knowledge gives me confidence that if I fall during any of my runs, its okay, it’s just that it wasn’t my day. Failure on any given day or moment doesn’t define who I am. I’m proud of my dedication, focus, commitment to excellent, and to do the best I can.

Thursday Morning, August 10, 2012

This afternoon I ski in Open Pro Men Slalom; I ski with all of the ‘top dogs’. I think my head is screw on straight, we’ll see in a few hours…

Oh yea, the boat to be used for Open Pro Men Slalom IS NOT one of the two boats I ‘tested’ Monday or Tuesday… great, another thing for the head to screw with. What speed do I call? Can I make my back-deep-to-one start on the first pass?

Thursday Afternoon, August 10, 2012

I skied today for the first time in Open Pro Men Slalom and it occurs at the 2012 National Championships. Just a little history, there are three ‘classes’ of competitors, age group, Open, and Open Pro. All skiers automatically qualify to ski in their age group against their peers. The goal of all advance barefooters to one day ski ‘Open.’ When I was younger, 30 years ago, I dreamed of one day skiing Open, but as life took its actions on my life (family/kids) I gave up that dream over 20 years ago.

However, I continued to ski with the best skiers in the world like David Small, Mike Salber, KSO, Rich Powel, Lane Bowers, Mike Seipel, Steve Merritt, Zenon Bilas, and others. After 24 years of skiing, I went Open in 2008; the cool part was that I did it at the National Championships before all the top skiers in the USA; and I won my 5th National Championship in the Men 5 division, and won the Male Barefoot Athlete of the Year.

Last year I ‘toyed’ with the idea that if I trained hard and smart enough, maybe I could qualify to ski in the “elite” division at the 2012 World Championships. To ski “elite” I had to get a qualifying score that matched the top 20th place skier in the WORLD. That score was 15.6. Up to this point, my best slalom run was 15.2 scored at the 2011 Southern Regional Championships at the age of 56 years young! For me to qualify to ski ‘elite slalom’ at the worlds with a score of 15.6 is almost impossible, but set this as my goal last year.

In July 2012, a month ago, I skied 15.8 in slalom as judged by Richard Gray the Chairman of the World Barefoot Council. With this score I not only ski in the ‘Seniors’ division at the 2012 World Championships, I’ll be skiing with David Small, Keith St Onge, Peter Fleck and other elite skiers at the age of 61!

I’m stunned that I slalom 15.8, but the biggest shocker comes the next day; I skied a 16.2 which qualified m3 to ski Open Pro at the 2012 National Barefoot Championships.

So now at the age of 61, I’m at the starting dock… I’ve eaten properly, gotten rest, drank liquids, trained as hard as I could with the best in the world, worked out to get a strong core, had massage therapy and visited chiropractor when needed, keep my focus, I’ve done EVERYTHING I can think of to be totally prepared for this instant.

I’m in the water, my heart is racing, I clean my hands  with soap so that I can grip the handle; especially since I do a ‘back-deep-to one’ for the start. With this start everything has to be perfect, rarely have I ever missed this start in a tournament, but I have missed it before, the last time was at the 2010 World Championships in Germany, let’s not review that story. Why do such a difficult start when it’s not required in Slalom? It’s a long story and one day I’ll explain…

Okay I’m in the water, a boat judge hands me the ‘tournament handle’ and I’m shocked… the handle is like a slick broom stick and I can’t get grip. I try to rub the handle to get some grip, but it’s time to GO.

I give instructions; ‘gear’, then yell ‘okay,’ the boat lunges harder that I expected, the handle slips from my palms to my finger tips… I’m struggling to not ‘loose the handle.’ I plant my ‘one’ foot in the water, wait for speed, with five officials in the boat, I really don’t have the speed I’m accustomed to. I stay as calm, I make the start, I’m on my feet; I’ve passed the first test, I’m up and ready for slalom.

I attempt to regrip the handle from my finger tips to my palms; it’s not working, this handle is crap, I need to get going, with finger tips. I complete the first crossing one foot, then the second crossing, then after the 3rd crossing and I get pull up and take a hard fall (good thing I have a neck brace). I’m bummed out, I only got 3 points on the first pass (I should have gotten 8)…

The pickup boat gets me and takes me to the end of the course to start the second pass. I give my instructions to the boat judges; I’m just skiing forward, so no drama here (unless I fall). I call 46.5 mph (I should have called 47.5, because of soft water is soft), I complete the pass and score 7.8 points (I typically score 8.2).  My score is 10.8 point… I wanted at least 15.0, would be happy with 15.6 and ecstatic with 16.2, but its official 10.8.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the day, I’m numb. What did I do wrong? In reflecting back, it

was my fault; in practice a few days ago they didn’t have the tournament handles so I used ‘my’ handle. I should have force the driver to use the ‘tournament supplied handle’ so that I would know what to expect. If I had done that I would have know about this problem and I could have come up with a solution.

Mike Front Toe

A few skiers told me they had problems with the handle Paul Stokes (Open Pro) told me “Holtzy that’s why I were gloves, you never know the condition of the tournament supplied handle.”

I plan on getting ski gloves for the Worlds, this WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

Friday August 11, 2012

This morning I’m sick from yesterday’s failure Open Pro Slalom; I don’t want to be here anymore, I hate barefoot tournaments, I want to go home, I want to be in the arms of my wife so that she can ‘baby me.’ The reality is that I have to ski tricks in my age division, Men’s 6 (60-64 years). There are 16 skiers in the event; the lowest seed is 250 points, 2nd seed is 1500 points, and I’m top seed at 2740 points.

After an hour and half of waiting, it’s my turn to perform; I know my wife is on the computer waiting to watch me ski. I’m suited up, I wash my hands with my soap three times, and I rub my hands on the handle to make sure I have ‘the grip.’ I’m pacing back and forth like a race horse waiting to get out of the pen on the dock.

It’s not time; I take the handle, wrap it around my back, and get ready to do a flyer off the dock. I get ready to yell ‘okay’ but the rope gets hanged up in a cleat on the dock and all systems must stop.

The rope gets reset, I wrap the rope around my back, I yell, ‘in gear,’ the boat begins to move forward in idle, the rope tightens up, I yell “okay” and the boat takes off. I take seven steps, launch myself off the dock in superman and pray I make my flying-back-tumble-deep-to-one start. This start is worth 800 points, the highest scoring start. I don’t know when the last time anybody other than myself has done this start at a National Championship.

I land on the water on my chest, ride on the stomach at 2300 rpm, then turn to the backward position, plant one foot in the water, wait for boat speed, the driver David Miller nails the throttle, I still wait for ‘speed’ and then I press the foot in the water and attempt to stand up on one foot.

I make it, the driver pulled me perfectly and I did what I needed to do; I’m stoked. I regrip the handle; pull it in and down to my butt and start the trick run – one foot, one foot reverse, surface hop – wait I don’t think the hop was high enough for credit, so I do the surface hop again, then a turn from backward to forward, then tumble-360-to-one, reverse tumble-360-to-one, tumble-180-to-one, then reverse 180-tumble-to-one. I have an almost the perfect pass, except the double surface hop. You can see the video at:  HYPERLINK “https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohRG1hbDJ0dktidDg” https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohRG1hbDJ0dktidDg

I’m happy with the first pass but I’m still stressed; on the second pass I do a back-deep-to-one start, this is the second most difficult start in barefooting and it’s worth 500 points. I give the boat officials my instructions, the boat tightens the rope, I give the signals ‘in gear’, then ‘okay’ and I roll over on to my stomach. The boat takes off, I wait for speed, plant one foot, press the foot into the water, and when I feel I have sufficient speed I attempt to stand up – and I make it!

Now I do a ‘positional back-to-front turn’ to set up for the first trick; I’ve missed the back-to-front turn before at a National Championship and also once at the 2012 World Championships in Germany. I’m up backward, I get into position for the turn, and attempt the back-to-front turn; I nail it, clean feet-to-feet. I place the handle over my head and do – neck-2-foot, neck-1-foot, neck-1-foot reverse, then a one-foot, one-foot reverse, teeth-2-foot, teeth-1-foot, teeth-1-foot reverse, rope-on-foot, rope-on-foot reverse, tumble-2-foot, and reverse tumbel-2-foot. I did everything and it was flawless.

I know my wife loves the ‘butt slide’ so I do a nice butt slide, look at camera, and give her a signal via the internet that ‘these two passes were for you baby.’

You can see the second video run at:  HYPERLINK “https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohNEpWVHVHTGdhWTA” https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohNEpWVHVHTGdhWTA

Immediately after the trick event I call my wife and tell her ‘I love barefoot waterskiing, I love barefoot tournaments, and I’m so glad I’m here!’

The emotions in competitive barefoot skiing at a National Championships can be overwhelming. This week I had some success and some failures, and lessons learned. I didn’t achieve my goal of skiing at least 15.0 in Open Pro so that I could ski in the Open Pro finals, but I know I did the best I could.

National Record – Later I find out my score was 2700 points, the current record for Men 6 is 1310 points. After record review the runs are reduced to 2650 points; I have the current record in Men 5 and now I have the Men 6 trick record. It might be a long time before anybody breaks the Mens 6 trick record.

National Champion – My terrible slalom pass of 10.8 exceeds the 7.28 of the highest Men 6 skier, so I get 1000 points in the Slalom event for overall; my 2700 points in tricks gives me 1000 points in the tricks event. This results in an over all score of 2000 out of 2000 points; I win the 2012 Overall National Men 6 Champion and I think this is my eighth Overall National Championship win.

My season is not done, I have the World Barefoot Championships in two weeks to complete my season; I have my goals set, we’ll review them in a few weeks.

Holtzy

P.S. Joe Malenfant, the President of the American Barefoot Club (ABC) that the record set today was not accurate and that the actual record was base don my performance at the 2012 Regionals tricks event of 2740 points, which was downgraded to 2720 points!

By : Mike Holt