You know you’re the best when finishing second comes as a bit of a surprise. Freddy Krueger has been on a nonstop winning streak since the first tournament [Moomba Masters] back in March in Melbourne, Australia. Since Moomba, he has won the World Cup stop in Mandurah, Australia; the Perth Night Jump; the World Cup stop in Palembang, Indonesia; the 54th Masters in Pine Mountain, Georgia; the Malibu Open in Milwaukee; and the Vladimir Filin Memorial in Moscow. The Nightmare was finally stopped by Canadian skier Ryan Dodd in his home country at the MasterCraft Pro Water Ski Shootout in Calgary. Dodd has had a great season himself, finishing second in all pro tournaments attended [due to an ankle injury, he sat out the Malibu Open and Vladimir Filin Memorial]. These two jumpers are incredible athletes to watch, as they continue to push each other and the sport. I interviewed them both separately after the MasterCraft Shootout, and here’s what they had to say about the all new MasterCraft boat, Dodd’s win and their plans moving toward the World Championships in Santiago, Chile.
By Geena Krueger
What do you love about the new MasterCraft ProStar?
For me, traditionally being a three-event skier, being involved in this process was pretty cool because they stuck to it the whole way. They put equal energy and effort into making it the best slalom boat, the best jump pull, and the best trick setup. The most exciting part for me, now that I specialize in jump, is that we got a ridiculously strong jump pull. I’ve never gone so fast at the ramp.
How does it affect jumpers with the wakes being smaller?
Well, there are two styles to crossing the wakes in jump: You can get big air and fly the wakes like Freddy [Krueger] does, or you can do the exact opposite — which is my style — slicing through them with the skis on the water. Originally, I thought this would just be unbelievable for my style. It was interesting, though, because I honestly would say Freddy adapted quicker. The first set he tripped a little bit because he didn’t get as much air, but then he realized, “hey I’m not losing as much ground,” brought it a little further down the lake, got a little less air off the wakes, his timing was bang on, and he started kicking it!
And how does it affect your style of jumping?
For me just timing wise, I’m used to crossing the wake and feeling the pressure of my body hitting this big wake. I know its going to help me just simply by not getting off balance and getting to hold my direction.
How did it feel to finally win against Freddy at the MasterCraft Pro Water Ski Shootout in Calgary?
Yeah, it feels good. For me it was an interesting year because I felt like I was jumping well at the competitions in the spring. Freddy honestly stepped it up and skied even better this spring. I give him credit. He must have done some hard work in the off-season — he was on fire. I was really excited this week for the win, but on the other hand, I’d say we both slipped up a little bit in the finals. I feel like I got a bit lucky.
How are you moving forward with this toward Worlds coming up in November?
I know I got a lot more work to do if I want to be in a place where I know I can win Worlds and have the upper hand even if he [Freddy] does ski well. That’s where I want to be. It’s going to involve a lot of hard work and solid planning until the end of November.
In an interview earlier this year, you mentioned personal performance is more important than winning. How do you feel your performance is going?
Well, I was really happy with my performance at the Shootout. I wanted to go a little bit further, but I achieved my goal. I learned a lot of lessons throughout the year, especially being top seed at Masters. Freddy went out and put a 231-foot jump. I just completely changed my plan and said, “Hey, this is my time I’m going to go 240. I’m going to blow it out of the water.” That’s what got me.
So how did that change what you did at the Shootout?
This tournament, I just stayed within myself, just did my own thing. Did my skiing. I was actually relaxed. Going easier. Slowing things down. Instead of that out-of-your-comfort-zone, all-out aggressive attack, I just kind of did my thing and did a nice smooth jump. And next thing you know, I won the event. I was really happy.
At the beginning of the season, you mentioned one of your main goals was to just stay healthy and have a smooth season. I know you’re battling a bit with your ankle, but how’s it going for you right now?
You could say I’ve been battling with my ankle, but on the other hand, I’ve just been following my plan. I’ve been taking note of wear-and-tear on the body and listening to it. In the past, I used to just push through them and go even harder. I didn’t go to the Malibu or the tournament in Russia, but I knew rest and steady training at home was necessary, and at the end of the day, I’m in Calgary healthy. The plan is on pace.
Any final words that you want to say to Freddy after taking away his winning streak this season?
It’s been fun. Working with Freddy on the design of the new MasterCraft and tweaking it – we’re on the same team with that, so it’s been fun. On the other hand, we show up at an event, and we compete all out against each other. Without him there, it just wouldn’t be the same, so I have to thank Freddy for pushing me this year, for continuing to step it up. I’m sure year’s passed I’ve done the same with him. That’s why we keep getting better and are pushing the sport. And yeah, he makes it fun!
What are the most valuable aspects about the new MasterCraft ProStar to you?
To have what we think is a world-record-capable jump boat. It’s got to be able to have the power to perform, which is basically a balancing act between your propeller and the bottom of the boat. What we’re excited about is that we really found that combination between a boat that is incredibly strong yet smooth.
How do the smaller wakes factor into your style of jumping (jumping the wakes as opposed to slicing through them)?
I’ve had a lot of people ask me that, and the thing that is working out is typically you get a boat that has small wakes, but it creates a dip on the far side of the wake. If you hit that lower wake and don’t get much air, you’re going to land in that dip, and it trips you. With the MasterCraft, the wakes are very small, very easy to cut through, but there’s no dip on the other side. Whether I land close to the wakes or further out, I’m still landing on a nice stable flat surface — the reality is the closer I can land to the second wake, the longer I have to edge, create load and direction to be in the bottom of the jump. So it’s actually, in the end, an advantage.
At the beginning of the season, one of your main goals was to keep your foot on the gas pedal and to keep improving. Do you feel like you have been following this goal so far?
I think I’ve done OK at that. Now it’s a kind of a balancing act of trying to improve, trying to rest, yet not turning my body down at the same time so I have something left in the tank. My disappointment in Calgary was I didn’t adjust well to the slightly changing conditions. To win these tournaments, you got to do that. You got to be right-on every time. At the same time, it’s like getting some cold water thrown on you. It reminds you that one little slip up, and someone’s going to take it away from you. So as I head into these last few tournaments of the year, I need to make sure I’m focused and ready.
Your winning streak was broken. Are you disappointed?
Second place against someone with Ryan [Dodd’s] quality of jumping is certainly not going to have me lowering my head. I know the adjustments that I didn’t make. I learned from them. I’ve always said when I lose a tournament to these other top jumpers, I might be disappointed in myself if I don’t feel like I performed well or even if I performed great and they still out-jumped me. All these guys work their tails off, and I’m not ever going to let that get me down. To me, it’s about did I do what I needed to do. If I didn’t, than I’ve got to get back on track. Honestly, in Calgary I know the mistakes I made; I’m not going to change the game plan.
Any last words you’d like to say to Ryan after he broke your winning streak this year?
Good on him. Honestly, coming in to the season, everyone wants to go out and win every event. Ryan, he’s just too good, too focused for me to slip up and expect to still walk away with a win. You know I’m just not going to get that lucky. He skied great. I know for him, it’s a confidence-builder. I know he’s not going to come off the gas. He’s going to keep powering through, and I just have to stay focused on what I do, and we’ll see how it works out.