Siemers poses next to his photo on the USA Water Ski Museum

America Has an Overall Problem and it’s Costing them World Championships


America has an overall problem and it’s costing them World Championships

Siemers poses next to his photo on the USA Water Ski Museum

Jimmy Siemers was the last American to win a World Championships medal in men’s overall, that was in 2005 (image: @jimmy_siemers)

By Jack Burden

Anyone tuning into the Pan American Games last October witnessed one of the most farcical scenes in the history of our sport when American slalom specialist Nate Smith took to the water in the trick event, scoring only side slides. The reason behind this spectacle was the Games’ selection criteria, mandating each country to send both a male and female overall competitor. Rather than taking a chance on emerging talents like Jake Abelson or Blaze Grubbs, the U.S. selection committee opted for Smith to attempt beginner tricks and pass a jump live on television. The decision was just the latest in a long history of neglect for the overall event in the U.S.

Since Jimmy Siemers’ last World Championships in 2009, the U.S. has not selected a single male overall skier to compete at the World Championships. Freddy Krueger is the only other male to represent the U.S. in overall this century. No American male competed in overall, even as an independent, for a decade between 2011 and 2021.

Relying on specialists on the men’s side has proven costly for the U.S. Team over the last three decades. After an undefeated streak through the first 40 years of the World Championships, the U.S. Team has won only 7 out of 17 since 1991. Men’s overall has been a crucial factor, with only four victories occurring without Siemers on the team.

For a nation that produced three-event water skiing legends like Duvall, Roberge, and Suyderhoud, the disappearance of overall skiers raises questions. Mastering all three events is incredibly difficult, is this just a pipeline issue? Unlikely. Since 2010, the U.S. has had 10 different skiers ranked within the top 20 for men’s overall performances, no other country had more during this period. Four of these skiers have been within the top 10, with only Australia and Great Britain having more, with five each.

However, a closer look at U.S. Team selection reveals consistent neglect of emerging overall talent. In 2011, without Siemers for the first time in a decade, the U.S. overlooked Storm Selsor, who finished the previous season as the 5th ranked overall skier in the world. Instead, they selected a team of three single-event specialists, including a 15-year-old Erika Lang. Had they included Selsor, who skied as an independent and placed 8th in overall, they would have finished within striking distance of Belarus, the winners, rather than the distant third they achieved.

The issue seems to be a lack of support and encouragement for young talent. Zack Worden, simultaneously ranked in the top 3 for men’s jump and top 10 for men’s overall as a teenager, never made a U.S. Team and effectively retired from overall at 19 to focus on jump. The list of such talents denied the opportunity to represent the USA is extensive, including Mike McCormick, Scott Smith, Ryan Fitts, Dylan Schaffer, and Nick Lang.

While the U.S. has shown more support on the women’s side, selecting three overall skiers for the most recent World Championships, the absence of Regina Jaquess, arguably the greatest skier of all time, leaves a void. Beyond Jaquess, the U.S. has won only three women’s overall medals this century, and just one since 2003. With Jaquess approaching 40, supporting young talents like Brooke Baldwin, Kennedy Hansen, and Anna Gay becomes critical for the future.

The most challenging discipline in water skiing requires encouragement and support to thrive. While the U.S. may lack the government funding of some other federations, it can still nurture young athletes, providing them with the recognition and opportunities to represent their country. Without overall talent, America will continue to fall behind countries like Canada and France on the world stage. One thing is certain: putting a novice on the water to trick and jump on a major platform for the sport does no good for anyone.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments