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Euro Games: inclusion in optimal form

July 2022

They dance the rumba, the tango, the quickstep. The couples at the beautiful Concertgebouw De Vereeniging at Nijmegen, the Netherlands, are smiling. Their moves are graceful and hopefully well judged, because they are in a ballroom dance competition. With same sex couples, which is unique for a dance event. It’s the Euro Games 2022.

Seventeen sports. About 2.000 participants. Men, women, non-binair. The last one is an important category at the Euro Games, a multi-sport festival held in the last days of July in Nijmegen, a city in the Netherlands. Sport is a means to celibrate the inclusion and the lhbti+-community. Consider it as the European version of the Gay Games.

 

Most asked question to organiser Joost van Wijngaarden? “Why is it necessary for gay people to have their own sporting event?” A question asked out of negativity, with maybe even a bit of agressive connotation in it. “Why do students have their own events?”, replies Van Wijngaarden. “At this moment the World Police and Fire Games are being held in the Netherlands. Why are they being held? Is the question formulated to competitors at that event in the same way?” Probably not. “Strictly, this event is probably not necessary to let people be active together in their sport, but it is needful to stress out that it is not for the fully 100 procent accepted for lhbti+-people and -athletes to be yourself at your sport club or at a sporting event.”

 

The Euro Games is not just about sport. It’s a about life. With sport, entertainment and meeting each other as a means to live that life. For some people it’s difficult to live the life as a gay man or as a queer. Because of how society looks at them and because of the law in some countries in the east of Europe. Van Wijngaarden: “Competitors from those countries are here, but some of them don’t want their name in the results or have pictures taken of them, because back at home homosexuality is prohibited and you can be prosecuted. Try to think about that! At a country not that far away, on the same continent.”

 

The same sex dance competition is well attended and some contestors reach a high level. Other sports at the Euro Games are mostly the usual suspects as athletics, swimming, volleybal, but there also more obscure ones like pickleball (tennis type of sport) or bridge. In team sports not every member is part of the lhbti+-community. To find a complete field hockey squad with non-binary people, that’s impossible. “But that is not the goal”, says Van Wijngaarden. “Everyone can join, we want inclusion. In that same hockey squad, not everyone is gay. You can join as a heterosexual. It’s just: sometimes people want to share the same things you run into with equal minded people. Remember being a student? You don't have to join a student sport club, but you want to, because you can be part of the same culture, having the same sense of humour. It’s the same with lhbti+-ers. They can share their humour and some of their harsh or funny experiences with each other and talk about how they live their lives. Sometimes that’s very pleasant.” And sometimes it might be necessary.

 


Vital employee important at European Company Sports Games

Juni 2022

No large display of country flags in the badminton hall at the Papendal sports center. They are present, but the name and color of the companies of the athletes are perhaps more important at the European Company Sport Games (ECSG) in the province of Gelderland. Airbus, Ghent University, Post NL, Veolia, Hager Group. These are the names stated on the company shirts, these are the 'countries' that the athletes represent at the multi-sport event.

 

Representing your country is an honor for many athletes. On the ECSG the proud of the employee playing for their company plays an important role. Something that is quite normal in countries such as France and Germany, but is less obvious in the Netherlands – with its characteristic culture of sportclubs rather than sporting for you company. “It also happens in the Netherlands, but as a company we mainly exercise by participating in events such as Alpe d'Huzes (cycling) or at the Dam tot Damloop (athletics). Abroad, entire corporate competitions are set up in volleyball or basketball, often because there is no culture of sportclubs as we know it. Perhaps we can strengthen those two worlds in the Netherlands,” says Ron van Gent, program director of the Stichting Nederland Onderneemt Maatschappelijk (NLOM!) of VNO-NCW.

Vitality

 

It's one of the goals of the ECSG, which is organized by NLOM!, affiliated to organisations VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland. Van Gent and Martine Schuijer, director of the foundation, speak of a leverage effect that includes more goals. Vitality is the most important one. “This event completely fits in with the theme of making workers more vital,” says Schuijer. “With our Vitaal Bedrijf (Vital Company) program we want to encourage companies in the Netherlands to work on that vitality. Healthier employees feel better and achieve better results. And because the retirement age is moving up, it is also very important that everyone reaches the finish line fit.” VNO-NCW wants to seriously work on a Dutch Business Sports Federation, the license is already in the hands of NLOM!.

 

During the ECSG, employees of different companies from 14 European countries compete against each other in 21 sports. Well-known sports such as table tennis, basketball, football, but also lesser known sports such as petanque and orienteering. These sports are spread across the province of Gelderland, involved in the event as a co-organizer. Not everything is centered on Papendal, but sports are also played in Ede, Apeldoorn and Doetinchem so that the surrounding area also benefits from the visitors.

Warsteiner

 

Fanaticism and sporting together for fun seem to go hand in hand at the ECSG. While on one field in the table tennis hall players produce incredible rallies, on the other field a break is taken to tap a beer from a barrel of Warsteiner brought along. “In the end, it's really about winning for some people,” says Schuijer. “There is a football team from Malta that asked us if a training accommodation was available, because they wanted to prepare well. Well, then we'll arrange that.”

 

Mental health

 

Back to Vitaal Bedrijf (Vital Company). Van Gent and Schuijer note a growing awareness at companies of promoting the health of employees. “And we help the companies with this by thinking with them about how we can achieve healthier employees. In addition to sports and exercise, it is also about nutrition and relaxation. Mental health is also important. I think that companies have become even more aware of this, partly because of corona.”

 

The ECSG is a biennial event that could not take place due to the corona pandemic last year, next year Bordeaux will be the host in 'company sports country' France. In the Netherlands, this company sport may not have a great tradition, but the origin of the ECSG is indeed Dutch. The first edition of the multi-sport event took place in 1977 in the Netherlands, at the initiative of Philips. “And at the opening ceremony were relatives of the creators and founders. That was nice to see.”

 


Dancing, twisting and turning at WC indoor skydiving

April 2022

Skydiving is normally practiced in open air, jumping out of a plane and flying and falling free as a bird. But you can do it indoors, in a vertical windtunnel. With speeds of sometimes round 300 km/h the skydivers are performing in different categories: formation, vertical formation, freestyle and dynamic.

 

It's a spectacular sport and some skydivers are able to be a professional. For exaple 19-year old Kyra Poh, seen on the image here.  Discover the Games was at the World Cup, which was also a European Championship, in Charleroi and dived into the world of indoor skydiving. We wrote a story for Dutch newspaper Trouw. 

 

Click here or on the picture to read the online version, it is in Dutch. For the English version: click here.

Photo credtis at the article in the paper: ©Vania Da Rui.

 


22 countries at World Cup in ancient sport ice stock

February 2022

Bron: Vereniging Rembrandt
Bron: Vereniging Rembrandt

The painting Winterlandschap met vogelknip by the Dutch painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder shows the sport ice stock. The print is dated around 1565, it is said there are around 127 copies of the print, mainly made by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the son of the original painter.

On the painting seven people can be seen in the left corner below, playing a game with stones with a stick on top: ice stock. Other names are Eisstockschiessen, Stocksport and Bavarian Curling. It is a wonderful scene about an ancient sport.

This weekend is the Ice Stock World Championship in South Tyrol, in the winter sports resort of Klobenstein (or Collalbo, known by skaters for its ice rink in open air). The sport is mainly practiced by the elderly from the Alpine countries, but 22 countries have settled in the snow and on the ice in the last weekend of February. Countries you don't expect: Namibia, Kenya, India, Colombia, Brazil. Are there ice rinks in Namibia? No. “But the sport is also played on asphalt,” says Barbara Tschager of the organizing committee. “Then it is not ice stock, but stock sport and other stones are used. For some participants, it may well be their first time on ice.”

 

Curling

 

Ice stock is reminiscent of curling; the stones are moved to a target, the stone closest to the Daube wins. But ice stock is definitely something else. For example, there is no angle in the stick above the stone; you give the stone a swing without a turning technique. There is no sweeping and there is one completely different discipline: the long distance. Simple and powerful: whoever swings the stone the furthest across the ice wins. Extra special in Collalbo, because there is the only track over 400 meters.

 

Leisure activity

 

In certain regions of the Alpine countries of Italy, Germany and Austria, ice stock (and stock sport) is played in clubs, but it is also a leisure activity that is part of the culture. “The sport does want to grow, but it is mainly played by many older people,” says Tschager. “Young people are more likely to choose ice hockey.”

 

The sport has been shown twice as a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games: in 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and in 1964 in Innsbruck. The 2026 Games will be in Cortina d'Ampezzo, less than 90 kilometers from Collalbo, but attempts to be a third time on the agenda as a demonstration sport have failed. New efforts for 2030 are being prepared.

 

The organization can receive 900 spectators in this year’s event. The tournament can also be followed at the livestream on the event site.


Yva Geluk, police officer and cyclist, eager to ride at World Police and Fire Games

February 2022

Yva Geluk shines in the newspaper of the Dutch province Zeeland, PZC. We interviewed the Dutch police officer and cyclist and wrote an article. Geluk is one of the participants this summer at the World Police and Fire Games in Rotterdam. She will compete at three disciplines: the road race, time trial and mountainbiking.

 

The 32-year old is a semi-professional cyclist, because her work with the police doesn't allow her to be full pro, but that's exactly what she wants: 'I don't want to be my life completely depending on cycling. To me, it seems a monotonous and lonely existence to only be involved with sports. That also comes with a lot of pressure. It feels good to be able to cycle after a hard day of work day at the police office.'

 

Read the story below in Dutch as published in PZC.  In our blog section you can read the English version. Click on the picture to read the story.

 


Iceland has its own International Games

February 2022

While the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games has just ended and the world is gearing up for two weeks of sport on the highest level on the ice and in the (fake) snow of China, the Reykjavik International Games (RIG) are in full swing. The multi-sport event is entering its second and final weekend.

 

In Iceland, an ideal name for a country to focus on winter sports, the focus is on other sports, all individual disciplines. The idea behind the RIG is to give Icelandic athletes competition on home soil. “We are an island in the Atlantic Ocean. In order to give our top athletes good international competition, we always have to cross borders”, says Gustaf Adolf Hjaltason, president of the organizing committee. "That is expensive. And so we came up with something to bring international top competitors to Iceland at least once a year.”

 

The Icelandic Athletics Federation and the Aegir swimming club, of which Hjaltason was chairman, had already organized such an international meeting in their own sport. After the International Children's Games was also held in Iceland in 2007, it was clear: there had to be a major multi-sport event with international participation.

Every sport

 

What started in 2008 with one weekend, has grown into a ten-day event, largely organized on a voluntary basis. During those ten days, a wide variety of sports will be played. From athletics to crossfit. From swimming to darts. “Every sport is welcome,” explains Hjaltason. “We don't want to be there just for the Olympic sports. There are plenty of athletes who participate in smaller sports and who also seek competition. And there are 'new' sports such as crossfit and e-sport that are really big and popular and that are also embraced by us. We don't have to lift team sports such as handball, football and basketball, individual ones do need our attention."

 

World record

 

The field of participants in major sports is often composed by invitation and is intended for top athletes. For example, swimmers such as Therese Alshammer from Sweden and the Norwegian Alexandre Dale Oen took part. American powerlifter Kimberly Walford, who is a frequent competitor in the event, broke her own world record deadlift in Reykjavik last week. Hjaltason: “She likes the atmosphere of the event. In a good year, participants come from 40 to 45 countries around the world. Also from Singapore or New Zealand, for example.”

Other sports are also open to amateurs and are sometimes competed in different age groups. The organization does not work with official invitations, but tells the welcoming story of Iceland and the ideology of the games in order to advertise and attract the attention of athletes, organizers and tourists.

 

Unique

 

Hjaltason is convinced that similar multi-sport events as the RIG will emerge elsewhere in the world, but has not come across them yet. “We sometimes take trips abroad in search of similar events, then we spread the word. Because our observation is we are unique, I have not seen other events organized like we do. This spring we want to travel through Europe again to spread our ideas and invite people.” In addition, he also hopes that a Northern European cooperation may arise. By joining forces with the Swedish company Spring Media, more media attention may be gained. “Athletes from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, for example, are already happy to participate. They also get good competition and still get a bit of an Olympic feeling..”

 

The RIG conveys the Olympic feeling with, for example, an opening and closing ceremonies, although they do so in their own way. “Before Covid, the closing ceremony was at the same time as the dance competitions. That way it turned out to be a complete night out. Entertainment, good food and watching the dancing at the same time”, says Hjaltason. This weekend will be slightly different due to Covid-19, but the closing ceremony is approaching. Only after that the eye might turn to the Winter Olympics.

 

You can follow the Games at: https://www.rig.is/en/


Vasaloppet around the world

January 2022

If you heard of the Vasaloppet, you’ll probably think it’s a Swedish event for cross-country skiers. And you’re right, it is. In 2022 the race celebrates it’s 100 year anniversary, with a ten day Winter Week in the last days of February and the first days of March. But, the Vasaloppet is also held in… China.

 

First: the Swedish one. The Vasaloppet is not only a race for skiers with the determination and stamina to travel over a distance of 90 kilometers (there are also races of 30 and 45 kilometer) through snow on narrow slats. It is also very much a tale of the history of Sweden. A story about the nobleman Gustav Vasa and his flight and return on ski’s from Sälen to Mora in 1520. Starting an uprising against the Danish rulers after what we now call the Stockholm Bloodbath. The rebellion led to the defeat of the Danish king, Vasa was elected king of Sweden and laid the foundations of the Swedish state. Read about it at the site of the Vasaloppet. There you can also read about the origins of the race, some 400 hundred years after the heroic story of Gustav Vasa (in case you haven’t figured it out: loppet means the race, Vasa is the king: Vasa-loppet).

 

Now. The Vasaloppet in Sweden has expanded throughout the years. In Sweden itself it has become a mass event with other races as well, attracting thousands of international competitors. There’s also a Summer edition, with running events and mountainbike races. And the Vasaloppet has also expanded across the borders. It is part of a racing series, organised by the Worldloppet Ski Federation.

 

Participants can obtain a classy passport in which they collect stamps from the twenty other long-distance cross-country races around the world. The goal of the real collector is to become a Master, completing ten races in ten different countries with at least one race on another continent (funfact: the race in the USA is held in Mora, Minnesota, named after the Swedish city where the finish of the Vasaloppet is). But that’s not it: the life goal of the cross-country crack is to become the Global Skier, collecting the stamps of all the races of the Worldloppet.

 

Most races are held in Europe, but the first race of 2022 is in Asia: Changchun, China. The only one who uses the same name of the Mother of All Races in Sweden: the Vasaloppet. Due to the covid 19-pandemic the race is a domestic event, but enthusiasts from all over the world can join online in a virtual race. A nice gesture and service off course, but besides the trip and the adventure, you'll also miss the giant snow sculptures the Chinese make along the route.

Bron: Worldloppet.com
Bron: Worldloppet.com

FLASHBACK The first Olympic Games of speedskater Merijn Scheperkamp

December 2021

Merijn Scheperkamp qualified for the Olympic Games 2022 in Beijing. On ice. The now 21 years old speedskater was the big surprise at the 500 meter at the qualifying tournament in the Netherlands. It's not going to be the first Olympic Games for Scheperkamp. In 2018 he was as inline skater in Buenos Aires at the Youth Olympic Games. He took the bronze medal at the 500 meter. On asphalt. On that event three years ago Discover the Games spoke with the talented skater and wrote a short story, now translated:

With a beard made of tape and plasters, Merijn Scheperkamp is in the medal photo inline skating. He fell on his chin in the 500m final, didn't give up, finished fourth and that was just enough for a bronze medal in the general classification. “Super cool to get a Youth Olympic medal. It's heavy, the ribbon is fat and those iconic rings are on it. Nice."

 

The 18-year-old Scheperkamp doubted whether he should go to Buenos Aires. “The skating season is already about to start, but after consultation with the coaches, we quickly said that the Games can be a unique experience and that I couldn't pass it up. And now I take a medal: great.” The gold was for a Colombian and that is not surprising. In Colombia, inline skating is taken seriously and ice skating is the great unknown, contrary to the Netherlands. Even though top inline skater Pedro Causil appeared on the ice at the Winter Games this year (2018). Apparently the Colombian are discovering the ice and it's Olympic status, but for Colombians it is not the iron that counts, but the rolls. Scheperkamp started with ice skating at the age of 7 and from there riding on asphalt and skating tracks was added. “When I also started competing, it went very well, so it went on an upward trend. Now I have the benefits of combining it: inline skating makes me a better ice skater and vice versa.”

 

In Buenos Aires, Scheperkamp looks around with amazement and pleasure. The Olympic Village looks like you would expect from an Olympic Games: flags on the balconies and windows. On the square of the village, all athletes are walking together. “I thought everything would be on small scale, but it's really big. Much bigger than I expected. All those flags, it's a bit like being in a fairy tale." But the tale 'Merijn, the fall and the bronze' does not end with daydreaming about the medal obtained and the experiences gained. His school books are waiting for him in his room, to remind him to the real world. “I have to do a bit of studying these days. An hour a day or so. It's a bit weird, but it's the right thing to do! I try to do both as well as possible, so this is part of it.”


Floorball, Salibandy, Innebandy, Unihockey

November 2021

Take some hockey, add a bit of bandy, put it indoors and what do you get? Floorball! It’s a popular sport in four European countries, where it goes under different names: Sweden (Innebandy), Finland (Salibandy), Switzerland (Unihockey) and the Czech Republic (Florbalu). Floorball is fast. Players can use the boarding and due to the constant substitutions the speed of the match is high. Special attention (1) for the goalie. He or she has no stick and sits on his knees to defend the goal. Special attention (2) for the ball. It’s soft, light and has holes in it.

 

In November and December the World Championships are played. The women playing in Uppsala, where the home team Sweden defends the title. Same for the Finnish men's team, they're trying to become world champion again in their hometown of Helsinki.

 

Follow the Women's World Championships here.


Gymnastics on a bike

November 2021

Milena Slupina and Lukas Kohl are the best in the game, world champions. They are cyclists. But not the kind you think they are. It's not about going fast on the road or at the track. It's about acrobatic, grace, finesse. The two Germans are artistic cyclists and  secured another world title at World Championship in Stuttgart.

 

Artistic cycling can be described as gymnastics or ballet on a bike. The athletes need perform in front of a jury, riding figures. The more difficult these figures, the higher the points they can get. The bikes they ride are prepared: you can ride forwards and backwards. The saddle en the steering wheel and the handlebar are designed to stand on it. The sport has got different categories: pairs, fours and sixes. It's part of Indoor Cycling, like cycle-ball or Radball: football on a bike, also very artistic.

 

Both sports are mainly played in countries in Central Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic.


Racketlon: four sports become one

October 2021

If you think you’re pretty good in table tennis, than the chances you think you’re pretty good at squash or badminton or maybe even tennis are quite high, right? You can prove and challenge yourself by playing racketlon, a multi-discipline sport which features all four of the mentioned sports.

 

A racketlon match consists of four sets of each sport, in the order from the smallest ‘racket’ to the biggest (you’re clever enough to figure out yourself what the first and the last sport of a match is). Each set goes up to 21 points. The player who scores the most points overall wins the match. That’s a twist: if you win three of the four sports, it doesn’t necessarily means you win the match.

Discover the Games took a closer look at the sport at the IWT Dunlop Rotterdam Open in the Netherlands. Elite players have their own competition, but at racketlon tournaments there are lots of different categories, so everyone can play. Men, women, elite A, B, C and players in different age categories: they all swarm together at the Victoria Squash Center. “We create a nice, welcoming community”, says elite player and organizer Duncan Stahl from Great Britain. “We bring new people to the game almost every tournament. They give it a go, then people can get quite addictive to the game and so their racketlon journey begins. Players in the lower category enjoy playing and watching elite players as well.”

 

Everyone who first comes to racketlon generally comes from one of the four sports. Stahl: “Sometimes players turn to racketlon because they come to an end of their career in their own sport or sometimes they realize they’re not gonna make it anymore in their sport, but they still want that competitive buzz.” Racketlon seems to be a pretty good option.

Koen Hageraats playing his favorite racketlon sport: table tennis

Koen Hageraats for example, a 27 year old former table tennis player from the Netherlands who played at European and World Championships. Since four years racketlon became his hobby and passion. “I reached a certain level with table tennis and I had the feeling there was not much more to learn for me. I already liked the other racket sports, so after one tournament I was hooked. It's nice to feel you can easily improve so well and quick in the other sports.”

 

The players travel to different tournaments in different countries. At the IWT Dunlop Rotterdam Open, part of the International World Tour, there are fifteen different nationalities spread over the different categories. The sport has a World Championship every year. “The same three, maybe four hundred players travel to those tournaments. That creates a truly nice atmosphere, because you know each other well”, says Hageraats. “I play four, five tournament a year. I want to play a bit more, but that’s financially not possible. Racketlon is not a professional sport in terms of winning prize money.”

 

The quarter final match from Hageraats against the second seeded French player Sylvain Ternon is a perfect example of the unique scoring system of racketlon. Hageraats, originally a table tennis player, wins the table tennis match with 21-5. Ternon, who specializes in badminton, wins 21-0 in badminton. After a 21-8 win from Hageraats in the squash match he needs twelve points with tennis to win the quarter finals. Which he does. The match stops when the Dutchman leads 12-6. “It’s very important to win the sport you do best with a great margin and to score a few points in the sport you’re not that good at.” Although Hageraats scored no points at the badminton game, he put things right at the squash match.

So, in short, (1) If you enjoy racketsport and you can't chose, you can play them all in one game. (2) If you're good at one of them (preferably two), you can play at a decent level pretty quickly. (3) If you've reached a certain age already, you can play international tournaments in a nice atmosphere. In some countries you can play racketlon at a club. On racketlon.net you can find more about the sport, the tournaments and where you can play it.


The long tradition of horse archery

September 2021

Horseback archery is also called mounted archery and has got a long, long tradition. That tradition goes all the way back to the Iron and Bronze Age, the prehistory, the years BC. Horse archers were used for the hunt or for the war. It was common for people in the Asian empire or for Eurasian nomads and Native Americans, practised now in countries as Mongolia, Iran, Korea, China, Japan and Hungary (Magyar). Because of that tradition, modern types of horseback archery are linked to the history and the tales and legends of the people.

 

It is displayed at festivals, but there are also serious championships with several young athletes being the new, modern horseback archers. As a sport, the archers are riding a course on the back of their horse, shooting arrows at several targets. The horse is in gallop, gaining a speed faster than 30 mph. To be a good archer it requires keeping balance, being extremely focused and feeling connected with your horse.

 

Check out a video of the World Horseback Archery Championship in 2019.


Beach water polo: fast, dynamic and in the water

August 2021

Fast, dynamic and spectacular. Typifications that suits urban versions of basketball (3x3) and beach versions of volleyball, handball, soccer. Water polo has the same story to tell: beach water polo. A type of water polo played in a small (sometimes inflatable) field of 15 by 10 meters. Four players on each team (including the goalkeeper) in the water. One game lasts twenty minutes (two parts of ten minutes): there you have the fast and spectacular format.

 

Beach water polo was presented on an international stage as a demonstration sport in 2019 at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. It will be an official sport at the next two editions of the ANOC Beach World Games in 2023 and 2025.

 

So, despite the name (sometimes it’s called the probably better suited mini water polo): it’s not played in the sand, it’s an energetic type of water polo in… water. Check out the calendar of the Tour 2021, which is happening right now.


Pig N' Ford races: driving with a pig on board

August 2021

Grab a pig from a designated pen, take it under your arm, give your Ford Model T a crank-start and drive around the track. The pig meanwhile is still oinking from under your arm and you have to steer your way around with your other hand. After one lap the scene with the pig (another one) and starting the engine starts all over again. Each race lasts three laps.

 

There you have the Pig N' Ford races at the Tillamook Country Fair, Oregon. A tradition which goes back as far as 1925, when it is said a pig broke loose and two people driving a Model T chased the pig, grabbed it an brought it back to their owner. Somehow, they saw a game in it… And that game is organized every August at the country fair.

 

Check out a video form The Oregonian two years back.

Also part of the story: some of the first cars that ran in 1925 are still part of the races today. As are the family’s: most of the competitors are sons and grandsons of earlier Model T-drivers. They inherit the membership, the car and the urge to drive as fast as they can, carrying around a pig in their Ford.


Sky Brown skateboard superstar

July 2021

If you watched the recent X Games you know who to watch in Tokyo: a 13 year old superstar with a skateboard. Sky Brown showed her skills with a stunning performance at the Summer X Games 2021.

The X Games are known as the Olympics for extreme sports. Last week the Games were held in California, just a week before the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. As the Olympics are evolving in a direction with more spectacular and urban sports, which are popular in youth culture on their calendar, skateboarding is making it's Olympic debut in Tokyo. An exciting month for some boarders, because they can show their skills for millions of people watching the Olympics.

 

Already a skateboard-icon, all eyes are on Sky Brown. She competes for Great Britain (Brown's father is British, her mother is a Japanese). Brown won the TV dance contest Dancing with the Stars: Junior in the United States. And she has her own You Tube-channel with her brother Ocean. The new generation is here: Sky Brown could be the youngest winner of Olympic gold ever.


Orienteering: running without a marked route

July 2021

Tove Alexandersson is on her way to take all the gold medals at the World Championships Orienteering in Doksy in the Czech Republic. The 28-year old from Sweden is great in foot orienteering as well as ski orienteering. She also is a sky runner and a ski mountaineer. A true endurance athlete.

 

To be a top orienteering athlete you need more than a good shape and body strength. With a map and a compass as your instruments you need to make quick decisions at high speed to find the best route. Your map reading skills need to be top quality, because there is no marked route. An electronic control card needs to prove you visited all the control points in right order. A foot orienteer does cross country in the true meaning of the word. Crossing the country, a terrain with hills, bushes and all sorts of (natural) obstacles.

 

The sport has a wide variety of disciplines: sprint distance, middle distance, long distance and several relays. Alexandersson wins them all. She is from Sweden, the country where the sport is said to has its origin. In the Scandinavian country orienteering grew from military training to a sport practiced by civilians.

 

Check out a great and inspiring tribute video made by Racer TV in 2020:


Welsh baseball is back

June 2021

If you reach a base, you score a point. That base is a pole, not a mat. The bat is more like a cricket bat than a baseball bat, with a flat surface at the end. A game consists of two innings. And there are more differences with the dominant North American type of baseball, so it’s clear: Welsh Baseball is a different style of baseball.

 

The game is related to rounders and is suitable for schools to teach and play. It returns in the parks around Cardiff in June 2021 after a five year pause. That’s the place where the game used to be played by the working class through the 20th century: Welsh areas and the Northwest of England, Liverpool.

 

Wales and England played international matches against each other, televised in the seventies and eighties.

Check out this BBC video out of 2018 about Welsh Baseball.


Calcio Storico: violence and sports

June 2021

Piazza Santo Croce in Florence is the arena of a historic, violent (and fascinating) event/sport: Calcio Storico. A mixture of football, rugby, wrestling, MMA and everything in between. You can elbow someone, you can hit someone in the face, bare-knuckled, and during that chaotic scene others are trying to get a ball to the other side of the field. As you can imagine: that’s a pretty difficult adventure with all these warriors in the arena.

 

The event is based on ancient times, the first game is said to be played in 1530, and was reorganized in the 20th century. King Henry III of France would have said at one attendance of the event that it is ‘too small to be a real war, too cruel to be a game’. Needless to say that many of competitors get injured.

 

You can only participate if you are a resident of Florence for at least 10 years. The teams are related to the four historic neighborhoods of the city and has 27 players, with no substitutions. At the full length of each end, a net is stretched. That's where the players are trying to put the ball, with all means necessary. After two half finals, the final is played at the 24th of June (in 2021 the final is moved to 19 September), San Giovanni Day.

 

In recent years Calcio Storico caught the attendance of media. Check out Vice for instance. And one episode of the Netflix documentary series Home game is devoted to the sport.


Ski mountaineering: downhill and uphill

June 2021

With ski mountaineering (skimo) on the verge of becoming an Olympic sport in Milano Cortina in 2026, it’s time to discover the game.

If you’re a ski-mountaineer you not only slide down the hill in high speed, you also need to climb the hills. It’s all about the descent as well as the ascent. If the mountain is too steep to go up with your skis under your feet, you carry them on your back.

 

The competition is held on an established trail through snowy tracks and over challenging mountains. There are team races and individual races. The Olympic events are in line with how the Olympic movement thinks about ‘new’ sports. It must be fast and it's about gender equality. In 2026 there will be five medal events: two men’s (sprint and individual), two women’s (sprint and individual) and one mixed-gender relay event. The team events or The Vertical (only uphill with skiis on) are not included in the plans of the IOC.

The reason Milano Cortina has proposed ski moutaineering as an additional sport at the Olympic Games is not surprising: Italians are good at it. Check out the performances of Robert Antonioli or Michele Boscacci for instance in the You Tube season presentation video above. But besides the opportunity to grab some medals, the sport is popular among amateurs. Ski touring and backcountry tracking are popular leisure activities as well.

 

Ski mountaineering will officially be an Olympic debutant, but at the very first Olympic Games in Charmonix in 1924 it was, in a way, already an Olympic sport. Skimo was part of an event called military patrol, a combination of cross country skiing, shooting and… mountaineering. With the Swiss as victorious team. Military patrol is considered a forerunner to biathlon.


Fliss Beard Memorial: 100 mile on a trike

June 2021

The Fliss Beard Memorial is a long-distance tricycle race in remembrance of Felicity Ann ‘Fliss’ Beard. In the eighties Fliss collected several records on her trike. For instance, she noted a time of 5 hours, 4 minutes en 44 seconds on the 100 mile (also the distance of the Memorial) and she was the first woman to ride the famous Paris-Brest-Paris on a trike. A few years ago, the site Cyclingstories published a short story about her performances, life and death.

 

This year’s memorial was won by Ian Pike, by the way. He was one of the two competitors and reached the finish of the Q100 track in Brenzett, Kent in 4h 28m 55s.

And another thing: time trial specialist Ross Holland rode faster than anyone before on the Kent 100 mile. On a normal bike, that is not with a third wheel, he completed the course in a record-breaking 3 hours, 33 minutes and 52 seconds.


Against the wind: Dutch NK Tegenwindfietsen (Headwind Cycling)

June 2021

If the wind force reaches at least seven on the Beaufort scale, the weather conditions are considered as perfect. Perfect to organize the National Championships Headwindcycling or ‘NK Tegenwindfietsen’. The race is at the Oosterscheldekering in the province of Zeeland. Nowhere to hide. Just you, your bike, one road straight ahead and ferocious winds raging past you and that bike. The wind doesn’t want you to beat him, but you’ve got one goal: as fast you can, against the wind.

 

The distance the participants need to conquer is 8.5 kilometers. They are only allowed to race on a regular old-fashioned Dutch bike with a good old back padel brake or coaster brake and without any gears.

 

Funfact 1: the most recent edition, February 2020, was cancelled during the team trial because of… strong winds. It was the day storm Ciara whirled over Europe.

Funfact 2: the first Olympic mountainbike champion ever, Dutchman Bart Brentjes (gold in Atlanta 1996), won the first edition of the NK Tegenwindfietsen in 2013.

To get an impression: watch the report of Tom Scott at the 2020 edition:


Rural sport: Harrijasotzaile, stone lifting in Basque

21 May 2021

Last week we saw some pictures of a girl lifting heavy stones up to 78 kg in several media. With her bare hands she lifts weights, her face shows an utmost effort to the complete physical challenge. The photos are taken by Ander Gillenea. It's about the rural Basque sport Harrijasotzaile

Photo: Ander Gillenea
Photo: Ander Gillenea

Lifting stones isn’t necessarily a sport, but in Basque it became one. A rural one, based on ancient working activities on the farms. The farmers needed to move big rocks in order to work their land. And like most of the rural, traditional sports, the working process became sort of competition.

 

Before 1900 the boulders were just boulders. Some big, some bigger and they needed to be transported to another place, with you bare hands. In the first half of the twentieth century Bittor Zabala, aka Arteondo, brought the stone lifting to the village. Competitors showed their skills at exhibitions, shows and feasts. The stones were standardized and shaped in four categories (cylinder, round, cube, rectangular), marked with their weight.

 

In other regions in other countries you’ll find similar sports. In Wales, Scotland and Iceland for example. But if you want to know more about the Basque rural sport Harrijasotzaile look out fort the names Arteondo, Iñaki Perurena (he’s the best there ever was and built a museum in the town of Leitza) and off course the 15-year old Udane Ostolaza, the girl form the picture.


The Olympic race of Renault

7 May 2021

The French engine manufacturer Renault is in Formula 1 over more than four decades now. More than a century ago, their founder finished first in an Olympic race. Louis Renault was a rally-driver and won Paris-Toulouse-Paris at the 1900 Summer Olympics of Paris.

 

Motor racing at the Olympic Games? Well, kind of… The events were part of the World’s Fair (or Exposition Universelle), which lasted more than six months. Renault won the so-called ‘small-car race’ over 1347 kilometers in 45 hours, 49 minutes and 35 seconds. He had to wait approximately for 12 hours to see the second driver finish.

 

Two years before, the Renault brothers Louis, Marcel and Fernand started their company, which we now know as one of the most famous manufacturers in motorsport. One of their first successful races was the one at the Olympics.

 

Renault wasn’t the only one who won a motorsport race at the 1900 Olympics (there were several race categories), although he is the most famous one. Not just because he became a great industrial player in the world of motorsport, but we do not know most of the other winners. Maybe because the manufacturer and the country were more important in those days. There were some remarkable and singular races at the event. How about Taxi? Or Delivery van? Or Fire truck? France won every single category except one: the fire truck event. Somehow, we do know the name of that one: American Gilbert Brown was the fastest.

 


Floorball, Innebandy, Salibandy, Unihockey

27 april 2021

Take some hockey, add a bit of bandy, put it indoors and what do you get? Floorball! It’s a popular sport in four European countries, where it goes under different names: Sweden (Innebandy), Finland (Salibandy), Switzerland (Unihockey) and the Czech Republic (Florbalu). Floorball is fast. Players can use the boarding and due to the constant substitutions the speed of the match is high. Special attention (1) for the goalie. He or she has no stick and sits on his knees to defend the goal. Special attention (2) for the ball. It’s soft, light and has holes in it.

 

In Switzerland Floorball Köniz won the Men’s Superfinal 2021 against SV Wiler-Ersigen, the defending champion. And in Sweden Thorengruppen IBK are the new women champions. 

 


ONCE: the man with stick leading the cyclists

24 april 2021

Here's a little story on World Blind Sports Day:

Remember the man with the stick on the cycling jerseys in the nineties? Laurent Jalabert, Alex Zülle, Johan Bruyneel, Joseba Beloki. They all wore the yellow jersey (in the Tour de France it was a pink one) with that man on their chest. On their shoulders, as epaullettes basically, the name of the sponsor and the team: ONCE.

 

Image credit: AFP
Image credit: AFP

It is perhaps the world’s best known foundation with commitment to the blind and the visually impaired, especially to sports fans, especially to cycling fans: ONCE, Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles. An organization started in 1938 (!) with the help of prominent politicians. It’s a lottery for charity. Back in the late thirties of the last century they were granted the right to exploit the cupón. With the profits the goal was to provide the blind with a decent livelihood and to participate and contribute to the society.

 

With the birth of the ONCE Foundation for Cooperation and the Social Inclusion of the Disabled in 1988, the cycling team also is born. One year later, in 1989, a 30-year old amateur cyclist named Manolo Saiz is asked if he wants to give lead to a new Spanish professional cycling team. Saiz, who was a trainer of amateur squads and was in charge of a tandem-bike team, seized the opportunity and built a familiar, professional cycling team.

 

With the (team) time trail as their speciality ONCE was one of the most succesful teams of the nineties. They won the Vuelta y Espana four times and their riders reached the podium of the Tour de France en the Giro d’Italia. Alex Zülle with his fogged glasses, Laurent Jalabert with his heroic performances in all kinds of stages and Joseba Beloki breaking his elbow in the Tour de France of 2003. Once, they were all wearing the ONCE-jersey.

When ONCE quit as a sponsor in 2003 the world and in particular all the Spanish people saw ONCE and knew the foundation and their intentions.


Zaalfinale: The final match of the Dutch korfbalcompetition

17 april 2021

Thousands and thousands of fans. Lots of singing and cheering. Confetti and toilet paper. And professional, traditional sport with often a nailbiting climax . Each year the 'zaalfinale' highlights the indoor korfbalcompetition. One match to decide which team is the champion. In a sport that's popular and big in just one country: the Netherlands.


Korfbal is a mixed gender teamsport. Each team contains of four men and four women. The goal is to shoot the ball into the korf (like a basket). It's attacking and defending on a playing field that is divded in two parts. It demands a great physical ability of the players. For the rules: check this document.

 

In the Netherlands the day of the final is special. Fans, who mostly play korfbal at their own level at one of the many korfbalclubs in the country, are thrilled to go to Ahoy (the venue where the final is usually held). Winning the 'zaalfinale' is the highest achievement in the sport.


The gold medal of Baron Pierre de Coubertin

14 april 2021

Ode au sport is a poem in German and French. It competed at the Olympic Games of 1912 in the art competition; literature. Yes, that was once a competition at the Olympics. Just as music, sculpture, painting and architecture... Ode au sport was awarded with a gold medal. It is written by 'George Hohrod et M.Eschbach'. That sounds like two people, but it is one writer. It's the pseudonym of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the IOC and the instigator of the Modern Olympic Games. You can read the poem at the Olympic library. The jury is said to be unaware of the true identity of the writer at that time. It was revealed many years later.

 

But what about those names? George Hohrod et M.Eschbach? Historians found that Hohrod and Eschbach(au-Val) are small towns in the Alsace, the French region near the German border (Jean Durry wrote an article about it). Pierre de Coubertin must have spent some time in that part of France, because of his wife, Marie Rothan. Her family lived in the town of Luttenbach (pres-Munster). Check your globe, your atlas, your Google Maps: if you want to drive the triangel Hohrod / Eschbach-au-Val / Luttenbach-pres-Munster, it 'll take you seven minutes to drive from one place to the other.