RetRollSpective – Thunderbolts

RetRollSpective – Thunderbolts

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where I reflect on the history of marble athletes.  This time, we’re roaming the skies to get a glimpse at the Thunderbolts, a team that has been around since the 2016 Marble League. Hopefully it won’t rain on our parade…I mean, article, as we discover the history of this team…

The logo for the Thunderbolts, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Thunderbolts, despite having such a striking name, have never really been in the light since their first season, and they have competed in every Marble League to date. Where have they been? Why are fans focused on other teams like the Savage Speeders, O’rangers, and Oceanics?

Bolta, Bolto, Boltu, and Bolty weren’t members to brag. Near the end of the 2018 Marble League, the team was in fifth overall. This wasn’t their first time being in such a good position—the team actually won third overall in the 2016 Marble League and did not need to qualify for the 2017 Marble League. Much of the attention, however, seemed to focus on the close win of the Savage Speeders against Mellow Yellow—that final race in Hurdles. Few viewers noticed that Bolto was just two seconds behind Yellup, 5.36 versus 5.34 for the latter. And it didn’t matter.

A photo finish that many consider to be only between the Savage Speeders and Mellow Yellow...

Truth be told, the Thunderbolts still had a banner year in the 2016 Marble League. Their first medal came during the second event when the team earned a bronze medal during the Relay Run. In the next event, the Thunderbolts earned their first gold medal in the Collision event and rose to first place overall. Another silver came after Bolta reached 97.6 cm in the fifth event, Long Jump, and two more Bronze medals followed during Team Pursuit and Hurdles. Prior to the Savage Speeders’ win in the Hurdles event, the Thunderbolts had been in between first and second place since the fifth event. At the end of the 2016 Marble League, the Thunderbolts fell to third overall, tied with Mellow Yellow in points, but just behind them in medals.

The team stayed silent during its extended offseason, training for the 2017 Marble League. In fact, the Thunderbolts stayed silent in general because the team members were all mute. The four met at a Greek mythology convention in 2012 where they all dressed up as Zeus. When they tried to communicate with each other, each realized that they couldn’t speak, and upon communicating to each other through roll language, they found several things in common, along with their affinity for racing. No sooner had the four left the convention that they had already decided on their team name: the Thunderbolts.

The team joined the Knikkegen Marble League later that year and rose through the ranks. The team became known as one of the fastest teams in the league, and, by the time the 2016 Marble League was announced, was one of the top teams alongside Team Primary and was invited to the tournament. The Thunderbolts did not want to be known as “the team that couldn’t talk,” but as “the team that always shocked the competition.” And rightly so: the Thunderbolts’ achievements in competition prove that any marble can overcome adversity and shine on the podium. Regardless, this did not mean that the team members had easy lives. It was only after three years of competition that the Thunderbolts allowed interviews with the press, where the now-former team members disclosed this information with us. We hold the utmost respect with them for sharing.

The Thunderbolts' first of three bronze medals earned in the 2017 season.

The Thunderbolts automatically qualified for the 2017 Marble League due to its third place finish in the previous season. The team started the season well enough, placing eighth in Funnel Spinning and earning a bronze medal with Bolty’s 71,0 centimeter performance in the High Jump. At this point, the team was fifth in the overall standings, which, as the tournament progressed, would be the closest they would get to the podium. The Thunderbolts dropped to tenth after the Fidget Spinner Collision and did not recover, only dropping further to fourteenth place by the ninth event.

The Thunderbolts mounted a small comeback in Archery, where they scored another bronze medal, and earned a third bronze medal with Bolta’s run in the final event, the Sand Race. The Thunderbolts ended in twelfth place overall, a far cry from the podium which it had stood atop in 2016, but the team was still grateful for the chance to compete, shying away into the clouds once again until the 2018 Marble League Qualifiers.

The team placed into Group C; its third-place showing during the Snow Rally and first-place in the Halfpipe event allowed the Thunderbolts to storm into the 2018 Winter Marble League with high hopes. These hopes initially seemed dashed with Boltu’s fifteenth place finish in the 5 Meter Ice Dash, but Bolto’s fifth place in the Ski Jump and the team’s fourth place in the Halfpipe reignited hope for the Thunderbolts, and it all built up to the fourth event, Bobsled.

The Thunderbolts' first gold medal since the 2016 season.

The Thunderbolts earned their first medal of the season, and their first gold medal since the 2016 season. They rose to second place in the standings, expecting excitement, but there was very little, if any: Team Momo’s injuries seemed to draw far more attention from the marblebase.

In the latter half of the season, the Thunderbolts remained in the top eight of the standings, with two more bronzes to their name thanks to Bolto in the Snowboard Cross and the entire team in the Biathlon. The championship seemed within reach for the team, but during the final two events, the Thunderbolts placed in the lower half of the standings. This, coupled with a finish in dead last during an earlier event, Curling, caused the Thunderbolts to fall just outside the top half of the standings and finish in ninth place overall at the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Marble League.

During the offseason, the Thunderbolts continued to not impress. They were one of seven teams that did not finish in the 100 meter Water Marble Race, and they did not make it past the initial heat of the Amazing Maze Marble Race. It seemed as if this could be the first year that the Thunderbolts would not qualify. Little did we know, the sky was starting to rumble, and rain had just started to fall.

It became apparent during 2019 Marble League Qualifiers that the team had gone through some internal shakeups when a new team member, Lightning represented the Thunderbolts in Funnel Spinning. The team had another new member with Shock as well, who competed in the Underwater Race, and was joined by Thunder, Bolt, and Zap for team events. The Thunderbolts asserted their newfound energy, and stunned their competition, qualifying for the 2019 Marble League in ninth place, with forty points to their name. The team is one of seven to have made it into all four Marble Leagues so far, an impressive feat regardless of place.

            “We were faced with an unprecedented predicament,” Thunderstorm, who is both the team’s coach and its manager, explained. “All five of the original members had enough at the end of the 2018 season. Their hearts weren’t in it anymore, and I could tell that they just wanted to live life again. They retired, and I recruited five of my own trainers from Thorston to hop onboard the team. One of them, Bolt, is Bolty’s cousin. Another one of them, Lightning, competed individually in the KML years ago.”

            “We had no idea how big the shoes were that we needed to fill,” Bolt conceded. “Not that marbles wear shoes. Except for Marblegs. Sometimes.” When pressed for further questions about Marblegs, a marble thought to be a myth for centuries, Bolt declined to answer.

The Thunderbolts' first--and only---podium in the 2019 season.

The Thunderbolts entered the 2019 Marble League as a rookie team in everything but name only, and started off well, building from its energy seen in Qualifiers. Lightning placed sixth in the Underwater Race, Shock placed fifth in Funnel Spinning, and the team, after setting a Marble League record in Balancing, had its record broken by the Hazers and earned its first silver medal since the 2016 season. The Thunderbolts moved up to third place in the standings, tied with the Green Ducks.

Unfortunately, save for a fourth place in the Relay Run and a sixth place by Thunder, the team’s captain, in Surfing, the Thunderbolts were unable to get above seventh place in the remaining eleven events, and steadily fell towards the bottom four in the standings. The team’s worst finishes were two back-to-back events where they placed dead last, with Lightning’s DNF in the Dirt Race and the team’s slow and unsteady Rafting run sealing the team’s fate. At the end of the next event, the Thunderbolts were officially locked out of winning the 2019 Marble League, and they finished the season three events later in thirteenth place overall, 119 points earned.

The Thunderbolts’ hosting bid for the 2020 Marble League was denied in favor of Team Galactic’s bid. The team, dejected, returned to Thorston to train for the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers. A few months later, they received an official letter from the JMRC, which invited the Thunderbolts to compete in the first season of Marbula One. The team was shocked, but accepted the invitation without much hesitation, with Shock and Bolt submitted to represent the team in the tournament. Later in the season, it was confirmed that the Thunderbolts were selected to host the sixth Grand Prix at their track, the Short Circuit.

The Short Circuit GP will be held in Thorston on 21 and 22 March. Tune in to the live premieres on YouTube at 20:00 UTC!

In RetRollSpective, the Thunderbolts have done well in Marble League competition, striking against the odds and pushing through adversity to be the best team they can be. They may be one of the most underrated teams, from a top-down perspective if you will, and their unpredictability is a major draw of interest for its marblebase, although the team needs to work on its consistency. Best of luck to the Thunderbolts as the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers bolt near; keep on rolling!

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