Kreg Llewellyn was a figure larger than life, say those who knew him.
Llewellyn, 52, died in Texas on July 7.
Although the cause of death is not known, his brother Jaret, honoured Kreg with a touching tribute on Facebook earlier this week.
Jaret explained that the family believes a head injury Kreg suffered a few months ago led to some trying times for the multi-time Canadian water ski champion and Alberta Hall of Fame member.
“Through his faith in Christ and his selfless personality, Kreg always wanted to help others and always took their pain upon his shoulders, which in his current state, magnified his struggles,” Jaret wrote in the post.
“Without a familiar coping mechanism, Kreg was caught in a mental haze. Even though Kreg was searching and fighting for answers, he always tried to protect his loved ones from having to share his burden. Kreg was the strongest person I have ever known and I will miss him every day.”
Kreg, who grew up in Innisfail, held 24 Canadian water skiing records, won seven world championship medals and claimed 18 Pan American medals.
“Kreg was my hero and an inspiration to so many around the world. Anyone who had the privilege to know Kreg could see he had a huge heart, because he wore it on his sleeve,” Jaret noted in his post.
“Kreg will always be the most talented athlete I have ever seen, not only on the water, but in any sport you asked him to try. During the height of the professional tour, Kreg was the most dominant male multi-event skier.”
The talented water skiier was not only a record-setter, but also an innovator. He was one of the first people to design and test a Skurfer, which led to the evolution of wakeboarding.
He also won the first-ever World Wakeboard Championship in Hawaii. He was elected into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame on May 31, 2019.
At the induction ceremony just down the road from where he first learned to waterski in Sylvan Lake, Kreg was wowed by the list of inductees.
“This is my first time here. My first impression was ‘wow.” Walking around and seeing some of the legends… just to be able to be mentioned with them (is special),” Kreg said at the time, adding he was excited about the prospects of waterskiing in Canada and how much it had grown since he started.
“To talk about the sport of waterskiing, I haven’t been able to do that too much… waterskiing compared to hockey is not quite the same level… it’s a pretty amazing time to be a waterskiier right now and to even go out and watch it, it’s the best time to start.”
The Llewellyn family is planning a service in Texas on Saturday and is also hoping to have a celebration at his training grounds at Dodd’s Lake in Innisfail, when COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.
“Although our family is struggling through this difficult time, we truly appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from every corner of the world.
“All of the stories and the uplifting moments others have shared about Kreg have been heartwarming to all of us,” Jaret said.