Jacinta Carroll competes in night jump at the 2023 Moomba Masters

Jacinta Carroll: Undefeated, Unmatched, and Unforgettable


Jacinta Carroll: Undefeated, unmatched, and unforgettable

Jacinta Carroll competes in night jump at the 2023 Moomba Masters

Carroll won her 10th consecutive Moomba Masters title this year (image: @vincephotography)

By Jack Burden

The sport of water skiing farewelled an all time great this past weekend. The lively Moomba Masters crowd relished the chance to witness Jacinta Carroll hit the jump ramp one last time, even as she pushed herself to compete just 100 days after giving birth. No woman, perhaps no skier, attacks the ramp with quite the same intensity as the powerful Australian.

Carroll, who grew up just outside Melbourne in Geelong, has dominated women’s jump for over a decade. Her most recent achievement, securing her 10th consecutive Moomba Masters jump title just three months after giving birth, serves as further evidence of her brilliance. No one would have blamed her for skipping this year’s tournament as she recovered from her pregnancy.

Yet, at the same time, the occasion was bittersweet. As I watched her take to the water, I didn’t want it to end, because, even before she officially announced her retirement, her recent absences had hammered home the fact that the greatest female jumper of all time wouldn’t be around forever.

Despite her ongoing dominance, Carroll has stepped back from elite-level competition while still at the pinnacle of her career. Her last competitions outside Australia were in 2021, where she secured her fifth consecutive world title. Since then, she has continued to compete at the Moomba Masters but has primarily focused on her career as a physical therapist and her growing family.

Carroll’s achievements have completely overhauled expectations in women’s jump. As the first and only woman to surpass the 200-foot mark, she has maintained an undefeated streak in professional events since 2013. Carroll hasn’t just won every event; she has won them by unprecedented margins, commonly beating the rest of the field by up to 5 meters.

Yet, this dominance has prompted reflection within the sport. Carroll herself has expressed unease about the unintended consequences of her success, with some competitors assuming a secondary position before even competing.

In a candid discussion on The Water Ski Podcast, Carroll highlighted the dilemma: “It’s good that girls now can pursue 200 [feet] and can go ‘she can do it, why can’t I?’ That barrier is not there anymore. On the flip side, I know in the past there have been girls that have said ‘why would I come to Moomba for second place?’ Now they’ve lost it already.”

The debate centers on whether close competition or the pursuit of the highest possible performance is more captivating for the sport. Carroll poses the question, “Is it more exciting to see two girls battle it out, somebody has to win on their last jump, they win by 10 centimeters, is that more exciting? Or is seeing somebody go much further trying to chase a record more exciting?”

While a hyperfocus on records and performance can sometimes be detrimental to the sport, ultimately, it is big names and storylines that draw people’s attention. Asking if Carroll’s dominance has hurt women’s jumping is a bit like asking if other dominant athletes like Serena Williams or Lindsey Vonn were detrimental to their respective sports. We wouldn’t ask an athlete like Usain Bolt to run a little slower to make the race more interesting.

In fact, having one or two dominant competitors can be beneficial for a sport, at least for a period. This dominance can inspire others to strive for similar heights. Look at Andy Mapple; his prolonged dominance significantly raised the bar in men’s slalom.

For a generation of water ski fans, Carroll epitomizes women’s jump. Storylines like her quest for 200 feet have captivated us. Everyone’s had a favorite pick at some time or another for who the next skier, perhaps still an up-and-coming junior, would be to beat Carroll. Most importantly, she has redefined the expectations for women’s jump.

Women’s skiing, and in particular jump, has always struggled for the same recognition and publicity as the men. Even looking at the sport’s so-called golden age, women’s jumpers had a hard road to becoming professional. It was ultimately the star-power of Deena Brush Mapple, Carroll’s closest historical peer, that helped to get jump added to the Coors Light Pro Tour for its 4th season in 1987. Brush went undefeated for over 20 tour stops, including the entirety of the 1988 and 1989 seasons, yet no one looks back and speculates that her dominance hurt the sport.

In the post-Jacinta landscape, women’s jumpers have a hard road ahead. It’s true that everything they do will always come with comparisons to Carroll. But this is no different from the shadow of Andy Mapple hanging over men’s slalom. Ultimately, having a GOAT to compare and contrast the current athletes creates intrigue around each new milestone. Certainly, no one would question Mapple’s legacy on the sport; likewise, we applaud Carroll for all her sacrifices and contributions to women’s jump.

Monday’s performance seemed like the perfectly orchestrated exit, a final victory at the event that launched her professional career. A lap of honor in front of the hometown crowd. Retiring with her undefeated streak intact, stretching across 12 consecutive seasons. Few athletes are given the opportunity to retire on their own terms, at the top of their game. But then Jacinta has always been special.

Is it too much to ask, as fans, to see Carroll jump just a few more times? It appears so. She has given everything she has and more. It is our loss; the sport is just a little bit richer with her in it.

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Travis Anderson
2 months ago

We are so fortunate to have seen her jump for so long, so well and so far! She wears her heart on her sleeve and is so gutsy. Best of luck to her going forward in life.

Sherri Slone
2 months ago

Great article. One of the greatest athletes of all time.

Josie Christie
2 months ago

What an amazing article!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This won’t be the last time the world hears Jacinta’s name. It may not be for water skiing but knowing the person Jacinta is she is destined for greater things.

Thank you Jacinta for being the best role model for our Aussie skiers and for allowing us to be part of that journey!