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Greatest GB skier dies - Jane Peel, PlanetSKI
Monday August 31, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

52-year old Andy Mapple passed away last month. Here we pay tribute to the skier who practised his passion not on snow, but on water.

Waterskiing isn't in the Olympics.

If it were Andy Mapple would probably have been the most successful British Olympian of all time. More successful than Steve Redgrave and Chris Hoy, who've both been knighted for their achievements. 

But Andy Mapple was hardly known outside the minority sport of waterskiing.

He was a six-times World Champion, his titles spanning an incredible 20 years between 1981 and 2001, during which the Championships were held 11 times. 

He also broke the slalom World Record 11 times. That achievement is phenomenal, particularly considering the nature of this intensely physical sport.

In his career, Mapple clocked up 168 professional victories. 

Even after he had 'retired' from professional competition in 2004, to concentrate on designing skis and coaching other potential champions, he continued to compete and won the last of his three Senior World Titles (for veterans) just under a year ago at the age of 51. 

One of GB's greatest sports starsOne of GB's greatest sports stars














Although he had lived for more than 30 years in Florida, waterskiing capital of the world, Andy Mapple was a proud Briton and was a member of the British National Team for 24 years.

Born in Lancashire in November 1962, he first put on a pair of skis at Lake Windermere in Cumbria, at the age of 13, a relatively late start for a future champion.  

As he recalled on his website, "I hated water and could not swim".

Mapple eventually took the plunge after watching his older sister, Susan, waterskiing with some friends whose family owned a boat. 

Despite (or perhaps because of) his terror, he got up first time.

"I will never forget that feeling of going across the water," he said. "From that moment, all I wanted to do was ski. Every moment I had I would think of skiing".

Mapple won his first world title at Thorpe Park in Surrey at 18.   

He returned to the site of that first triumph for his valedictory Pro event in 2004. 

I had the privilege to be there that day. 

As always, he had time for us mere mortal waterskiers and fans, happily posing for photographs. I was in my forties, a couple of years older than Mapple, and I was like a embarrassed schoolgirl with her sporting hero.

I was also lucky enough to see Mapple equal his own world record in a competition at the now-defunct Princes Club, and I was present to witness two of his World Championship victories, in France in 1995 and Italy in 1999.

He was made an OBE in 2002.

Andy in actionAndy in his heyday















Few would argue that Andy Mapple was the greatest slalom waterskier to have lived. 

A truly great Briton at the top of an unsung sport. 

He achieved everything he could, but his one regret was that waterskiing was never accepted into the Olympic family. 

Had that happened, his untimely death would surely have been on the front page of every national newspaper and on every television and radio bulletin. 

Aside from his professional achievements, Andy Mapple was clearly universally loved as a man by those who knew him. 

The warm tributes on social media and in waterskiing blogs attest to that.

Whitney McClintock, the Canadian who has twice won the women's slalom World Championships described Andy Mapple as "a role model on and off the water.  A strong man of faith and an athlete no one can compare to."

His very good friend and one-time rival, the American Jeff Rodgers said he was a mentor for many.

"Andy was not only the greatest skier of all time but an ambassador for the sport.. his generosity and kindness will be deeply missed".

In an interview with Aquaskier Website in 2000 Mapple was asked how he would like to be remembered.

"I think I'd like to be remembered as the person, rather than just an athlete, there to help others. I think sometimes when you are an athlete, and win or do something, that people feel you are hard to approach. I would hope that I'm not like that and that people would feel they can ask for help. I would do my best to help somebody and want to be that kind of example".

Andy Mapple was that kind of example and he had so much more to give. 

He is survived by his wife Deena, who he married in 1987, and their two children, Michael and Elyssa.

Andy Mapple, 1962-2015Andy Mapple, 1962-2015










So, what are the rules of slalom water skiing?

PlanetSKI's, Jane Peel explains:

The boat travels at a constant speed in a straight line down the middle of the slalom course.  At elite level, that speed is 36mph (58kph) for men, 34mph (55kph) for women. 

The skier has to go through the "entrance gates", a pair of buoys in the middle of the course, then virage from side to side across the boat wakes, successfully rounding six turn buoys before going through the "exit gates".

Each successful pass of the slalom course results in the rope being shortened, making it increasingly difficult to reach the turn buoys. 

The winner of a competition is the skier who completes the most turn buoys at the shortest rope length.

The actual distance from the middle of the boat lane to the turn buoy is 11.5 metres. 

The current world record is 2.5 buoys (too complicated to explain how half buoys are scored!) on a line length of 9.75metres. 

So, the line doesn't reach anywhere near the turn buoy. The skier has to use his body length as well as technique to get there. 

It helps if you're tall!

The physical forces on the slalom skier are immense. If the boat is travelling at 36mph, the skier will reach speeds of up to 60mph as he goes through the boat wakes. 

In other words, he will accelerate to 60mph and back down to near zero six times in just over 16 seconds. 

Jane Peel in actionJane Peel in action















The Mapple Tribute video below features Andy Mapple in stylish action.

We suggest you watch it right to the end for the skiing connection with a cameo appearance of snow ski legend, Glen Plake, who is now slouch on the water either.

Andy Mapple in slo-mo slalom below.

Andy MappleAndy Mapple 1962 - 2015

















For the spirit of the mountains

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