World record holder trades wheelchair for ski, still trying to go further

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WATCH ABOVE: Saskatchewan water-skier Ashley Baerg holds a world record in the seated ladies jump division, but doesn’t plan on stopping there. Derek Bidwell reports – Sep 6, 2018

Not everyone is daring enough to hit a water-ski jump, but Ashley Baerg got out of her wheelchair and into a special ski to make her first jump.

That was six years ago and now the Saskatchewan woman is a world record holder.

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Baerg was first introduced to the sport in the summer of 2012 and has been hooked ever since.

“I was a wheelchair basketball player for a lot of years and training for that, I had the opportunity to try water-skiing … and just fell in love with it,” Baerg said during a stop in Saskatoon.

“I think water-skiing is a sport where every day you can get one more trick or get one more metre in jump or one more buoy in slalom.”

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“It’s always that goal of what can I improve on the next day.”

Baerg has competed in three Disabled World Water Ski Championships (DWWSC) and one of her greatest moments was setting a world record jump of 17.4 metres at the seated ladies division during the 2017 competition held in Australia.

“I’ve known for years that the record was 17.3 metres, that’s a number I dreamed about, or had been dreaming about it, so I saw 17.4 metres and my sister was on shore and she said ‘all I could see was your eyes just get big,’” Baerg said.

“I just couldn’t believe it. I thought that it was a mistake, it was surreal to see that number.”

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Some would say she’s an inspiration, but Baerg says she’s just doing her thing.

“Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that I can’t ski,” she said.

“I don’t know if people just expect me to sit on the couch all day or you know, but I love to just push myself … I’m going to push it and see where it takes me.”

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Baerg jumped 18 metres last month at nationals in Toronto but the record didn’t stand as she let go of the rope. Despite the setback, she now knows she can beat her record and has set her mind to doing it.

“I know I can do it, so that’s definitely the goal. I know I’m not going to jump forever but the goal before I have up the jump ski would be beat my own record,” Baerg said.

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Baerg will be with Canada’s National Adaptive Team going down to Kentucky later this year to compete in the U.S. nationals.

“She’s a great teammate, I mean everybody loves her,” said David Wassill, the adaptive high performance director with Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada.

“But when it’s time to get on the water, she’s very serious, very focused on exactly what it takes to be successful. Like she understands the science of speed and vectors and all things so she just does exactly what you need to do to go as far as you can, and she does it.”

Baerg said the next big competition she’s training for is the DWWSC in Norway next summer.