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April 25, 2013

Waterskiing sisters from London thrive at ULM

Sisters Eleanor and Jennifer Benjamin traveled from London, England, to pursue higher education at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Now both students compete on ULM's National Championship Water Ski Team, enjoy the warmer weather, and explore the cultural wonderland of Louisiana.

In 2010, Jennifer arrived at ULM before her older sister Eleanor, who joined her a year later.

"I think she was jealous of the experience I was having!" said Jennifer. The sisters are exactly 21 months apart in age.

Though Jennifer explored several majors, she chose to study speech-language pathology after hearing of the field first at ULM.

After she consulted staff, faculty, and students on the various options open to her, she "became fascinated by the subject."

Jennifer said, "I loved the idea of being able to help and to care for those in need, from all walks of life and different ages. I cannot wait to further my knowledge as I step into my senior year and gain more experience!"

Eleanor is a graduate student of exercise science and will be graduating from ULM May 11 with her Master of Science.

She has enjoyed her post-graduate experiences at ULM, saying, "Having the opportunity to be at school with your sister and best friend at the same time is pretty amazing."

Jennifer said, "We are so close, things can get heated at times, and everything in life is competitive. Eleanor definitely keeps me on my toes."

"It does become very competitive at times," said Eleanor, "and we are both at a similar level, so we are constantly pushing each other to do better."

This seems especially true of their athletic endeavors.

As children, they participated in waterskiing only recreationally, competing instead in trampoline. The Benjamin sisters were on the British Trampoline Team until dedicating their time to waterskiing in 2006.

They competed in two world championships in Germany and Holland, placing in the top 15 teams.

When Eleanor was 15, she broke her ankle badly and had to forgo trampolining for one year – during this period, the sisters spent more time waterskiing.

"Waterskiing seemed like much more fun," said Eleanor, "so I tried a few competitions and then became hooked. I have skied ever since."

"Waterskiing is an extreme sport," said Jennifer, "and I have had my fair share of ambulance rides. One jump crash even ended me up in an air ambulance!"

The sisters compete in all three events of waterskiing, including slalom, trick, and jump.

Jennifer's favorite is the jump – Eleanor agrees, also saying, "Tricking involves a lot of falling in the water to learn new things, so it sometimes becomes more of a swimming lesson than a trick set."

At ULM, Jennifer is the captain of the water ski team.

She is currently 2nd in Open Women's Jump and 3rd in Open Women's Overall in Great Britain.

Eleanor was National Overall Champion in 2008, National Trick Champion in 2008, Under 21 Trick Champion in 2009, 3rd in Tricks in 2011, 3rd in Ladies Jump 2012, and 3rd Overall in 2012.

"Jennifer and Eleanor Benjamin are two girls who contribute to the ULM Water Ski Team in a variety of valuable ways," said their coach Treina Landrum, ULM Director of Recreational Services.

"They are tough competitors who train hard, know how to focus, and do what it takes to be high level competitors."

Their proudest moments have been helping ULM to capture the National Collegiate Waterski Champions in both 2011 and 2012.

Though Eleanor will have graduated, Jennifer looks forward to another potential win in the fall – waterskiing is their passion.

"It is even nicer skiing in a lovely hot country," said Eleanor, "rather than in the wind and rain at home."

Aside from the weather, both appreciate the renowned Southern hospitality of Louisiana.

"I love the friendliness of the people here, and the open space," said Jennifer.

"London is a very crowded city with lots of traffic jams!" Eleanor agreed, saying, "I like that Monroe is small, and you know most of the people on campus. Everyone is really friendly compared to home."

After graduation, Eleanor plans to "stay in the States for a couple of months and enjoy the lovely, hot weather," before going back to the "cold, wet, windy England and getting a job!"

Jennifer hopes to continue her studies in the ULM speech-language pathology master's program, but has no certain plans as of yet regarding moving back to England.

When the Benjamin sisters first left to study so far from home, their parents gave this advice: "Seize this amazing opportunity that you have so generously been given, and whatever you do, do not lose your British accent!"

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