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History of the World Footbag Championships

The World Footbag Championships are already 25 years old and counting. Here's how it all began and how the championships developed. The first Footbag Championships, at the time merely a national event, were held in Oregon (United States) in 1980. In 1983, the competition moved to Boulder, Colorado for two years until 1985, when the championships began a nine-year stint in Golden, Colorado. In this suburb of Denver, known for being the home town of Coors Brewing Company, several unforgettable pages of Footbag history were written, including the first official World Footbag Championships, held in 1986.

Under player pressure, the Championships eventually moved to San Francisco for 1994 and 1995, and in 1996, it left U.S. soil for the first time, bestowing Montreal with the honour as its host. The year was to become a landmark year in the sport's history: for the first time, a Canadian, SEBASTIEN VERDY, secured a title in the open (and strongest) category, winning Net singles and doubles, with Emmanuel Bouchard.

In 1997, the competition returned to the game's roots in Portland, Oregon, where a record 212 players registered for the event, a number unsurpassed until 2003. In addition to the great sums of players, the level of talent made an immense jump from previous years, with top players receiving much attention. PETER IRISH executed a show-stopping performance in freestyle finals, winning his fifth singles title, a world record he still holds today. The Championships were held in conjunction with a huge music festival, which attracted 200,000 spectators to the site every day.

In 1998, the World Championships returned to Montreal, and once again the event was an enormous success. The players greatly enjoyed Montreal, and tens of thousands of spectators witnessed the Freestyle finals at the Jardin des Étoiles and the Footbag Net finals at La Ronde. The year was especially memorable for ERIC WULFF, EMMANUEL BOUCHARD, and CAROL WEDEMEYER, all winning their first world champion titles in singles freestyle, singles net, and women's freestyle, respectively. All delivered exhilerating performances, pushing the level of play to unprecedented heights. Bouchard has since defended his singles world champion title five times, and remained unbeaten in his last 30 tournaments, while Wedemeyer has won four of the last five women's freestyle world champion titles.

Destiny brought the Championships to the Windy City, Chicago in 1999, where SCOTT DAVIDSON claimed the singles Freestyle title on his home turf, upsetting hopeful up-and-comer RYAN MULRONEY. Mulroney returned with a vengeance the following year in Vancouver, and crushed the competition. At 21, he broke the judging system with a score that was theoretically impossible, in a decisive win that would make him the youngest player to win the singles freestyle title in (10 years?).

2001 brought the Championships back to San Francisco, where the established talent of Montreal reached new heights on the net court: Emmanuel Bouchard won singles once again, also seizing the mixed doubles title with Marilyn Demuy, and YVES ARCHAMBAULT won his first doubles title with ALEXIS DESCHÊNES. Ryan Mulroney defended his singles Freestyle title, proving to be a huge step above the competition.

In 2002, again in San Francisco, the sport of footbag saw a new era in its evolution. Ryan Mulroney, hoping to tie the record of three straight singles freestyle titles was upset by a controversial call, and handed over the title to the newest phenomenon, VASEK KLOUDA, a 15 year old prodigy from the Czech Republic. On the courts, Bouchard dominated once again in singles, while the Americans reclaimed the doubles crown.

Footbag took another grand, evolutionary leap in 2003, when the World Championships touched down outside North America for the first time, gracing Prague, Czech Republic as its host, and drawing a record number of 215 competitors from 21 countries. Vasek Klouda and Emmanuel Bouchard continued to rule their respective events, and Europe saw a thrilling display of athleticism they will not soon forget.

Who claims victor in 2004 is uncertain, but the world will feel the presence of footbag like never before, and the sport will undoubtedly reach a new chapter in growth and expansion of talent.