Sports journalist Brian Salmon has picked his favorites from The World Games 2022 and this time he focuses on the top 10 male athletes. For his top 10 teams, head over to this article.
The 11th edition of The World Games, held in Birmingham, was arguably the largest edition of a four-year multi-sport event to date. The celebration of non-Olympic sports has come so far since its debut edition in Santa Clara, California in 1981. The return to the United States was a great success and the crowds were blown away by the dazzling skills of the exceptional athletes present in Alabama. As with the team and women’s events, the cream of the competition rose to the top, providing many unforgettable moments and ensuring that many long-standing Olympic records were broken. Who were the male athletes who turned out to be the Men of Steel in a southern city famous for its metal production?
I have selected what I consider to be the ten best athletes to compete at the Birmingham edition of The World Games. As always, there are exceptional talents who are unlucky and miss their chance. I couldn’t find a place for myself racquetball Acunya Araya ANDRES, who became the first ever Costa Rican to win a medal at the World Games, winning gold in an emphatic 3-0 victory in the final. Even getting on the podium in three consecutive editions won’t get you a place on the list! Just ask a Croatian Beach handball player Ivan DUMENCIC. He came to the States with the newly crowned World Champions and helped his team become the first non-Brazilian gold medal winner at The World Games. It was business as usual for Fistball Fabian Sagstetter AND Laurens LEEUWENHOEK from Korfball, German and Dutch athletes know the way to the top step of the podium blindfolded; it was the third visit in a row for both of them. It was also a belated golden hat-trick for Sweden’s Barebow Archer, Eric Johnson. The 2001 and 2005 champion was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to add medals to his collection as he miraculously survived a nervous semi-final. His opponent’s place in the gold medal match seemed guaranteed, all he had to do was score a measly three points with the last arrow, but devastation, it was only two! This shocking miss allowed an experienced archer to hit the tie-breaking arrow closest to the center! From narrow misses, we move on to ten contestants who brought stardust and sparkle to the “Magic City” in 2022.
10 like Jonsson, Tsung-Ting HSIEH from powerlifting he also made his debut at The World Games in 2001 in the Japanese city of Akita at the age of just 18, his first of six appearances in a row. Although not yet on the podium, the Chinese athlete Taipei was a model of consistency, his silver in Birmingham was the fourth medal won at the Games. Two other legends of The World Games also showed excellent stamina, taking the same six-seat trip from Akita to Alabama, Venezuela’s Antonio Diaz and Dutchman Dick Jaspers. Diaz won five medals in a row, fulfilled his dream of Olympic karate in Tokyo 2020 and quickly retired. However, he was offered one last chance to participate in The World Games, which he immediately accepted. However, a loss in the first round meant that the karate superstar was unable to stand on the podium for the last time. As for Jasper’s achievements, stay tuned.
9 IN muaythai, Igor Lyubchenko enjoys any multi-sport competition that includes the “World” and “Games” worlds; although officially the veteran Ukrainian competitor has only one title from The World Games. His very successful career began on a high note with a gold medal in the World Combat Games (another Games than The World Games!) in 2010. He successfully defended this title in 2013. Muaythai was included as an invitational sport in Wroc?aw in 2017, so its gold medal was not included in the official statistics. His narrow points win in Birmingham (judges scored a total of 29 points) meant that his hard work was finally paying off!
8 There was the most extraordinary sight in Orienteering runs Sprint competition in Alabama. Normally when you hand over a Swiss superstar Maciej KYBURZ route map, compass and start the stopwatch, you can guarantee that you will be one of the fastest athletes to finish the race. His surprising FOURTH place marks the first time in nine races in three editions that he has missed the medal ceremony. However, his fifth career gold and second career silver, his Birmingham memorabilia more than made up for any disappointment he might have had.
7 IN ju-jitsu, Faisal Al Ketbi became the most successful martial arts athlete at The World Games. A surprise was the Emirati package in Wroc?aw, where it won gold and silver. His solid defensive techniques make it virtually impossible for his opponents to make scoring moves against him. In Birmingham, he retained the heavyweight crown while advancing to gold in the Open category.
6 In Dance sport With breaking, American Victor Bernudez MONTALVO also known as b-Boy Victor is the dominant breaker of his generation. Destined to become a star, his dad was one of the first breakers in Mexico and taught him his first moves at the age of 10. A dedicated lifestyle and respect for the sport’s traditions have seen Victor win numerous titles, including a world championship at just 15 years old in 2015. At Birmingham, he was fully flexible, winning every battle in qualifying. Although he lost a shot in both the semi-final and final, the judges awarded him three shots each time. His success in Birmingham in front of a captivating crowd, and his return to the top step of the world championship podium in New York this winter mean b-boy Victor will be the man to beat as he breaks his long-awaited Olympic debut at the 2024 Paris Games.
5 Sport climbing Indonesia Wedriq LEONARDO, along with your training partner and best friend Kiromal KATIBIN, break world speed records for fun. Not surprisingly, both athletes made it to the Speed ??Climb Final in Birmingham. Surprisingly, Katibin missed the catch as he tried to keep up with his incredibly fast opponent.
4 Like Breaking, The Aviation sports discipline Drone racing was an exciting addition to The World Games program. France Killian ROUSSEAU proved to be a worthy gold medal winner, racing seven times and guiding his drone first across the finish line in all seven races. There was drama in the final, however, with his South Korean rival racing down a tighter line and taking the lead approaching the final series of goals, however, a catastrophic loss of power saw it be the spirited French national anthem that was played at the medal presentation.
3 Another master of angles is Dick JASPERSwho won the most medals Billiards athlete in The World Games history. The Dutch pool player, who has a Games accreditation six-pack, made his Akita debut in 2001. He performed well until the final, which was won by longtime rival and friend Daniel SANCHEZ. The two faced off again in Duisburg in 2005 and produced a classic tight game that ended in a draw. The Spaniard won gold on a tiebreaker push that was closer to the top rail (!). For Jaspers, it was the third successful start in Chinese Taipei in 2009. In Alabama, his many years of experience helped him once again to the top step of the podium. He scored twice as many points as his opponent in every game. The final in Birmingham had a somewhat chaotic end. Four times he came close to the table to aim for a match ball opportunity. Incredibly, each time his habitual marksmanship deserted the Dutchman. But on the fifth question, he made the right contact and his arms went up again in triumph.
2 Billiards is part of the sporting billiards family and is another multi-medal billiards veteran who deservedly ranks second on our list of the greatest male athletes competing in Birmingham. However, his impressive achievements took place in swimming pools, where, among others, Saving lives competitions are held. The life of an athlete at The World Games is pretty simple for a top German competitor Danny WICK. His routine every edition is to start strong in each race and then pull away from opponents; see the German flag raised a few times, then make sure you get on the podium again just in case. The rescue competition in Alabama followed a pattern first presented at Cali 2013 and reinforced at Wroc?aw 2017. Wieck raced regularly, attended the medal ceremony 15 minutes later, and then returned to the starting blocks 15 minutes later. The veteran’s nine medals now make him the most successful lifeguard at the World Games.
1 So who is the leading athlete from The World Games in Birmingham? Accordingly, our number one competitor is the man who won so many gold medals in 2022 that he can legally register the top step of the medal podium as his second home! Like Wieck, he is a fast player from Northern Europe who made his Olympic debut in Colombia in 2013. Like Wieck, he won two gold medals in Cali and in Wroc?aw. In Birmingham, Wieck moved up to an impressive 5th place on the list of the most decorated athletes of all time at The World Games, but more impressively, our top athlete in “Magic City” suddenly appeared in 4th place! Unlike Wieck, however, our superstar has competed in a related Olympic event twice, winning medals each time. Belgium has only won medals in three editions of the Winter Olympic Games, so when our competitor put on his skates in PyeongChang to participate in Speed ??skating competition and rushed to win silver, it was a widely celebrated achievement. In Beijing, he became the first Belgian in 74 years to win gold at the Winter Games. A few months later, in Birmingham, he traded his skates for more casual roller skates. Its competitors had a double disadvantage; not only were they racing an invincible Usain Bolt-esque figure in their minds, but they were physically racing a living legend faster and more powerful than their imaginations suggested! Inevitably, our hero returned to Belgium with a suitcase filled with so much gold that even the manager of Tiffany’s jewelry store in New York would envy her. Who is our number one male athlete at The World Games in Birmingham? Just like in Alabama, there could only be one winner in this race, it had to be Bart SWAJDY!
Brian Salmon for The World Games
World games is a multi-sport event organized every four years by the International World Games Association, organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 2022 World Games took place in Birmingham, Alabama, USA from July 7-17, 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries participated in the games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.