HARRY EAMES, from South Cerney, won a bronze medal at the delayed 2011 European and African Wakeboard Championships held near Johannesburg last week – less than three years after trying the sport for the first time.
It was dream international debut for 14-year-old Cirencester Kingshill school pupil Eames and totally justified his parent’s decision to move their family from St Albans to South Cerney, so that they could have access to WM Ski, one of the top wakeboarding facilities in the country.
130 riders from 16 countries took part in the championships at the Emerald Resorts, Vanderbijlpark in South Africa and Harry’s medal in the Boys’ Wakeboard Final was one of three won by Team GB.
Sam Corne, a former WM Ski graduate and now a professional wakeboarder based in Florida during the winter, won the Open Men’s Final, while Katie Batchelor picked up silver in the Girls’ Wakeboard event.
It was not enough to get GB on to the podium in the team event, however, which was won by Italy.
Harry had to come through three tough rounds before competing in the six-boy final.
Reluctant to show the full repertoire of his skills in a competition that is very tactical, Harry finished only third in the first qualifying round, although his group did include the eventual winner Nicolo Caimi from Italy.
He therefore had to pull out all the stops on the second day in Last Chance Qualifying (LCQ) and did so with an excellent routine that topped his division.
Second place behind Israel’s Guy Firer in the semi-final earned his place in the final where he was beaten only by Caimi and Firer – older boys who have grown up around wakeboarding.
Harry has come a long way in a short time under the guidance of WM Ski coach Steve Dyer.
“We had a family holiday in the Cotswolds in Easter 2009 and all tried wakeboarding,” said Harry’s mum Lucy, a personal trainer.
“We loved the way of life down here and, as our jobs were adaptable, we decided to move the following winter.”
Harry added: “I loved wakeboarding straight away. I have spent the last two summers riding at WM Ski on both boat and cable and the goal is to become a professional wakeboarder and compete at the highest level I can.”
Johannesburg provided Eames’ best ever result, eclipsing his third place finish at the Junior Boys’ Nationals last year.
Next up for Harry, who helped demonstrate the sport at the Boat Show in London recently, are some domestic competitions before he prepares for the 2012 version of the European and African Wakeboard Championships which takes place in the Ukraine during August.
n The trip to South Africa for Harry and Lucy Eames was funded by Watermark.