The STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® Champions Trophy is always the ultimate test for any keen logger sports competitor, and it’s been hotly contested over the years. It’s also a treat for any spectators too, with the victor often winning by the narrowest of margins to keep audiences on the edge of their seat right to the last log-splitting second.
This year’s Champions Trophy at Tjolöholm Castle in Sweden was no different, with US athlete Matt Cogar beating the 2018 TIMBERSPORTS® World Champion, Laurence O’Toole, by just 1.53 seconds.
Red Bull-sponsored Cogar is no stranger to the top of a podium having won six straight US National TIMBERSPORTS® Championships, however, he has struggled to match that dominant form on an international stage with his best result being second-placed finishes in the 2013, 2016 and 2018 World Championship. From the start of the 2019 Champions Trophy, however, Cogar looked like a man on a mission, achieving the quickest time in the Time Trial round, then following that up with a new US record time in the semi-final. Watch the Final with Cogar taking on Aussie, O’Toole, for a taste of the action.
Cogar obviously has a natural talent for TIMBERSPORTS®, but he also has time to hone his skills at home where he alternates between training and looking after his daughter. Winning the Champions Trophy doesn’t just take skill though, it takes serious stamina too, as the event is in a relay format with competitors completing four disciplines in a row.
Athletes start with the Stock Saw using a STIHL MS 661 chainsaw, before moving on to the Underhand Chop. Next comes the Single Buck, where the athletes use a two-metre-long cross-cut saw to cut through a 40cm thick log of white pine, and finally, they take on the Standing Block Chop.
This relay is no mean feat for any athlete, but this year, Elgan Pugh took it on for the first time as the man representing Team GB. Pugh has won the British TIMBERSPORTS® Championship four times in a row and earned the chance to represent Britain in the Champions Trophy when he came sixth overall in the European qualifying event last year. However, Pugh came up against the most frustrating of hazards in the Time Trial round, when his axe was chipped by a knot in the log, leaving him with the slowest recorded time.
This meant he was drawn against the Austrian Armin Kugler in the Last Chance round, but Kugler put in an unbelievable performance to achieve a National Record knocking him out. Pugh was still proud of his performance though, finishing 10th overall, which is the highest placed finish for any British athlete in the history of the Champions Trophy.
Earlier in the day, the stage was set for the Rookie World Championship where the best TIMBERSPORTS® rookies were preparing to take each other on. To be a rookie, athletes must be under 25 at the date of qualification. Team GB’s rookie, Finn Neusinger, is just 21 years old and has only been in the sport for two years, but earned his right to compete in the World Championship when he achieved the best British time at the British Rookie Championship in 2018. Despite his relative inexperience, Neusinger powered his way through the competition, which involves athletes taking part in four of the six STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® disciplines and being awarded points based on their times.
The competition starts with the Stock Saw round. Achieving a personal best time of 11.30 seconds put Neusinger right at the front of the pack after the first round, before he achieved a new National Rookie Record in the Standing Block Chop. The Single Buck proved his nemesis though when he caught the handle of his saw on the log and broke the disc or cookie. Sawing an incomplete cookie leads to a disqualification so Neusinger was forced to return to the log to saw the final section of timber, costing him valuable seconds.
This setback didn’t deter him from another impressive performance in the final discipline, the Underhand Chop, where he set another new British Rookie record, but this wasn’t quite enough to make the podium and he finished fourth overall in the competition. Despite the disappointment of missing out so narrowly, Neusinger was upbeat and focussed on his bright future in TIMBERSPORTS®. And if you want to see both Neusinger and Pugh in action again, the British TIMBERSPORTS® Championship is back at BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire again this year – tickets are available now so don’t miss out.