The original extreme sport, TIMBERSPORTS®, made its mark on the picturesque city of Prague this weekend, with the annual highlight of the logger sports calendar – the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® World Championship!
The World Championship is an all-action thriller of an event, that’s not to be missed by anyone who loves seeing competitors who are at the top of their game! The event is split over two nights: Friday 1st November saw 20 teams from across the globe battle it out to win the Team World Championship, whilst the top 12 athletes in the world came together on Saturday 2nd November fighting for the chance to be crowned the Individual World Champion.
The Top Team
In the Team event, four competitors from each nation work together in a relay format with the first athlete taking on the Stock Saw. As soon as he has finished, the second athlete completes the Underhand Chop, followed closely by the third athlete who must race through the Single Buck. The clock stops once the fourth and final competitor has chopped his way through a Standing Block. The teams go head to head against each other in a knock-out format to determine which team will take the title.
Whilst there can only be four athletes taking part in each heat, teams can bring a reserve competitor and swap as necessary. The members of Team GB were selected based on their results in the 2019 British Championship, and for this year’s World Championship, the team consisted of Scott Fowkes, Rob Chatley, Elgan Pugh, Ross Hanley and Glen Penlington.
The whole team had trained tirelessly in the lead-up to the big event and were certainly hoping to improve on their 13th place finish at the 2018 World Championship but it wasn’t to be, with 13 proving to be their unlucky number once again, after being knocked out by Sweden in the Round of 16.
Rob Chatley, who returned to the British team this year after two years away from the sport, said, “We didn’t really get the result we knew we could accomplish but it gives us a target for next year, and it was a fantastic competition in Prague – it’s been great to be back on the team too.”
Despite British disappointment, the competition still proved to be a nail-biter for anyone watching – the final fight for the trophy was played out between fierce rivals Australia and New Zealand. These two southern hemisphere teams are always among the favourites in any international TIMBERSPORTS® competition, having a strong heritage in logger sports – the sport actually originated in Australia in the 19th century.
In the final battle, New Zealand’s Robert Dowling started strongly, just beating Laurence O’Toole in thefirst leg of the Stock Saw, but Brayden Meyer smashed through the Underhand Chop to put Australia in the lead at the halfway point. Kyle Lemon managed to claw some time back against Brad De Losa in the Single Buck, putting the two teams almost neck and neck going into the final discipline so Aussie Mitch Argent and Kiwi Shane Jordan still had it all to play for in the Standing Block. Argent managed to perform when it mattered though, beating Jordan and the New Zealand team by two hits of the axe, and winning a sixth World Championship for Australia in the process.
Watch the final heat of the TIMBERSPORTS® World Championship to see how close these two TIMBERSPORTS® titans finished.
Rounding off the podium were the US team, who beat Poland in the small final to take the bronze medal.
The Ultimate Champion
As if that wasn’t enough STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® action for Prague, a sell-out crowd packed the Industrial Palace once again on Saturday night for the Individual World Championship. The event started in explosive style, with the Czech athlete Martin Rousal receiving a rapturous reception from the home crowd in the first heat of the Underhand Chop.
In the Individual World Championship, all 12 athletes must compete in three disciplines: the Underhand Chop, the Stock Saw and the Standing Block Chop. The athletes who achieve the fastest times receive the most points, and the four athletes with the lowest score after these three events are eliminated.
In the second round, the remaining eight athletes take on the Single Buck and Springboard, then the six athletes with the highest points at this stage get to take on the Hot Saw. There are 18 points available for the fastest time in the Hot Saw round, and in this unpredictable discipline where they are using highly-tuned, extremely powerful 60hp chainsaws, even the most experienced competitors have been known to get a disqualification so it’s often the most dramatic part of the competition. This year was certainly no exception!
Going into the Hot Saw event, Australian Brayden Meyer was in the lead with 66 points, after scoring maximum points in all but one of the five previous disciplines. In second place was Canadian Ben Cumberland on 55 points, who had put in a solid performance all the way through the competition with personal best times in every discipline, including the Standing Block, despite slipping on a wood chip and falling over with the razor-sharp axe still in hand.
US athlete Cassidy Scheer was in third place with 51 points, so it was still possible for any of these top three to take the Championship. Scheer was the first of the three to take on the Hot Saw and he also managed to keep a calm head and deliver a personal best time of 6.97 seconds, which drew him level on points with Meyer.
Next up was Cumberland. He cut two complete discs, or cookies, from the log in seconds, but controlling the almighty power of a Hot Saw is always a challenge and Cumberland’s last cut was outside the 15cm area that is allowed for each athlete. It was a heart-breaking disqualification for Cumberland, who had been drafted in to represent Canada only a couple of months before, after his brother, Canadian champion Nathan Cumberland, had to pull out for personal reasons.
Meyer was the last athlete to compete, and went into the discipline knowing that he only had to get through the event without a disqualification to take the title. But the drama wasn’t over! Meyer started his saw, but as he lifted it to the log, it cut out. With one minute to complete the cuts, Meyer kept his cool and reset the saw, only for it to cut out a second time. He finally managed to get it started and cut three cookies in a time of 41.13 seconds, giving him the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® World Championship win!
Watch Meyer’s nerve-wracking Hot Saw heat here.
Pugh’s Personal Best
British representative Elgan Pugh started the competition in good form, delivering a personal best on the Underhand Chop. Having dedicated many hours to training for the second event of the competition, the Stock Saw, Pugh felt very confident going into that discipline. Unfortunately, he could only set a time of 11.77 seconds, which left him down in 10th place.
A time of 25.62 seconds in the Standing Block wasn’t enough to move him up the leaderboard either, and Pugh was eliminated after the first three events giving him an 11th place finish overall matching his result in the 2018 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® World Championship.
Afterwards, Pugh said “I was really pleased with my personal best in the Underhand, and I had trained the stock saw a lot prior to this weekend, but the wood just wasn’t as fast as I had hoped. I really enjoyed the whole experience though, and we couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere or venue.”