Brian Salmon is taking a look at the the 20 things to watch out for in 2020 that are going to have the biggest impact on The World Games and the individual sports.
Continuation from the first article.
11) Archery Look out for who contests the Archery finals in Tokyo. There is a good chance that the podium athletes will also be in the final of The World Games archery competitions. Both Lisa Unruh and Brady Ellison claimed silver in the Target Archery medal match at Rio 2016. In the Wroclaw edition of The World Games the following year, the pair also made it through to the final of the Field Archery discipline. In the women’s final Unruh staged a remarkable comeback from a losing position, and the German went on to win a thrilling single arrow shoot-out. For Ellison it was not quite so sweet; Field Archery is the ultimate test of skill involving shooting at targets of different lengths and heights, and from different directions. A few indifferent early arrows and the American was never able to recover, so his fourth final at a global multi-sport event and the fourth silver medal, two at the Olympics and two at The World Games. Ellison had a cracking 2019, becoming individual World Champion for the first time, regaining his World Number 1 status, winning 5 World Cups and breaking a World record. Will he be greeted by his home fans in Birmingham as the Olympic Champion?
- 12) Wheelchair Rugby For the first time, the Paralympics will be of direct interest to fans of The World Games. The Archery champion plus the best American at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will be invited to take part in the Archery competition in Birmingham. In addition, the 2021 edition of The World Games will make history by including an event specifically for athletes with a disability. Wheelchair Rugby, Men’s Lacrosse and Duathlon are the three invitational sports chosen by the Birmingham Organising Committee to be demonstrated alongside the core sports of The World Games. Expect speed and collisions aplenty in the wheelchair competition in Birmingham. Plenty of North American rivalry can be expected with the invitational sports. In Lacrosse, Canada will be looking to avenge a controversial last second defeat to the USA at the last World Championship, and the same two nations are the most successful in Wheelchair Rugby.
13) Canoe Polo Another spectacular contact sport but on water, the German men’s team will be looking to extend their recent dominance. They will arrive in Rome in September for this year's World Championships seeking to defend their title. They currently hold all titles available in the sport, being both European champions and winners of the gold medal at The World Games in Wroclaw in 2017. Their sporting brilliance is not the only reason that this team is so special. Just days before the last World Championship in Canada two years ago, one of the German athletes, Fiete Junge, contracted meningitis and tragically passed away. Despite the emotional turmoil, the team rallied to take the grittiest of gold medals, and dedicated their triumph to their beloved team-mate.
- 14) Powerlifting A different kind of strength is shown by Ukrainian powerlifter Larysa Soloviova. If she enters a competition, there can be only one winner. World Champion on numerous occasions, plus four appearances at The World Games (stretching from Duisburg 2005 to Wroclaw 2017) all successfully converted to gold. Should Soloviova triumph again in Birmingham, it would arguably make her the greatest athlete in the history of The World Games. The record books may show that other competitors have won more medals than her, but nearly all these achievements are in sports which award multiple medals at one edition. For an athlete in a highly physical sport to win gold in five editions of the multi-sport festival would be unprecedented. However for virtually the first time in Larysa's career, her status as the sport's undisputed number one is under threat. At the recent World Championships, if Italy's Carola Garra had succeeded with all her lifts, she would have become champion. Soloviova was forced into breaking three separate world records in order to maintain her customary place on the podium top step!
- 15) Waterskiing The Ukrainian powerlifter may be in the latter stages of her glittering career. An equally glorious future lies ahead for an athlete at the other end of the age scale. In the Waterskiing Trick discipline, it was not only the boat that that was making waves in the water. Despite being only 17, Mexico's Pato Font had a break-out season in 2019. His 15 tournament victories included gold medals at The Pan American Games and The Masters. The Florida resident also broke the under-17 world record on multiple occasions, and was presented with the inaugural Pan Am Sports Award for the Next Generation.
- 16) Twins In the Font family, it is not just Pato who is a talented sportsman; brother Diego is also a professional water-skier. Siblings seem to be very attracted to the water. At The World Games in Wroclaw, 17-year-old Italian Alice Virag won the bronze medal in Wakeboarding. Two years later she became World Champion, whilst twin sister Chiara finished sixth. Surprisingly, the Virags are not the only set of twins competing on the professional Wakeboard circuit. Argentinian rider Ulf Ditsch won silver at the Pan American Games. If he and brother Kai can qualify for Birmingham 2021, then there is likely to be a record number of twins competing at The World Games.
Colombia is one of the powers in Flying Disc, in no small measure due to the understanding that Valeria and Manuela Cardenas have developed. They often combine for scores in a manner similar to a quarter-back finding his wide receiver. Already confirmed for Birmingham are the two-time champions of The World Games for the Duo discipline in Ju-Jitsu. Austrians Mirnesa and Mirneta Becirovic are experts in demonstrating spectacular throws to ward off would-be assailants. Also qualified for a trip to Alabama in 2021 are Moscow residents Dina and Arina Averina. Both have extraordinary talent at Rhythmic Gymnastics and a fondness for podium ceremonies. Between them, they won all four gold medals on offer at Wroclaw 2017 for the individual items of apparatus. There is only one gold on offer at Tokyo 2020, given to the person with the highest combined score; it may well be resting on an Averina pair of shoulders, but which one?
- 17) DanceSport Another Russian couple who are charming judges and fans alike with their elegant routines are Armen Tsaturyan and Svetlana Gudnyo. The Latin dancers may have come away from the 2017 edition of The World Games only with silver medals, but they will have high hopes of upgrading in Birmingham. Since Wroclaw their path has been paved with gold, remaining unbeaten in both 2018 and 2019.
18) Orienteering It was nearly a perfect season too for Swedish athlete Tove Alexandersson. She added three more World Championship titles to the seven she won in earlier editions dating back to 2016. She was also victorious in the first six World Cup races and looked set to become the first athlete to win every race during a season. However a mistake in the final race in Guangzhou cost her the chance to make history. It is surprising that such a talented competitor has unfinished business with The World Games: she won silver in Cali in 2013 and was not present in Wroclaw.
19) Gymnastics Another sport with a totally dominant Russian who has never looked like being beaten ... until now. Mikhail Zalomin is without question the greatest gymnast that the discipline of Double Mini Trampoline has ever produced. A typical Zalomin pass will see the Russian sprint towards the tiny trampoline, leap onto the slanted part, perform a technically brilliant somersault onto the horizontal section, execute another spectacular turn and land unerringly on the red target zone. Typically, the judges will award this talented gymnast marks that are far in excess of the capabilities of all his other rivals. However a genuine competitor has emerged, who can realistically challenge for Zalomin's accustomed top podium spot. Step forward, or rather step forward and twist, 18-year-old Ruben Padilla.
The American teenager, whose Facebook page proclaims that he is Born to Fly, had the talent and audacity to match Zalomin's score in the qualifying round of the recent World Championship. In the final, Padilla's trademark toothpaste commercial smile was in evidence as he produced a stunning second pass. To win his eighth world title, Zalomin would need a pass that was both spectacular and perfect. For ordinary gymnasts that would have been game over; however there is a good reason why Zalomin is a legend in the sport, and for the Muscovite, it was business as usual. There is no doubt that at some point in the future, the King of DMT will be de-throned by the ever-improving pretender to the crown. If in 2021 Padilla accomplishes his mission, and in front of his cheering home fans defeats the current champion of The World Games, that would be one of the defining moments of the Birmingham edition of the multi-sport festival.
- 20) The Olympic Channel As in the previous edition of The World Games in Wroclaw in 2017, the Olympic Channel will once again distribute live content and highlights from The World Games 2021 to all territories where there are no TV partners, which secures a global TV coverage for The Games. In addition, many of the sports federations that participate in The World Games have agreements with the Olympic Channel to showcase their sport. That means, therefore, that you will be able to become familiar in advance with the sports that have been chosen to be part of the Birmingham 2021 programme. There will be many live streams of major events, enabling you to keep up-to-date with the latest athletes who have qualified for The World Games. Whether you are an athlete, official or sports fan, here is to a wonderful year of sport in 2020.
Brian Salmon for The World Games
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.