Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Houston on verge of first classic win

Young gun keen to keep improving into the senior ranks and he knows what he wants to achieve.

GEORDIE COWAN February 8, 2013 2:37pm

Jack Houston is the junior world champion from 2009 and 2011.

Water skier Jack Houston is on the cusp of realising his dream at this year’s Club Marine Southern 80.

The young star, who has twice been the junior world champion in 2009 and 2011, is so close to his maiden classic win that he can almost touch it.

But it has not been a simple progression from the lower classes for the 18-year-old.

‘‘Coming up through the ranks is always tough, because whenever you go up an age class or any class, you’re always at the bottom and you have to really try to make a mark,’’ Houston said.

‘‘You’ve just got to step it up each time.’’

The Sydney resident has been skiing for about 10 years, following in the wake of his father, Greg, himself a four-time world champion.

‘‘Dad’s always been at the top of the ranks and I’ve seen him win a couple of world championships,’’ Houston said.

‘‘Ever since 2007 at New Zealand, my dream was to be the world champion.

‘‘Both those (junior world) championships were the pinnacle of my ski racing career.

‘‘It’s given me the drive to actually go out and do it.’’

One person who has travelled alongside Houston in his rise through the classes is Echuca’s Lloyd Woolman.

‘‘Ever since under 10s I’ve skied against Lloyd,’’ Houston said.

‘‘It’s been great to grow up with those guys that I’ve raced against and to race against him in the world championships was awesome and for him to come second was an awesome effort.’’

The drive and determination which Houston has shown has elevated him through the skiing classes and this weekend he will compete in the President’s dash and unlimited inboard expert.

Competing in these classes sees the youngster against some of the best in the sport and it is not easy to overcome that knowledge.

‘‘There are still names in superclass and unlimited that I always looked up to when I was growing up, like Jamie Oliver,’’ Houston said.

‘‘When I was a little kid they were racing and winning and to go up against those guys can be a bit daunting.

‘‘It’s exciting and daunting at the same time.’’

Although not as physically strong as many of the other competitors in his class, the mental side of racing was arguably more important, Houston said.

‘‘I think that ski racing, like any sport really, is 70 per cent mental and 30 per cent physical,’’ he said.

‘‘You have to get in the right frame of mind to do well at anything.’’

Another aspect to his ascension through the classes is the added commitment which is required to compete among the best.

Last year, Houston’s team — comprising driver Greg, observer Kevin Boylan and skier Ben Hackett — behind Stinga, finished third outright at the Southern 80 and then finished runner-up in unlimited at December’s Bridge to Bridge Water Ski Classic in Sydney.

‘‘We are getting to the top level of the sport,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a bit of a reality check that we’ve got to keep that training because as soon as we drop that off, it can become unsafe.

‘‘If you lose that commitment, you lose physical fitness and you’re not up to the level of the other crews that you’ve got to be on top of.’’

To maintain that competitiveness, Houston goes to the gym four times a week as well as a one-hour session on the water.

‘‘My end goal is to win a classic outright, one of those classics being either the Sydney Bridge to Bridge or the Southern 80, the two biggest races we have in the country,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re hungry now.’’

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