Marina Chernova & Georgii Pataraia, RUSView bio
Jennifer Thompson, USAView bio
Orfan Sananzade, UKRView bio
Svetlana Vinnikova, RUSView bio
Women's team, GREView bio
Dmitry Zharkov & Olga Kulikova, RUSView bio
Sandra Sanchez, ESPView bio
Janja Garnbret, SLOView bio
Dominique Fontenette, USAView bio
Patrick Thomas, GERView bio
Renato Filippin, SUIView bio
Ke Leng, CAMView bio
Men's team U23, SUIView bio
Luca Lucaroni, ITAView bio
Men's team, USAView bio
Suzanne Struik, NEDView bio
Sara Lopez, COLView bio
Women's team, BURView bio
Petra Senanszky, HUNView bio
Men's team, GERView bio
Anna Poliakova, RUSView bio
Rudi Browning, AUSView bio
Nour El Tayeb & Ali Farag, EGYView bio
Maximiliano Ulloa, USAView bio
Tove Alexandersson, SWEView bio
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Marina Chernova & Georgii Pataraia, RUS
The Acrobatic Gymnastics mixed pair Marina Chernova and Georgii Pataraia won the 2018 World Championships and, before that, The World Games in 2017, the 2017 European Championships, the 2016 Worlds and the 2015 European Games.
When the 22-year-olds compete together there is a sense that magic happens, with the seemingly pure harmony that exists between the small Chernova and her massive partner who sends her soaring into the air with effortless elegance.
In Wroclaw, they proved untouchable from start to finish with superior difficulty, artistry and execution in all of their routines, never relinquishing their position atop the scoreboard. With a new combined routine that had the Centennial Hall crowd cheering well before their performance had ended, the Russian duo – already European, European Games and World champions – secured the one major gold medal they did not already possess.
Both Chernova and Pataraia were awarded the title of Honoured Masters of Sport in the Russian Federation in 2017.
Jennifer Thompson, USA
Jennifer Thompson, 45, from the USA won the 2018 World title in Classic Powerlifting in the Open category (63 kg) - although she could have competed in the Masters class (over 40 years old) instead.
“I started lifting in 1999,” Thompson tells. Since then, she has broken the world record 68 times in Bench Press and Total combined! She currently holds 4 IPF Equipped Bench Press titles, 2 IPF Classic Bench Press titles, 4 IPF Classic Powerlifting titles, 1 IPF Masters Bench Press and 1 IPF Masters Powerlifting title.
Thompson says her inspiration is to show that you don't have to look like a man to lift like one. "It's not supposed to be easy, so GO BIG or stay at home" she adds as her favorite Powerlifting quote.
Orfan Sananzade, UKR
Orfan Sananzade (UKR) won Kickboxing gold at The World Games 2017 in the category - 63.5 kg. This year, as the only athlete, he won in the same weight category as in Wroclaw: gold at the European Championships held in Bratislava, Slovakia, in October. The victory at The World Games was the first for the 24-year-old athlete in major competitions.
Svetlana Vinnikova, RUS
Svetlana Vinnikova is an amateur Muaythai athlete, but her approach to training is far from amateur. Her results speak for themselves: this year she is IFMA World Champion and European Champion at 63.5kg. In 2017 she won gold at The World Games in Wroclaw (60kg), and also held the titles of European and World Champion at 63.5kg. In order to qualify for the Russian National Muaythai team, she competes every year at regional and national level to earn her place as Russian champion.
Svetlana was awarded the Golden Belt 2018 by the Russian Union of Martial Arts – equivalent to female athlete of the year – in recognition of her achievements.
Like all Muaythai athletes, Svetlana works to support herself financially. She has chosen to dedicate her working career to the promotion of women in Muaythai. She teaches young girls and women from the beginner stages, focusing on Muaythai as self-defence and as a cultural martial art. She’s a firm believer that make-up and Muaythai belong together, and there is a place for femininity in combat sports. Svetlana often highlights the girls’ achievements on her social media - showing them you don’t have to be a champion to get praise for setting and reaching goals.
Women's team, GRE
Greece shocked the world – and themselves – when they became the first-ever team in a men’s or women’s IHF Beach Handball World Championship to debut with a gold medal when they took top spot at Kazan in 2018.
“What just happened? We took first place in the world? I cannot believe it,” said Greece coach Maria Karantoni after she saw her side beat Norway 2:1 in the final, thanks to a 5:2 shoot-out win after they won the first period (18:14) but lost the second (24:15).
Ironically, they had started their Kazan campaign by leading the 2016 world champions Spain at half-time, after taking the first period 20:10, but Spain won the second and, in what would be a one-off, Greece failed completely in the resulting shoot-out to lose the match 2:1.
But then the miracle for Greece happened – shoot-out wins against Australia and Paraguay followed in the preliminary round, and another shoot-out win against Uruguay in the main round confirmed their quarter-final place, after a 2:0 loss against Poland and a 2:0 win over Chinese Taipei.
Then, a shoot-out win against hosts Russia in the last eight and a revenge shoot-out win over Spain in the semi-finals put them in that historic final.
Miracles do happen in handball. Just ask Greece – if they have come down from Cloud Nine yet.
Greece player Ntafina Dimitri says: “It’s really amazing, we don’t believe it yet. I am so excited – we were one of the biggest outsiders in this world championships but we believed in ourselves so much. We have worked alone on our training for the last five years and it’s a fantastic feeling to have won. So many people at that time in Greece were asking me ‘what is this beach handball?’ We just hope that everyone in Greece knows what beach handball is now.”
Dmitry Zharkov & Olga Kulikova, RUS
Dmitry and Olga started their career together 15 years ago, in 2003.
Since May 2013, Dmitry and Olga have been in the top 3 in every single competition they have taken part in. By The World Games 2017 the couple had won two World Championship titles and two European Championship titles. At The World Games Dmitry and Olga were ranked second.
Since then the couple have won all their competitions.
Fast-forward to October 2018, WDSF GrandSlam in Moscow. After three World Championship titles and three European Championship titles, the couple are on their home ground for the last qualifying leg of the 2018 GrandSlam Series. It is also the last competition before the World Championships, which will be held in three weeks. It would be their big chance to win a fourth World Championship title, an achievement no-one else has ever reached in Standard dancing.
During the last dance of the final, a solo quickstep, Dmitry feels something on his foot. He bites his lip, ignores the pain and finishes the last dance and the competition successfully. They win again.
After the competition he can’t walk. There are big problems with his foot. They tell him that he should rest for a minimum of two months, without any kind of sport, and not even put his leg on the floor. He is supposed to use crutches for three weeks.
But that would mean the couple would lose the opportunity to be at the World Standard, an opportunity to make history.
Three weeks later, 2018 World Championship Standard in Vienna. Dmitry has found help and managed to overcome the pain. After the last dance of the final, a solo Viennese Waltz, Dmitry and Olga receive a standing ovation. They stay on the dance floor, thanking the crowd longer than usual.
Applause is continuing longer than ever. They know what has just happened. After the scores are displayed it is confirmed: Dmitry and Olga have secured their fourth World Championship title. A moment that will be remembered. A moment in history.
Dmitry and Olga have written their names in the League of Legends, higher than anyone. They have made history, together.
Sandra Sanchez, ESP
Born on September 16th 1981, Sandra Sanchez of Spain is one of Karate’s most beloved athletes. In only six years, the Spanish fan favourite has enjoyed a meteoric career and gone from being barely known at the highest level to become one of the best Kata karatekas of all times.
Sandra Sanchez currently holds first position in the WKF World Ranking in Female Kata, with over 1500 points difference over second-placed Kiyou Shimizu of Japan. The Spanish karateka is also number 1 in WKF’s all-time ranking in Female Kata. This year she won the Grand Winner award – the distinction that recognises the best karateka of the year in Karate 1-Premier League – for the second consecutive time.
This affable athlete is enjoying such a successful career that she has accumulated 37 consecutive medals in international competitions. The last time that Sandra Sanchez didn’t make it to the podium at Karate’s biggest events was in November 2014.
This season Sanchez has reached even greater heights. In addition to claiming the Grand Winner award and earning her fourth continental title, she achieved the most outstanding possible success: winning the world crown at the 2018 Karate World Championships at home in Madrid. Sanchez was also awarded the highest recognition by the Spanish government: the National Sports Award. In the last edition of The
World Games, Sandra Sanchez took the silver medal after losing the final against Japan’s Kiyou Shimizu.
Besides her work promoting the sport amongst youngsters, Sandra Sanchez is an advocate of women’s rights and she is the ambassador for the national programme of Defence of Women in Sport.
Janja Garnbret, SLO
Janja Garnbret (SLO) is the first-ever female World Champion in the Combined discipline in Sport Climbing.
Garnbret is The World Games 2017 silver medallist in Lead, and at the 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria she took gold in Bouldering, silver in Lead and gold in the new Combined event, the discipline that is going to feature at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. The 19-year-old sport climber is one of the big hopes for Slovenia in the upcoming Olympics.
Already in 2015, Garnbret placed fourth in the overall Lead climbing standings, and in 2016 she won most of the competitions in which she participated. She won the World Cup in Lead and Combined disciplines, the World Championships in Lead, and the World Youth Championships in Lead and Bouldering. In addition to her competition climbing career, Janja Garnbret is also an accomplished outdoor climber and has completed the ascents of various extremely difficult routes.
Janja Garnbret started competing when she was 14 years old. Besides school and climbing, she does not have time for much else. “And even if I had time for anything else, I would still go climbing,” she laughs.
Dominique Fontenette, USA
Dominique Fontenette (USA) has a long and impressive career, and in 2018 earned her sixth world championship title at the World Ultimate Club Championships. She has been a dominant force in the women’s division since she first began to play.
Winning the Callahan Award and a national title during her time at Stanford, she continued playing with premier women’s teams in the Bay Area and Boston and currently plays in Seattle with Riot. Over the length of her career, Fontenette has been a key team member with four UPA National Championships in the club women’s division and six WFDF World Championship titles in multiple divisions, including being named to six U.S. National Teams - a remarkable feat. In addition to being continuously successful on the field, she has displayed exemplary sportsmanship and fair play at every level. Her athleticism and
versatility as a player contribute to her ability to fill many different roles on the team/field and has enabled her to easily integrate into new systems and teams.
Dominique Fontenette has participated in many teaching clinics over the last couple of decades (U.S., Japan, Uganda) and, more recently, has organised a clinic for East African players (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda) in Kisumu, Kenya. And throughout this exemplary ultimate career, she practices as an emergency medicine physician.
Patrick Thomas, GER
Patrick Thomas, Germany is a superstar within the Fistball family, but still with both feet on the ground. Patrick has won every title in Fistball (2x World Champion, 3x European Champion, 2x The World Games Winner) and is known for his outstanding fast strikes which accelerate up to 130 km/h. In 2017 he was seriously injured in the opening match of The World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Patrick collided with his German team-mate Steve Schmutzler when they faced Argentina in the Preliminary Round. After examination in Wroclaw hospital, it was clear that Patrick Thomas had suffered an acromioclavicular joint injury and had ripped all the bands in his shoulder. It was not clear if he could ever play Fistball again.
Getting back on track
Just 10 months later Patrick returned to the Fistball pitch and proved many people wrong; all those who said it’s not possible to fully recover from his injury. At the inaugural IFA 2018 Fistball World Tour Finals, which was his first appearance on the elite stage after the injury, he finished fourth with his team TSV Pfungstadt. He kept on training, and just two months later he went on to claim the European Champions Cup with his club. Following his successful come-back at club level, he led the German national team to the European Championship title in late August 2018 on home ground. So he has shown a strong fighting spirit during the whole year and now he is back stronger, and playing better than he has ever played. That’s an incredible return to action after such a severe injury, and is the product of great mental strength and hard training.
Renato Filippin, SUI
Renato Filippin Shihan (SUI), 7 Dan, has an extensive Aikido background. He lives in Switzerland, but travels worldwide to teach or participate at Aikido events. He started with Aikido in the winter of 1963, so he has been training for over 55 years. His passion for Aikido has never faded: he served as the first Chairperson of the Youth group in the International Aikido Federation, and now he is an adviser to the Chairman of the federation. He also works with minority children in Switzerland, and also with youth at risk.
Renato Filippin Shihan has been engaging in projects that go on beyond the first success. In 2017, he organised a highly appreciated Youth Event in St. Gallen, which was the precursor of the Youth Seminars in Papendal, Netherland (2017) and in Cluj-Napoca, Romania (2018).
Ke Leng, CAM
Ké Leng (CAM) is a multiple World Champion in Boules Sports, Petanque. For years, however, she was not able to compete in the World Championships. The Federation of Cambodia has only limited financial resources, and the Government preferred to support participation in continental competitions. Ké Leng has over 20 regional victories.
There was much less support for the World Championships, and therefore the women of Cambodia came to participate in the World Championships for the first time only in Montauban (France) for the titles of the 2013/2014 season, thanks to the support of the French Embassy and the French Federation. Since then, Ké Leng has dominated precision shooting at world-level, winning the title three times consecutively.
Following the results and a visit to Cambodia by the International Federation’s President, the Government then gave the Cambodian Federation the means to send the best players regularly to the World Championships in triples and precision shooting, which take place every two years (alternately women and men). With her three titles, Ke Leng has used this opportunity in the best way possible!
Men's team U23, SUI
The Swiss national U-23 Men’s team won the World Championships gold medal in Cape Town in 2018 without losing a pull. The special thing about this gold medal is that it was the 10th in series. An incredible achievement!
Behind this remarkable success story is Daniel Strebel, the coach responsible for the U-23 Men. He has learnt all the necessary skills during his 15 years as a puller in national and international competitions, with club and national teams.
As assistant and later association trainer of the U-19 Juniors from 1992 until 2002, he won 8 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. Since 2003, Daniel Strebel has been coaching the U-23 Men (Mixed since 2018) with 1 gold as European Champions, 13 golds as World Champions, plus 2 silvers and 1 bronze in World Championships. During this time, Daniel Strebel has supported 120 juniors from 15 different clubs.
An unbelievable success story with the highlight at the 2018 World Championships in Cape Town.
Luca Lucaroni, ITA
Luca Lucaroni is the only skater in the history of artistic skating to have simultaneously won the world titles in men’s free skating and in pairs and with a record performance. In fact on the occasion of the 2016 World Championships in Novara, during the four days of the competition, he was awarded 10.0 (the maximum score) 18 times by the international judging panel. Because of this he has since been nicknamed ‘Mr 10’.
In 2017, at The World Games in Wroclaw, Lucaroni was awarded the gold medal for both of the disciplines Men’s Free Skating and Pairs. The same happened at the World Championships in 2017 in Nanjing and in 2018 in La Vendée.
He has also been officially named as a ‘Juventus Athlete’. He received the accolade at the Juventus Stadium, and his skates are on display in the Juventus museum in the area dedicated to great sportsmen. The Italian Olympic Committee has awarded him the CONI gold medal for athletic value.
Men's team, USA
The U.S.A. men’s national team finished the 2018 FIL Men’s World Championship undefeated with a 7-0 record, and completed a stunning come-back in the closing moments of the final to win the championship by one goal.
One of the greatest rivalries in sport came down to the last second, literally, as Tom Schreiber’s buzzer-beating goal gave the United States a 9-8 victory over opponents Canada to capture the 2018 victory in Netanya, Israel.
It was the 10th world title for the United States, and avenged a loss to Canada in the 2014 World Championships. A record 46 nations competed in the 2018 Championships, and the U.S. team featured four All-World selections: Ryan Brown, Rob Pannell, Schreiber and Tournament MVP Michael Ehrhardt.
Suzanne Struik, NED
Suzanne Struik (NED) has been playing for Dutch national teams since she was 18 years old, and now, at age 31, she has decided to retire. In October 2018 she won the European Korfball Championship together with her team, and Suzanne was the Player of the Match in the final.
Overall, Suzanne has won gold in three World Korfball Championships (2015, 2011, 2007), four European Korfball Championships (2018, 2014, 2010, 2006), and three editions of The World Games (2017, 2013, 2009). Because of her continuous presence in the Dutch national team, she is the current Dutch record international with 69 caps.
Not only is she very successful on the pitch, she also continuously contributes to the development of international korfball. She does so by, among other things, chairing the IKF Athlete Committee, for which she has been awarded the IKF Pin of Merit in October 2018.
Sara Lopez, COL
The World Games 2017 champion, Sara Lopez, is the second archer in the world, and first woman, to win the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final four times.
She previously won the event in 2014, 2015 and 2017, and in 2018 joined Brady Ellison in leading all other athletes in career wins.
“I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream. I always wanted it to be like this, to be as good as the archers I admire. Like Brady; he has four World Cups too,” said Lopez.
Tears streamed down Lopez’s face, as they always do, as she hugged coach Herber Mantilla.
“I always cry because for me it feels like the first match I shot in Antalya in 2013. I cry because I know my family is watching me. I did it for my grandmother, for my family, for my coach, for me and for all the people that support me,” she said.
“I always get excited to see that Colombia, a small country, is doing wonderful things internationally and I’m representing them in the best possible way.”
With the World Cup title and three more head-to-head wins, Lopez finished 2018 completely unbeaten in international match-play.
Women's team, BUR
The Women’s team from Burkina Faso won the first-ever Africa Floorball Cup, played in September 2018, and overcame a tough competition schedule by winning all their matches. With only 12 players the Burkina Faso women’s team dominated the tournament, underlining their dominance with a 5-0 win over Côte d´Ivoire in the gold-medal match. The team travelled over 1000 km by car from Burkina Faso to Abidjan in Côte d´Ivoire for the love of the sport, and also showed some real ‘sportswomanship by supporting all the teams that participated in the tournament.
The players are recruited from poor neighbourhoods and community schools, and 40% of the players come from the small agricultural village Nakamtenga, 50 km from the capital Ouagadougou. At the first training sessions, only one of the 12 girls had sport shoes. The national team coaches and leaders visited the homes of all the players and spoke to the parents, to get their permission to let the players participate in the Africa Floorball Cup. The Africa Floorball Cup participation was funded by donations from individuals in Sweden and Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, Floorball has opened new opportunities to get girls and women into sports, and especially into team sports.
Petra Senanszky, HUN
Not only did Finswimmer Petra Senanszky win both Women’s Bi Fin competitions at The World Games in 2017 – both with a new World Record; this July she also dominated the same distances at the Finswimming World Championships by winning two individual gold medals and one bronze in Relay.
But even this was not the full story: after the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, Senanszky continued directly to the University Competition in Finswimming. There she was one of the most successful competitors in winning another gold medal in 50m Bi Fin with score time 00:22.30. Petra Senanszky’s career started at the age of 8, when her parents took her to a Debrecen diving club. She won her first World Championship title in 2011 and has since won 10 more. Her first appearance at The World Games was impressive: she was one of the first competitors to win gold at the Games in Poland, on July 21, 2017, and both World Records she achieved in Wroclaw still stand today!
Men's team, GER
Two weeks before this year's ICF Canoe Polo World Championships, the German team was plunged into despair with the news that one of their team-mates, Fiete Junge, had died suddenly from meningitis. It rocked the team and the sport generally, and cast an enormous pall over the World Championships in Welland, Canada.
The team vowed to carry on in the memory of their team-mate, and there was not a dry eye in the house when they went on to win their first ever World Championship title. It was an incredibly emotional event, made even more significant by the fact that the German men's team had finished runners-up on five previous occasions.
Coach Bjorn Zirotzki could barely contain his tears as he waved Junge’s number ten vest to the crowd as soon as the final whistle was blown.
“It’s a very emotional win for us,” Zirotzki said. “We are not a team of superstars, we are a superstar team. The last time we met with Fiete we talked about how we wanted to be world champions. He would say all the time hey guys, let’s do this, so we did it for Fiete, we did it for us, we did it for the team.”
“It’s unbelievable what these guys achieved, it’s unbelievable what has happened to us in the past couple of weeks. Normally it’s not possible to do it, but we did it.”
German captain Jonas Vieren said his team was under enormous pressure, after winning five silver medals and also having to deal with the emotional circumstances. “And we won the title for Fiete.”
Anna Poliakova, RUS
Anna Poliakova’s winning streak in The World Games and the Sumo World Championships started in 2008. Previously competing as Anna Zhigalova, she is a 5-time gold medallist in the Open-weight category, with two gold medals in the Heavyweight category in amongst, in the last 7 Sumo World Championships. She has participated in The World Games in 2009, 2013 and 2017, winning both the Heavyweight and Open-weight categories in all 3 of the Games, giving her 6 Gold Medals and making her one of the most successful athletes at The World Games.
Anna Poliakova has not only raised the standards of Sumo, but has also become a symbol of strength
both in mind and body, and an example for all girls and women in Sumo.
Rudi Browning, AUS
Rudi Browning (AUS) won the 2018 FAI World Drone Racing Championships after a stunning four days of competition in Shenzhen, China.
The 15-year-old pilot beat 127 other drone racers from 34 countries to win the title and the prestigious FAI gold medal, in a final race that was watched by tens of thousands of drone fans around the world.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” he said afterwards. “I dreamed of this, and it is incredible that it has come true. I couldn’t be happier.”
He added: “I am a very competitive person and I aim high. The goal was to win everything I could. A lot of luck comes into it as well as skill; everything came together and I am super happy.”
Nour El Tayeb & Ali Farag, EGY
Egyptians Nour El Tayeb and Ali Farag made sporting history late in 2017 by becoming the first married couple to win the same major sports title on the same day! The Cairo couple became Squash US Open champions - El Tayeb, from the position of 10th seed, upsetting both the no. 1 and no. 2 seeds to claim the women's PSA World Series trophy for the first time, and Harvard graduate Farag dispatching the defending champion and world no. 1 in the final to take the men's title against expectations.
Farag went on to reach a career-high world no. 2 ranking in April this year, while his wife celebrated a best-ever world no. 3 ranking in February.
El Tayeb added a further World Series trophy to her cabinet this year by winning the Windy City Open title in Chicago in February, before clinching the prestigious Carol Weymuller Open crown in New York this October. In September, El Tayeb helped Egypt retain the Women's World Team Championship title.
Farag also progressed in 2018, reaching six PSA World Finals before securing the richest prize of his career by winning the Qatar Classic in Doha in October.
Maximiliano Ulloa, USA
Maximiliano Ulloa (USA) is Pan-American and 2018 World Champion in Para Ju-Jitsu. Ju-Jitsu can be used as a means of self-defence; Maximiliano Ulloa, however, found Ju-Jitsu also to be an effective therapeutic method to treat his paralysis.
Maximiliano Ulloa already had over a decade of martial arts experience prior to his first injury in 1998, one he had suffered at work. He had survived an accidental cut to his leg with a skill saw, and only survived because it missed a major artery. He went from having a limp to being a fully functional Ju-Jitsu athlete in a matter of months.
With his latest spinal cord injury, which he suffered after falling from a two-storey building, he is once again using the same Ju-Jitsu exercises to restore himself. Although he cannot use his abdomen, legs, or lower back, he is becoming stronger in the other parts of his body that are still functional. He started the International Jiu Jitsu Without Limitations Federation to encourage other disabled individuals to get started with Ju-Jitsu.
“I have a T-5 Spinal Cord Injury. I am a purple belt with over 8 years of experience in Ju-Jitsu both when I was walking and in this wheelchair. From my personal experience I know the benefits that Ju-Jitsu brings, and want to help provide this option for those struggling or new to their limitations,” Ulloa says.
His open, constructive and positive outlook gave the Ju-Jitsu International Federation the confidence to run Para Ju-Jitsu in their events. The plan for 2019 is to include it in all events.
Tove Alexandersson, SWE
Swedish athlete Tove Alexandersson has had an incredible year. At the World Orienteering Championships she defended her Long Distance title, and together with her team-mates she also became World Champion in Sprint Relay. In addition she won the silver medal in both the Sprint and the Relay. She is unbeaten champion in the Orienteering World Cup and she won the overall World Cup for the fifth (!) year in a row. At the European Orienteering Championships she won the Long Distance and the Sprint and was second in the Middle Distance.
Tove Alexandersson is not only a world-class athlete in Orienteering. In 2018 she also won two gold medals at the European Ski Orienteering Championships, and she became World Champion in Skyrunning.