Portimao, the 2019 European City of Sport and the largest town in the western Algarve hosted the opening round of the UIM-ABP Aquabike 2019 World Championships.
The Grand Prix of Portugal saw over 70 riders from 26 countries, including many of the worlds elite riders entertaining the crowds with three days of non-stop action on the Arade River. A full program of racing in Runabout GP1, Ski GP1, Ski Ladies GP1, Slalom and Freestyle as well as the younger pilots competing in the Ski Juniors World Championship.
Making her debut in the blue ribbon class, based out of Miami, Florida and representing the Americas, Andrea Dominguez, the 25-year-old Colombian made history becoming the first woman to ride in the premier category.
With junior championships, multiple national championships and the first Colombian to win the South American Championship already behind her, the pilot with the sweetest voice of the paddock explains.
“When I was small I said wow! look at these guys, I want to replicate these moves so my father taught me. Racing with the best guys in the world has been a dream of mine for 14 years, so when Aquabike said to me Andrea, yes you can race in GP, I said yes lets do it, racing with the awesome guys really is my dream come true”.
Andrea has set herself a two year target. “This year I just want to try to learn a lot, training hard, running, swimming and jumping on the Sea-Doo, it is why I moved to Miami. Next year I want to be in the top ten and hopefully this will encourage other women to join.”
After two races Andrea had collected some points on the leader board and stood one place above her mentor, world ranked number one Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq who experienced a disastrous start to his campaign, destroying one engine and then breaking down on a borrowed craft.
Having an equally bad time was the other American challenger, #22 Anthony Radetic who had arrived in Portugal with hopes of a good result. Running 18th on the final lap of round one Anthony’s engine management light bought his race to an abrupt end. The engine destroyed it looked like his weekend was already over.
Sunday morning though a small glimmer of hope shone through with the early morning sun. “This is what I love about these guys, nothing is too much trouble to help each other.”
Stepping up to the plate, Team Croatia along with Anthony’s cousin Eddie the trio set about replacing the dead engine with a brand new one. The sun baking down on the towns sculpture laden promenade the guys had no time for looking around as they toiled in the heat. With just 20 minutes till race start the ski was launched and some valuable minutes were put on the engine. A dockside service and more oil, with the Stars and Stripes in hand #22 made his way out to the start.
All this work was in vain, the engine once again ending his valiant effort. The hard work went unrewarded with zero points on the board but he did gain many new friends among the Portuguese fans for his resilience and determination.
“Yes we are disappointed with the result but we can’t dwell, we have to fix the problems and be ready for the next round.”
Laying down the marker the defending World Champion, Jeremy Perez and Rashed Al Tayer shared the spoils with the Team Abu Dhabi pilot taking his first ever Grand Prix victory. His weekend made even more special after already winning the Saturday night Slalom competition with close racing and pinpoint accuracy.
The Freestyle drew large crowds to the river banks to watch the defending world champion Rashed Al Mulla extend his remarkable unbeaten Grand Prix victories to seven rounds.
The defending champion in Women’s Ski Latvian, Krista Uzare had to join the spectators, nursing a fractured tibula and perched upon crutches she could only watch on as her closest rival, Sweden’s Emma-Nellie Ortendahl who dominated both races taking a 50 point maximum into round two.
Also due to miss round two the Krista admits that her season will be a struggle but is determined to return for round three in China fitter and stronger than ever.