Michael Rub is a showstopper on the water. The 18-year-old athlete of Golden Beach, who ranks 2nd in the state and 14th in the nation in his division, perfects his every turn on the lake every day.
But ahead of the Southeast Regional Water Skiing Championship in Alabama last week, it was an airline snafu that threw him off mentally and physically.
"There's no ski, they have no idea where the ski is," said Rub of the moment he learned his ski never made his flight from Miami to Birmingham.
American Airlines had misplaced the champion skier's customized gear.
Rub said the ski never arrived the night before the competition as promised, putting his chances at making it to Nationals in jeopardy.
"It's not like a piece of luggage, where you'll just buy a new shirt and it'll be fine," said Rub. "When I wasn't going to be able to ski on my boot, my ski, I was very upset."
Rub ended up borrowing a friend's ski, which did not fit. It was a move that cost him his balance on the water.
"It was scary," he said. "I hit my head and the paramedics came, nothing was really major, but the boat stopped, and they rarely stop the boat."
His ski finally arrived a day after the competition. His poor score still put him through to Nationals, but his ranking slipped. His mother saw something else -- the experience -- slip away.
"For him to not even be able to present what his talent is after so much effort is terrible," said Marta Rub.
After filing an online complaint about the lost luggage, the family says it's most disappointed in American Airline's customer service.
"It's not the mistakes because everyone makes mistakes," she said. "It's what you do when you have those mistakes and here they could not care less."
The family is thinking about taking the legal course to compensate for damages, most of which are hard to quantify.
"It's a loss that can't come back. He can't go back to regionals and he can't compete to the best of his abilities anymore," she added.
Rub is headed for the Water Ski National Championships on Aug. 14 in West Palm Beach.