Masters Water Ski weekend gets underway at Callaway Gardens

PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (WTVM) - Kids from 11 different countries jumped into the water at Callaway Gardens on Friday for the 19th Junior Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament.

Like the regular Masters, the Junior Masters is a tough invite. To make the Masters you have to be a defending champion of the Masters, Worlds, or US Open, or be ranked in the top six in the world. "It's probably the most prestigious tournament in water skiing right now," said Santiago Robledo, a trick skier from Colombia.

For Australian skier Timothy Bradstreet, the challenge is immense. "We've been training for such a long time and it just comes up. The buzz just coming up to the Masters is always just so intense."

For American skiers, it marks the real beginning of the season, according to reigning junior trick champion Erika Lang. "This is a really big competition, and it's so early in the year that you have to really be on your game."

And she was on Friday. She broke her own course record in junior women's tricks with a run that garnered 8100 points. Lang credits her other sport for her success. "I'm still a gymnast and so it's been a little easier for me to catch on with my spacial awareness."

There's a general agreement on coming to Callaway Gardens for the big event. There's a lot of pressure to compete here at the Masters, but with flips and tricks, how can you not have fun? "Being here is just so awesome," Bradstreet said, "The atmosphere is great. I've come here a couple of times and it's such a good opportunity and it feels great just to be here skiing in it."

It's an opportunity to not only compete against the best in the world, but against old friends according to Santiago. "Most of the guys already know each other from past tournaments like Junior Worlds and the past Masters. So it becomes like one big family. It's a pleasure once you see everyone again and you create friendships around the world and I think that's really nice."

The regular Masters Tournament gets underway Saturday morning at Callaway Gardens, with the final round set for Sunday.