Waterskiers flock to Janesville for World Water Ski Show Tournament

15,000 people expected for each day of tournament
Waterskiers flock to Janesville for World Water Ski Show Tournament

Hotels in the Janesville area are nearing capacity as waterskiers flood the area.

The Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the inaugural World Water Ski Show Tournament will bring around $4.5 million to the area.

Some of the best waterskiers in the world will hit the Rock River for a weekend full of firsts.

“You see the movies in Belgium, but now, it’s for real,” said Sofie Vansteenyenkal.

She and others from Belgium are prepping for the first World Water Ski Show Tournament. The 23-year-old said she is excited to visit a place she’d heard a lot about — Wisconsin.

“I know ‘That 70’s Show,’ that program on television with Ashton Kutcher,” Vansteenyenkal said.

Her coach, Lieven Hardy, said they compete in their home country, but it’s not the same as when they are in the U.S.

“The competition we have back in Belgium is much different from here — it’s much smaller. We don’t have the possibilities they have here,” Hardy said.

In addition to the team from Belgium, Janesville’s Traxler Park will host teams from Australia, Canada and China.

“People will not be very happy with themselves if they don’t come down here this weekend and watch these teams from other countries compete, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Duane Snow, the tournament director. “It will be some of the most exciting water ski jumping you’ll ever see.”

For Belgium’s team, their trip has another goal, and it’s a role that only their smallest teammate — their mascot, Mr. Rabbit — can fill.

“It’s supposed to travel all around the world, and as many miles as you can gain on your trip, it’s converted into money for a charity for children,” said Sabine Declercq.

This is Vansteenyenkal’s first plane ride and her first trip to America. It’s an experience she and others won’t soon forget.

“In America, everything is bigger. You need to do everything so you can go home with lots of memories,” said Vansteenyenkal.

The Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau said it’s anticipating that 15,000 people will come to watch the action each day. The opening ceremony starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $5 per person.