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Slone Gets the Jump on Mapple : Water-skiing: A 2 1/2-year winning streak hangs in the balance in women’s ski jumping of tour event on Mission Bay. Finals scheduled for today. Men’s jumping, and slalom events also scheduled.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It has been 2 1/2 years and more than 30 competitions since Deena Mapple, a native of Sacramento, has lost a water-ski jumping competition.

But there were signs Saturday that Mapple’s streak might fall during first-round competition of the Michelob Dry Water-Ski Tour at Fiesta Island on Mission Bay. Mapple came up with a jump four feet shy of Sherri Slone’s 138-feet. But Slone, 24, said that’s not unusual--or that meaningful.

“I’ve been in the lead after the first round four times,” said Slone, a Louisiana State University student. “Unfortunately, today doesn’t mean that much.”

Slone, in her second year on tour, said it will probably take a jump into the high 140s to win the title. Slone said Mapple, who is tied with Lisa Simoneau for second, will once again be the one to beat.

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“She’s pretty much set the pace for all of us,” Slone said. “She’s been doing it for such a long time. She knows exactly how to do it and when. I look up to her and just hope to be as good as she is someday.”

Simoneau, 29, said: “I think her success is built on her strength and technique. She’s also got tremendous confidence that no one is going to beat her.”

But Simoneau said Mapple’s dominance might be ending soon.

“The margin has been narrowing,” she said.

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Mapple, who also leads the women’s slalom event by 2 1/2 buoys over Kristi Overton, said she is becoming numb to the pressure of keeping her streak alive.

“I feel I’ve been fortunate to have won for this long--to stay healthy this long,” said Mapple, 30. “I’m not superhuman. I expect to get beat. In fact, it would almost be a relief to lose.”

Mapple hinted she might soon decide to give up the sport that has been a part of her life since she was 2 1/2 years old.

“This is the best I’ve felt in a couple years, but I think maybe it’s time to do something else--like maybe have kids,” she said.

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Her husband, Andy Mapple, trails Brett Thurley in the men’s slalom competition by one-half buoy entering today’s finals.

Mapple, the men’s slalom world-record holder, will be matched with Mike Kjellander in today’s semifinals. Thurley will face Lucky Lowe in the other semifinal.

In the men’s ski jumping preliminaries, Australia’s Geoff Carrington and Bruce Neville are first and second with jumps of 191 and 189 feet. Neville’s cousin, Mick, is third with a jump of 175.

Carrington, who won the world championships in 1986 and 1989, said the saltwater conditions of Mission Bay are to his liking.

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“I think the (salt)water is softer,” Carrington said.

Scott Ellis and Kjellander finished fourth and fifth with jumps of 173 and 172 and also qualified for the finals.

In the men’s freestyle competition, Mike Tolzman leads Dave Reinhart by 57 points. Dave Dotter and Hank Amos also qualified for the finals.

Today’s competition begins at 1 p.m. with the women’s jump finals.

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