After Venessa Vieke won last year’s Queens Cup, water ski fans would be forgiven if they thought “huh, who is that?” and then moved on without ever giving the name a second thought.
But after seeing the Australian native turned U.S. resident take third in Women’s slalom at this year’s Moomba Masters – beating out a bevy of the sport’s A-list names in the process – surely fans took notice of this new name that had suddenly become a threat at major events.
As it turns out, Venessa is not as new to the elite ski scene as it seems. She has a lengthy list of accomplishments in the sport and a close connection to one of the hotbeds of slalom greatness.
GOODE Skis recently talked to Venessa about her past, present and future.
Where did you grow up and how did you get your start in water skiing?
I grew up in Perth, Western Australia. It is known for being the most isolated city in the world. My father waterskied and I wanted to do everything he did. I did three events as a junior and held the Australian under-14 girls jump and overall records for many years.
Skiing under your maiden name of Leopold you had a number of impressive accomplishments while growing up in Australia, including competing for Team Australia at the 2003 world championships. What were some of your best memories from those days?
My fondest memories of skiing for Australia are remembering the ups and downs of travelling. The lost ski bags, beaten up rental cars and stolen passports. Even though it sounds stressful it was all an adventure! I’m so blessed to have met so many wonderful skiers and their families, many I still keep In touch with. Breanne and Ryan Dodd, Regina Jaquess; we were all at the junior and under 21 worlds together. This sport will give you life long friends.
When did you come to America and what brought you here?
I took a break from my physical therapy career and came to the USA in the spring of 2013 to train with Chet Raley, ski in some Florida tournaments and really consolidate my scores from the Australian summer (which ends in April). I met Noah (Vieke), my now husband while I was training at Chet’s. After two years of dating long distance we got married in Florida in July 2015. Yes a summer wedding in Florida! HOT!
Noah works with Chet at the Palm Beach Training Center. How has that impacted your skiing?
Noah and Chet are a great team. In my opinion they are the best in the business. The time and effort they put into continually learning about slalom is just phenomenal. Everyone who skis with them improves. My preparation for Queens Cup and Moomba consisted of Chet or Noah driving and coaching. We tried to switch things up as much as possible so I never got too comfortable with one of them as my driver. But the best training was when I had both Noah and Chet in the boat. They compliment each other very well and as an added bonus, Noah would hold our baby girl (12-month old Riverlee) in the boat. She likes to wave to me when I exit the gates, it’s very cute! She has been amazing. I drag her to the lake in the mornings at 6:30 a.m., five days a week. I ski four days with Chet and Noah and then one day (Sundays) with Noah only. If Noah can’t hold the baby and drive, the skiers at Palm Beach Training Center always volunteer to watch her. It’s such a supportive atmosphere, it really is like a family.
How hard is it to juggle being a mom, work, etc., while still trying to compete against the world’s best skiers?
I think athletes in general want to be the best they can be at everything, whether it’s sport, work, relationships or parenting. So it’s important to remind myself not to put too much pressure on being “the best” or doing things “perfectly.” It’s not easy juggling it all but man it’s rewarding.
It seems that you’ve taken a couple extended breaks from the sport. What is it that always brings you back?
I have taken multiple breaks from skiing, mainly due to the loss of my father, pursuing my physical therapy career and then having a baby, but I just can’t seem to give it up. I am a believer in God and know He has a plan for my life and feel strongly that He wants me to continue to waterski. He’s gifted me with passion and determination so as long as I can do a deep-water start, you’ll see me slaloming!
After winning the Queens Cup last year and taking third at Moomba, it seems as if you are ramping up your involvement in big-time events. What’s the plan moving forward?
The plan is to continue to ski and compete in a few local record tournaments to improve my world ranking. This summer I also hope to grow my personal training business, V2 Movement. Noah and I would love to ski in a pro event together so whether it’s the Malibu Open this year or Moomba next year, that is a goal we want to achieve.