If you missed it, or just want to watch it all again, follow the link!
So for every event with a major battle, there’s going to be a good deal of controversy.. this year’s throwdown was no different. There are a vocal few who believe individuals were robbed. Others think perhaps the rules and/or judging is rigged to favor a particular type of tricker. I cant say i disagree with a few of these claims.. However, that’s the nature of competition. Sometimes judging doesn’t go how we want it to. Its important to remember that judges are human, and will make mistakes, and have their own opinions about things. At this event, each judge was given a criteria to judge, which helps to make the game a bit more objective, or at least structured. The rules were clearly laid out before the event, and each participant knew what they were. Finally, its important to remember that the judges dont get the luxury of rewind, and multiple views. They get one shot to see it all unfold, and have to do their jobs based on their single impression. Their view is different than the view you have at home, and its possible to see things differently from different angles. That’s the game, play it.
- Do the rules need reform? Perhaps. (Opinion) When you have a category for kicking, with a former sport karate world champion judging, obviously people with a similar background will excel with that judge in particular. Perhaps an additional category for flips/twist should be present to better represent a more contemporary mentality. Frankly, many talented trickers would never stand a chance in throwdown because they’re simply not well rounded enough. Even among specialists, I believe the kicker will usually do better than the twistbot, because the criteria is skewed in their favor. “Difficulty” is very subjective, especially depending on who your judge is, and doesn’t really provide the same chance to gain or lose a chunk of points as “kicking” does.
As for the battles themselves.. a few things really stood out for me.
- Chris Afonso always makes me happy.. His style is accessible, powerful, and interesting. Few trickers utilize such a good mix of twists and flips while also spamming variations and quality vert kicks. He is the real deal. His first pass against Keenan Carr was beautiful, and the kind of tricking i really enjoy seeing. I wish he’s gone a little further in the tournament, but that’s how competition goes. Sometimes our favorites die early. My only consolation was that he lost to a friend of mine, Jordan Okubo. Their battle was excellent, as they have somewhat similar styles, although different approaches to it. In the end, i feel like it came down to Okubo finishing a bit stronger.. something that resonates with judges on some level.
- Team ATL.. on paper, maybe not the best team in the bracket, particularly when paired up with stacked teams like Carr/Okubo/Coneys, or Sheehan/Pinto/Payne. What ATL did was really amazing. They brought a unique, consistent style, and they toppled some serious players. Each one of the members shined at some point, either through OC’s, or beautiful technique, or just well played strategy. Even in the chaotic battle against Sheehan/Pinto/Payne they kept their composure as Pinto acted how Pinto acts in battles. I found their combos in the final battle more interesting overall, but in the end, were slightly nudged by the consistency and clean difficulty they faced from Sheehan/Pinto/Payne.
- Pinto.. what can you say that hasn’t been said? His battle antics piss some people off, and others love it. One thing is undeniable though, that kid can trick. I would point out that he wasn’t up to any of his usual antics vs his friend and teammate, Donovan Sheehan. hmm.. In his controversial battle with Bailey Payne, perhaps the stiffest competition of the tournament, he threw a few beautiful, difficult combos that are just hard to hate, no matter what you’re into. His kick heavy style is always going to dominate in an event with a kicking criteria, and he has enough consistent difficulty to ensure he’ll always go far in a tournament. In the end, i think what won it for him against Sheehan, Okubo, and Payne was his consistency and strategy. Whether consciously or not, he finished his battles strong, and this definitely has an effect on judges. Early hiccups can be glossed over or even forgotten when you show them something amazing at the end.
Finally, lets address the other events..
- The swingthrough battle is the only objective event in tricking. There is a clear winner and loser. We’ve all seen what these guys can do, but its still pretty amazing every time. One thing to note is tha the average high-end swingthrough pass will die at around 10.. maybe as high as 15. That’s what makes Bailey Payne so amazing. He consistently pumps out 20 or more at events now, and i’m sure its only a matter of time before he breaks the big 3-0… a real milestone, no doubt.
- Target kicking.. while fun, and a great homage to the martial arts roots of tricking, i feel could use a facelift. The koreans break boards.. even if they’re 1/16″ thick, its visually more spectacular. I hope that this event will catch on in popularity, and we’ll see some more impressive, creative passes. Obviously the Koreans dominated this event, this year, but i believe the folks over at JAM will be ready for them next year.
- Last, but not least, Biggest Trick.. This event definitely favors the Payne brothers’ tumbling background. Quad-full, and Full-in Flash-out are insane, but lets talk about what Rudy did on both passes. Rudy stuck to more traditional tricker concepts and moves, and he executed them at extreme levels with style. We’ve all seen his squirrel triple full by now, but his first pass, the full-up rocketboy-twist was a thing of beauty. In my opinion, this is what tricking is about. Sheer difficulty is easy for anyone to understand, but what Rudy did was something more. He added character and personality to a finesse/technique trick, then took it up a notch in difficulty. I truly hope that’s where tricking is going. We can easily catch, or pass, the gymnastics/tumbling world, but why would we? We have so much cooler tricks and concepts to play with and exploit.. We have proved that we can do what they can do, but i promise you, they cannot do what we do. Next year, i hope the winner does something truly groundbreaking, unique, and unbelievable.