Sports Journalist Brian Salmon takes a look back at The World Games 2017 and his 10 biggest moments of the Games. Today, we publish the first five memories.
Wroclaw 2017 was an outstanding edition of The World Games; the Silesian capital saw large crowds in beautiful arenas appreciate the dazzling action provided by some of the globe’s best sportspersons. As one of the dedicated reporting team, I had the privilege of watching spectacular performances at many of the venues. I witnessed drama, unlikely triumphs, disappointments and sporting perfection. What follows is my personal selection of the best moments of The World Games 2017 that I was fortunate to be present at when they occurred.
The biggest difficulty in choosing the Top 10 moments of Wroclaw 2017 was deciding what to leave out. So there is no room for the Italian World Record in Boules, nor the marvellous technique of the Slalom Water skiers. Despite the visual impact, I had to leave out the glamorous ballroom dancers, the agile sports climbers and the high octane start to Canoe Polo matches. Not making the cut either are the knockout blow in the Kickboxing, and the moment when Australia, failing to make the most of the advantages of their sandy coastline, lost in the Beach Handball to Uruguay.
10 Flying Disc
The fans at The World Games 2017 were amazing! They attended in large numbers and created a memorable atmosphere. The Flying Disc match between USA and Canada provided an opportunity to meet a remarkable family: the Mickles were all wearing shirts with the number 23, and had flown from the States to offer support to family member Jimmy and to learn more about their Polish ancestors. Jimmy had a wonderful souvenir to take away from The World Games after victory in the final match. When at the start of the year he was lying in a hospital bed minus his appendix, the dream of a gold medal in Poland had seemed an unlikely prospect.
9 Fin Swimming
Another feature of The World Games was how approachable the athletes were; the swimming pool provided a perfect example of how the competitors interacted with the fans. Hungarian fans had travelled in numbers and were elated when Petra Senanskzy and Krisztina Varga finished first and third in the 50m Bi-Fins Final. After the medal ceremony, the swimmers rejoined their fans in the stand. After offering their congratulations, every Hungarian present requested that the triumphant swimmers autograph the t-shirts they were wearing. I was very tempted to get my t-shirt signed too, until I realised that it might be rather difficult to explain how The World Games volunteer’s T-shirt came to have the signatures of two Hungarian swimmers written on it!
8 Sumo Wrestling
The most successful nation at The World Games 2017 was Russia; in event after event, Russian athletes excelled and found themselves on the top step of the podium. As the stirring anthem was played in arena after arena, I had to keep reminding myself that I had not unconsciously enlisted in the Russian army! The dojo was a particularly fruitful source of silverware for the sporting superpower. Four finals watched, and all four gold medals awarded to the East European nation. Vasilii Margiev’s victory in the heavyweight class was particularly notable as he did not use any wrestling techniques; the man mountain was a human bulldozer who just charged at his opponents, pushing them out of the ring at will.
7 Tug of War
In team sports, it was the women of Chinese Taipei who produced the outstanding performance with a flawless gold medal in Tug of War. The ladies were the living embodiment of the phrase “strength in unity”. Their communication, their movement, their effort was all completely co-ordinated. None of their opponents could match the excellent teamwork displayed by the Asian women, and they ascended to the top step of the podium without losing a single pull during the entire competition.
The unluckiest team were undoubtedly Switzerland; having unexpectedly shocked Finland in the semi-final, they made a sensational start in the pulsating gold medal game against Sweden. When midway through the second period their on-form forwards shot the Swiss into a 5-2 lead, it appeared that history was in the making, as the team would have been the first non-Nordic team to claim a major global title. However the Swedes rallied strongly with a devastating three-goal burst to level up the scores. Two more goals to the yellow shirts in the third period meant that for the Alpine nation, the elusive maiden tournament win would have to wait for another day.