Wilsonville native wins gold at disabled water skiing competition

Joe Ray anticipated rough waters at the 2009 World Disabled Water Ski Championships in Vichy, France, last weekend.

In preparation, he trained all summer hoping to break his own world record in the men’s slalom. He broke it plenty of times during his training sessions.

Ray couldn’t match his world record time, falling just a few seconds short, but he did capture a gold medal in the men’s slalom last weekend in France. In fact, Ray returned to his Wilsonville home with three gold medals. Ray won individual gold medals in men’s slalom and overall competition and the U.S.A. team won gold.

The three gold medals tied Ray’s career high at the world championships. Ray also won three gold medals in 2003.

“It was great,” Ray said. “I was two bouys away from setting a new world record. The water conditions were very challenging.”

Ray was out to make up for his slalom in the 2007 world championships. Ray didn’t place after he missed the first pass, which left him motivated to perform better in 2009.

“I was determined it was not going to happen again,” Ray said. “Had the water conditions been better, I think I would have set a new record.”

Ray, who has dominated the men’s slalom in the past, was most proud of the fact that he won bronze in the jumping competition this year. Ray had never previously won a medal in the jumping competition.

Ray, who lost the use of his legs following a car accident in 1978, is a veteran in waterskiing competition. Ray has set the world record in men’s slalom seven times during his career, won the gold medal in men’s slalom four times and has participated in the world championships five times in the past 10 years. The championships are held every other year.

The world championships are the highlight for waterskiing because it is not offered as a sport in the Olympics.

“This is the highest honor you can get,” said Ray, who is also the executive director of Adaptive Aquatics at Lay Lake.