The 11th edition of The World Games held in Birmingham, Alabama, can rightly claim to be the best edition of a multi-sport event ever organized. An unprecedented three-quarters of the competing nations were successful on the podium, with many competitors rewriting the books of history with astonishing performances. I would even go so far as to say that the American city was honored to see the largest collection of athletes ever assembled for any edition of the World Games. There have been exceptional performances in virtually every sport featured on the show. Starting off with an overview of the many great efforts we’ve seen in Birmingham, I’ll start with what I consider to be the top 10 teams competing at the Comeback Games this summer.
10 Fistball – Germany Women
The German women are lucky to be on this list because they did not perform as well as their compatriots in the gold medal match. This team, however, showed the greatest mental resilience, becoming champions. In the final, Germany gave the first two sets to Switzerland, and the gold medal seemed like an impossible dream. However, they improved, winning the next two sets comfortably. In the fifth set, they wasted two sets before shutting it down. In the sixth and deciding set, they had to last a set, but a late streak of goals saw them seal a thrilling victory.
9 Beach Handball – Croatia Men
As in the recently concluded FIFA World Cup, Croatia lost to Argentina; fortunately for the Adriatic nation, this match took place in the group stage after they had already qualified for the semi-finals. As in the FIFA tournament, Croatia proved itself as the penalty shootout champion, winning both the semi-final against the USA and the gold medal match against Qatar in the process. As in the World Cup, the powerhouse of the sport, Brazil, dropped out unexpectedly early, having been the only team to win a gold medal until Birmingham.
8 Mixed Archery Team – Colombia
There was also some drama in the finals of the Mixed Archery competition, which featured two of the best compound archers in the world: Sara Lopez from Colombia and Mike Schloesser from the Netherlands. The first end was tied; in the second, Colombia led by one point. In the third round, it was the Netherlands that led by the same margin. In the decisive fourth endgame, it all came down to each archer’s last arrow. Lopez and his teammate Daniel Munoz had to score 10 points to have a chance at the gold medal. They controlled themselves, fired, and boom, the arrows hit the center. Schloesser, who earned the nickname “Mr. Perfect”, needed 10 to win; surely gold was tempting for the Netherlands. Surprisingly, the Dutchman did not live up to his nickname; the arrow finished the wrong side of the halfway line and it was only a 9 which led to a penalty with two shots: unexpected drama! The Colombians shot straight and accurate, as did Schloesser, but Jody Becker’s target was narrowly off target. Thus, the pulsating match went the way of the South American people and led to Sara Lopez becoming the most successful female archer in history in terms of medals at the World Games.
7 Korfball- The Netherlands
The Dutch, however, were successful in the Korfball final. Before Birmingham Korfball, he made eight appearances at The World Games. Each time the Dutch team emerged victorious; Will a new nation be crowned champions in 2022? Of course not! In the most predictable duel for Olympic medals, the Netherlands once again took the lead, clutching the gold memorabilia. In the list of the best teams in the first place should be the team undefeated in nine editions. However, until a real rival emerges to face the might of the Dutch, they will have to settle for mid-table position.
6 Tug of War – Women 540 kg – Chinese Taipei
Another team that has never tasted defeat at The World Games are the Chinese players from Taipei. Women’s discipline has been on the sports program since the 2005 edition. During a typical competition, they will take part in 7 or 8 matches with a minimum of three pull-ups against quality opponents. What is impressive is that all five editions were contested for the women’s medal, and Chinese Taipei never missed a single stroke. As the second greatest athlete of all time, James Kehoe, noted, “athletes may change, but a coach always delivers.” Each stroke is synchronized teamwork at its best, with a relentless, unavoidable march to the line.
5 Kayak Polo – Women – France
Duisburg 2005 was THE edition of the World Games for the introduction of dominant women’s teams; Not only did Chinese Taipei show its talent with the rope, but we saw the brilliance of the German Canoe Polo team for the first time. Boasting a near-flawless record (apart from an unexpected defeat in the final to Great Britain in 2009), the mighty German women’s team once again battled for the gold medal in Birmingham. However, in the shocking outcome of the Games, a French team inspired by Camille Meyer scored three unanswered goals in the second half. A measure of the French achievement was that a few weeks later, the Germans scored a play-off winner against the same opponent to win their seventh World Championship.
Although there was a big surprise in the Canoe Polo pool, for Moldovan superstars Anna Matus and Gabriele Goffredo everything went as usual. Moldova has only sent DanceSport athletes to The World Games once, but what a team to send! Matus and Goffredo were at their best, once again dazzling the judges, awarding them the gold medal for the third time in a row and making the Moldovan team the most successful DanceSport athletes of all time.
3 Lacrosse- Men- Canada
There are dominant performances in the gold medal game and then there are the Canadians. The stands were full of raucous American fans who hoped to cheer their team to glory against their great northern rivals. Unfortunately, the cheers quickly died down as the quick and accurate Canadians bludgered to the top step of the podium, winning 23-9. Even more impressive was that it was the first time the new Lacrosse Sixes format had been used in a major final; apparently the Canadian team was learning fast!
2 Softball – USA
Disappointment for the US that evening in one of the top medal games, but a few nights later, US euphoria with gold in the sport that mattered most to local fans. A dream ending that could easily become an inspiration for Hollywood screenwriters. Born, raised and educated in the Greater Birmingham area, local girl Haylie McCleney returns to the same baseball stadium that inspired her to take up softball. Inevitably, the opponents are longtime rivals and Olympic champions, Japan! McCleney competed at the Tokyo Olympics, scoring the most runs of any athlete, and was named the Games’ Most Valuable Athlete, a feat she would repeat in her hometown! However, in the gold medal game of the Olympic Games, Japan made a brilliant throw, cutting off powerful American hitters who had minimal chances to score.
Japan triumphed at their home Games on home soil, and in July the tables were reversed with the Americans acting as hosts. Will they triumph and get revenge for the Olympic final, or will Japan dominate again and earn the right to be crowned world champions? Unlike Tokyo, the American batters started strong and had three bases occupied in the second inning. At this point in the video, the American team encourages another batter, Janae Jefferson, who then resolutely steps to the plate. He adjusts his gear and stares the pitcher hard in the eye. The pitcher returns her gaze and begins the throwing motion, Jefferson swings and hits! The camera follows the ball in slow motion as it passes the players from outfield to backstage, then shows the fans cheering and celebrating as all three runners step in to score! What a start, USA! However, Japan composes and scores two points of their own. There is late drama as Japan fills up the bases. If they connect, the gold medal will be theirs! Fortunately, the American pitchers eliminated the danger, mission accomplished, gold and USA world champions! The film would have ended with McCleney embraced by family, friends and the coach who set her on the path to greatness many years ago!
1 Flag Football-Women-Mexico
So many exceptional teams compete in Birmingham’s edition of The World Games: which side is the best of them all? It may seem surprising that the honor went to players with the Mexican flag, but the award is fully deserved. The team that had the weakest competition defense will always go far; Japan was the only team to score two touchdowns against them. Add to that the brilliance of superstar quarterback Diana Flores, and a gold medal is guaranteed. She finds her receivers flawlessly and is fast enough to fight for her own touchdowns. The gold medal game against the United States ended 39-6, with the Mexicans defeating their recent opponents as easily as the other five teams they faced. The World Games is all about encouraging excellence in sporting competition, and in Birmingham the Mexicans showed with every dominant performance that they are simply the best.
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.