Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 World Footbag Championships, day 8 of my trip to Portland, Oregon. Competition day 6

Howdy folks, how are you doing this morning? The 2017 Worlds is coming to an end very soon. Day 6 had a lot of important events but before I get in the details of the competition there's a few things that I need to say. First of all I think that the net part of the tournament lacks direction. I had to insist yesterday morning that we had a microphone on the main court. Without a push the players would have had to say their scores themselves again. Luckily this problem was solved halfway through the women singles finals and at least the net judge said the scores for the competitors. 

Later during the day, while open doubles semis were in full swing the music started on the freestyle side again, even if their finals were scheduled for 6:30 pm only. As well the free flow people were blasting their music in the main room with no consideration whatsoever for the competitors battling for the World title. One of the players, after repeatedly asking the freestyle producer to turn the music down. had to unplug the speakers and bring the volume to almost zero on the free flow circles blaster. The players on the court flew from Memphis, TN, Montreal, Qc and Poland. Please a little respect.

Women singles net finals

Back to the actual battles that took place on the main court, 2 net titles were in the balance at the beginning of the day. First was the women's singles title. Lena Mlakar (Slovenia) fought Kerstin Anhuth (Germany). Lena was superior, defensively and offensively and she took the title without took much trouble. She took the match in four sets 15-613-1515-1115-9

Open singles net finals

On the men's side the 2016 title holder Walt Houston (USA) was trying to retain his title against Matti Pohjola (Finland). After Matti defeated his teammate Tuomas Karki in the semis I was afraid that he would have problems receiving Walt's service. Tuomas has to deal with quite a bit of Walt's serve in recent years and was doing pretty darn well in receiving in properly. Matti was not ready to deal with the best service on the footbag net tour. This resulted in an easy win for Walt (15-6 15-11 15-10) who racks up a third world title in four years.
The 2017 Footbag Net world singles champions: Lena Mlakar (Slovenia) and Walt Houston (USA)

Open doubles semi finals

The double semis are big crowd favorites as there is a lot of action, big spikes, digs and big running saves. These two matches brought the goods to the spectators in a big way.

In the first match François Depatie-Pelletier and Manu Bouchard (Aki Québec) faced Matti Pohjola and Tuomas Karki (Team Finland). These four are seasoned veterans with lots of experience in the key moments of a tournament. Depatie-Pelletier and Bouchard were in control during the whole match, the Finns players seemed to be lacking energy a little bit and were making more unforced errors than usual and they were pretty much crushed 15-7 15-6

On the other side of the bracket it was a completely different story. Benjamin Alston and Walt Houston (USA) had their hands full with the team of Luc Legault (Aki Québec) and Wiktor Debski (Team Poland). Luc and Wiktor quickly demonstrated that they would not fold against the number one team. They rolled away with a 15-10 victory in the first set and a battle was set to unfold. Ben and Walt won the second set easily 15-4 as it seemed that Legault and Debski lost their concentration and agressiveness for a while. The third set was a battle and I'm sure that the Americans felt the pressure. In the end the combination of them having the best serves and the Polish-Quebec team's relatively weak offerings made the difference. Walt and Ben won the third game 15-10 to make it to the finals at the World Footbag Championships for the first time. The match was nonetheless breathtaking, bravo to all the players.
Luc Legault and Wiktor Debski will battle for third place in open doubles 

Walt Houston and Ben Alston will play in their first ever open doubles finals at the 2017 World Footbag Championships

Freestyle final night

There was a lot of action on the Footbag Freestyle scene as well on day 6. The program invited us to watch the women's and open singles routines + the open circle finals.

The women's field was small this year with only four competitors. Paloma Mayo, the winner of the 2015 title in Copenhagen was clearly the favorite and she dominated the group with her uniquely entertaining style and beautifully crafted routine. Cass Taylor and Caroline Birch pretty much dropped all over the place so they were no match for the champion. Congrats Paloma.

In the open routines eight competitors were battling for the title. Surprisingly Pawel Nowak from Poland took the title over the legend, Vasek Klouda. He's probably still floating on a cloud this morning. It is a well deserved win as he executed his pretty difficult routine flawlessly and without a drop. Vasek had to face a technical glitch at the beginning of his routine as the organizers started the wrong tune for his performance. I can't wait for the day that this won't happen once in the freestyle finals, it seems to be an annoyingly resurging problem. How can it be so difficult to start the right music for the players???? This might have took some of Vasek's legendary concentration away as he dropped the bag once during his routine, probably costing him the title as the scores were extremely tight. Taishi Ishida stepped on the third stair of the podium with another dropless routine, very nice work Taishi. I also like TJ Boutorwick's routine, another dropless routine,  if I'm not mistaken, to start the contest. Jim Penske's was also worth noting. The level is so hight these days that any of the 8 finalists has to push the limits very far.

Speaking about pushing the limits what about the circle competition? This is a great display of virtuosity. The four players in the circle's finals are all virtuosos in my opinion although Nick Landes seemed a bit weaker than the 3 others. Vasek Klouda won it but I was extemely impressed by Lon Smith's crazy abilities + he seemed to be having the most fun. Lon second, Jim Penske 3rd and Nick Landes 4th. Fun to watch and probably discouraging to freestyle beginners? These guys are red hot and in full mastery of their craft. 

So now freestyle is over and there's one day left in the net competitions including the three doubles titles: women's, open and mixed. Lena Mlakar is in the women's doubles and the mixed finals and as she already caught the women singles title she could be looking at a tripe crown, a rare event in the footbag net world.

Three of my Montreal teammates are still in the contention for titles:
Geneviève Bousquet in the women's doubles and mixed
François Depatie-Pelletier and Manu Bouchard in the open doubles.
Let's hope that they bring back some gold to our beloved hometown!

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