Pursuit is a sports feature series highlighting athletes, coaches, and staff and significant sporting events from North Bay and the surrounding area.
Two-time World Water Skiing Champion Jaimee Bull is coming off a second consecutive World Title win in Women’s Slalom at the 2023 International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) World Waterski Championships this past October, further cementing her position as a dominant force in the water skiing world.
In a recent interview with Lisa Boivin on North Bay Echo podcast To North Bay with Love, Bull divulged that her biggest challenge may be coming up.
“In the spring I tore the ligament that holds your tibia and fibula together, the two bones in your leg and most of my knee. I don't know exactly when it happened. I know that I crashed, but I wasn't like, ‘Oh my knee hurts’. But after that, it was sore and that's when I started noticing my fibula was just moving freely. It took a while to figure out what was going on. After communicating with doctors and physiotherapists they said if I could deal with the pain and I could ski on it, I could keep going without doing more damage to it and they would just have to reattach it after the season,” says Bull.
“I skied on it all year and just had it braced up. After the season was done, I needed to figure out what I was going to do with this and we settled on a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection where they pulled blood out of my arm and then spun it and took the good parts of the blood and injected it into where the ligament is stored in the hopes that it's going to help get the ligament to create a little bond and scar tissue to hold it together. This is the first step and I'm hoping that some downtime and some extra blood in there will help stabilize it enough that I don't need surgery, but if I do, I found a surgeon now and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with the surgery,” says Bull.
It’s a surgery that poses some risk because of a nerve that runs right by the fibular head and if they hit that nerve during the procedure, Bull could have drop foot, which would mean she would have difficulty lifting the front part of her foot.
“That would be pretty rough for the rest of my life, says Bull.
“I should know in another month if the injection has worked and then I can start training slowly.”
Bull will be relying on her mental training now more than ever to get through a trying time.
“Every sport has a big mental side to it, but especially sports where if you make a single mistake, you're done. A big part of our training is mental training and some days you get the little voices in your head being negative. Being an athlete adds that extra layer of pressure because you're in a sport where performance is graded and you're getting points and you're winning or losing because of how you competed that day,” says Bull.
She says getting your mind focused even on days where you don’t feel great mentally is key.
“It's tough sometimes and I think the older you get and the more experience you gain, it can be easier to get into that place because you've dealt with it before. The big thing is reminding yourself of the goal at hand,” says Bull.
She adds, “I'm fortunate that my coaches are awesome, and having help like that is huge. There are people there to help make sure that you're doing the right thing and you're getting what you need done.”
Recently, Bull was featured in the documentary The Unknown Sport of Water Skiing produced by The Waterski Broadcast Company (and screened in North Bay in November 2023) which captured her win at the 2021 championships in the slalom discipline.
“It was crazy. We go one at a time on the course, so once you finish skiing, you have to wait for the rest of the girls to ski to know if you won or not,” she says.
Bull placed fourth in the preliminary rounds, a position she said she was happy with.
“I just wanted to be able to go ski and have the other girls have to chase me,” says Bull.
“I went out and skied and then I had to watch all of those girls go after me. I knew I ran a really big score since it was the open world championship record, so I knew I did my job.”
Every skier took their turn, and none were able to beat Bull’s score until a world record holder stepped up last.
“I thought ‘She could beat me for sure, but she could also tie me’. If you tie, we have to go out again and do a tiebreaker. I was getting ready, staying warm, doing everything I could to stay ready just in case,” says Bull.
“It's super stressful because part of you wants to watch to see if she's going to do it, but the other part of me is trying to stay focused and believe that I'm going to be going out again and I’m trying to stay in the zone. That's where that mental game comes into play. If I had to ski again, I needed to be ready. When she didn't get it, and I knew I was the world champion, all the emotion and adrenaline just started coursing through me. It just releases.”
Bull competed at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, attending medical school which led her to a major in mechanical engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering.
“I wanted to do something that allowed me to have a degree that I could work with straight out of college if I wanted to,” she said, speaking to the school's online newspaper in 2022. “At home, we have biomedical engineering, and it gives you a pretty broad view of the medical field. So, I was like, ‘okay, perfect, I'll get an engineering degree and I'll get to see many sides of the medical field to allow me to see where I may want to specialize.’”
Despite being from North Bay, where the lake is frozen more often than not, it was almost as if Bull was destined for greatness in this sport.
“I grew up on Trout Lake on Four Mile Bay. My parents loved being on the water and water skiing with their friends and they were fans of the Pro Tour. When my brother was born, he was just brought up in that environment. My dad took my brother to watch a tournament and my brother thought it was awesome and he wanted to do it. My dad signed him up and he blew everyone away. People started talking to my parents and said if he wanted to pursue this, this is the age where you find coaching and what the path would be to turn it into something more than just a competitive hobby. I'm six years younger than my brother, so he was already on that scene by the time I started to get involved. I wanted to do everything and anything he did. If he was skiing in the mornings, I was skiing in the mornings. He started competing and I wanted to compete and it evolved from there,” says Bull who has competed in the sport all over the world has she participates on the Pro Tour.
“The Pro Tour is a series of events throughout the year and each one gives you points for a final tally at the end of the season. This past year we had a handful of events in the United States and then we went to Europe for a month with 5 events there. We take a midsummer break and then there are events in Canada and then a bunch more events in the States. But I've been to Junior Worlds in Chile, we had open worlds in Paris and Malaysia, and there are events in Australia. There's events everywhere, it just depends on where they're hosting,” says Bull.
Bull says the athletes not only have to train for the events themselves, but they also have to train to compete in different time zones,
“When we had worlds in Paris, we went to Europe two weeks early and went to Spain and trained in Spain just to get over there and make sure all your gear and everything is working, and making sure it shows up. For the Pro tour, we had five events in four weeks and so you get over there and you get used to that big-time change. But then there’s a time change between countries as well,” says Bull.
Bull says she enjoys having a long off-season and says she is one of the few pros who doesn’t get in the water until closer to the competitive window opening up next spring. She says she’ll spend her winter working as a ski patrol guide.
“I work for a company out of Whistler, B.C. called Extremely Canadian and we bring clients up to the High Alpine and teach them how to ski, steep train and get in corner entries, that kind of thing. A little bit more gnarly training than they would normally ski and we also show them around the mountain to places that they wouldn't normally find,” says Bull.
Bull adds, “I get to ski every day and meet a bunch of cool people who are excited to be in the mountains, so it's a good time.”
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