Eau Claire players score silver at world kubb tourney
Hundreds of fans waited in anticipation for the final match of the Kubb World Championship in Gotland, Sweden, to begin, some even belting out the words to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Eau Claire local Eric Anderson said he and his team weren’t used to that kind of attention.
But that’s just part of making it to the final round of the world’s oldest and best known kubb tournament. Anderson said roughly 250 people attended the finals at the U.S. National Kubb Championship in July in Eau Claire, only a fraction of the fans gathered Aug. 2 around “The Cage” – a roped-off pitch flanked by bleachers reserved for the international tournament’s playoff matches.
“In the final four, there were two Swedish teams, a German team, and us,” Anderson said. “People would start chanting team names and who they were cheering for. ... It was a boisterous environment, nothing I’ve experienced before in kubb, that’s for sure.”
Anderson, who founded and directs the U.S. National Kubb Championship, traveled to Sweden with three other Eau Clairians (Scott Graham, Aaron Ellringer, and David Ellringer) and two players from the Twin Cities (Cole Vryens and Eric Goplin), forming the only all-American team to ever play in the World Championship – a dream come true for each of them.
Even though the Americans’ run finished just short of gold (losing 1-2 in one of the more exciting final matches in tournament history), team member Scott Graham said the championship’s competitive environment and fantastic players made finishing second a special experience.
“My teammates, I think they really believed in me and trusted me, but it just shows if you put a lot of hard work into something and train, then sometimes you get rewarded.” – Eric Anderson, on being named ‘The Best Player in the Final’ of the Kubb World Championship
Starting Friday, Aug. 1, a total of 181 teams hailing from seven countries began competing on the tournament’s grassy field, which boasted 64 pitches.
“Win or lose, as long as we played well and played our best as a team, we were satisfied with that,” Graham said. “That was our goal. I think we were able to do that, and I think we had some pretty good team chemistry. We had our goal in place and followed the plan, and that got us to the silver medal. That was very rewarding after all of the planning and time and everything that went into it.”
Anderson said that while the competition was good on opening day, those who made it to day two and then the playoffs on Saturday showed some real talent. Placed into a round robin group referred to as the “Group of Death” on the second day, the Americans faced Switzerland’s top team and the legendary Swedish juggernaut Team Ekeby who has claimed an astounding 13 World Championships. The Americans emerged from the round robin undefeated.
Leading up to the international tournament, both Anderson and Graham said they trained rigorously. Directing the U.S. Championship in Eau Claire just weeks before leaving the country kept Anderson from training as much as he would have liked. But it didn’t stop him from displaying a high level of skill in every one of the game’s different throws – 4 meter shots, 8 meter shots, and the difficult “inkasting” wherein a designated teammate tosses kubb blocks into a tight pile on the opposite side of the pitch.
“They awarded me ‘The Best Player in the Final’ award, but I looked at it more as a team award,” Anderson said. “My teammates, I think they really believed in me and trusted me, but it just shows if you put a lot of hard work into something and train, then sometimes you get rewarded.”
This was Anderson’s second time competing in the World Championship. He played with a team from Stockholm in 2011, and he still keeps in contact with them. He said while competing at a high level is an aspect of kubb that initially interested him, it was the connections and the welcoming attitude of other competitors that kept him (and keeps him) coming back to the sport.
Anderson said even though this year’s World Championship is over, he isn’t taking any time off from practice and playing with friends. Considering it a year-round game, he plans on competing in Milwaukee in just a few weeks and then in Des Moines, Iowa, in September. But you can bet that his team’s success on a world-sized pitch is a memory that won’t be fading anytime soon.