Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 1

Hello and welcome to “Podium Moments”, a new series on the Marble Sports Blog! This series will discuss the performance of the three athletes or teams that place on the podium after a competition. Today’s article will cover the three teams that finished on the podium for Event 1 of the 2020 Marble League!

The official pictogram for ML20 Balancing, designed by the JMRC.

Bronze: A Reason to Fear The Night

The Midnight Wisps, in all honesty, did not have a banner year in the 2019 Marble League. Their best moments in the tournament coincided with their worst: a disqualification followed by a gold medal in Block Pushing, followed by a penultimate finish, another gold medal in Hurdles, a fourteenth place, a fifteenth place, and a silver medal in Rafting. The Wisps finished their 2019 season in tenth place, in a position much less desirable than their tenth place at the end of the Biathlon event in 2018. Their performance was ultimately compounded by their constant grapples with the paradigm of consistency, with several bottom-four placements crippling the team despite winning two of the sixteen events outright.

The Wisps’ Marbula One debut did not help matters, with Wopsy’s fall from the top of the elevator at the O’raceway sealing the team’s fate. Even with Wopsy’s bronze redemption at the Hivedrive and Wispy’s fourth place at the Razzway, the Midnight Wisps couldn’t keep up. They were beginning to seem more and more like a mid-tier team, especially after finishing their season in twelfth overall in their home circuit, the Midnight Bay. Would they be the first Marble League Champion to be relegated to the Showdown?

The “Will of the Wisps” has clearly defied those chances over the past week, with a strong enough placement in Balancing and a repeat of their 2019 success in Block Pushing granting the athletes another chance to strike the dark hour of midnight. And so far, the team has proven that they’re at least here to play—if not to win their second championship. Both Wispy and Wospy reached the green bonus zone, putting on a performance far stronger than the majority of their Marbula One races, and although Wespy and Wuspy fell off the beam just a little too soon, the Midnight Wisps succeeded as a team in providing a strong first impression. The Wisps’ true test over the next fifteen events will be to see if they can remain this consistent and be in the position to make a comeback. They have before.

The Wisps desperately needed a boost to their morale, but they need consistent top-half finishes more than anything.

Silver: A Robust Return

Despite an unimpressive debut in Marbula One, the Raspberry Racers’ skills in the Marble League remain their forte. The Racers’ streak in the top five of the overall standings has not been broken since the beginning of the 2019 Marble League—seventeen events and over a year ago. If anything is for certain right now, it’s that the champions of last year’s tournament, with a silver medal to their name, are already off to a terrific start.

Unlike the Wisps, the Raspberry Racers thrive on consistency, which can easily be seen by their top five streak, be justified by their medals in half of last year’s events, and be further supported by their Friendly Round appearance, where the team placed first twice and second twice. With a silver medal in Balancing, the Racers have not only proven that they have improved since the 2019 season, where they scored an abysmal 190, and the Friendly Round: they’ve also proven that they haven’t run out of energy. Compare that with the Savage Speeders, who dominated during Qualifiers but got fourteenth place in this event, and you begin to realize that the Raspberry Racers are an entirely different beast of a team. They are truly deserving of the hashtag #RaspberryRobust.

It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the team’s season goes. No team has ever secured a repeat championship before, and so far, the Racers are the only team that can do so back-to-back. They are the team that every team wants to be and the team that every team wants to beat. And while the Midnight Wisps got very close with their score of 353, there is only one team that has done that so far this season.

The Raspberry Racers nearly doubled their score from 2019. Was that a result of better training or the event's unpredictable nature?

Gold: A Mint Surprise

Teams that had all medaled before in Balancing were expected to flourish in the first event of this season. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes did well enough, holding a provisional spot on the podium before the Midnight Wisps and Balls of Chaos competed. Team Momo did well enough to place sixth, redeeming themselves from Qualifiers and earning ten points to start off the season. However, the Thunderbolts and Mellow Yellow, along with most other veteran teams, stumbled. Even the Hazers, who set the new Marble League Record of 438 centimeters last season, couldn’t even score within 100 centimeters of that this time.

The team that won Balancing is a team that few, outside of their hardcore fans, anticipated. The Minty Maniacs stunned the competition by scoring 381 centimeters, far below the record but clearly ahead of the Racers’ 355. There’s no doubt that the Maniacs would have exceeded the record had all four of them gotten over 100, but they can hardly complain considering that three.

The Minty Maniacs’ victory may not come as a surprise to fans that have been following them since their Hubelino Tournament days. The team earned a gold medal in the 2018 Catwalk, which, though a far simpler version of Balancing, required many similar skills. Although the Maniacs did not do remarkably well in Balancing during the Showdown, they scored just enough to advance to Qualifiers, where they—in a symbolic twist of fate—earned 347 centimeters, matching the Rojo Rollers’ old record in the event. If that wasn’t an omen to win their first gold medal of the tournament, then what was?

This could either be a one-hit-wonder for the Minty Maniacs, much like their silver medal in 2018 Ice Hockey, or their breakout moment. Regardless, the Minty Maniacs have clearly proven their spot in the Marble League, and fans (especially those pledged to the Snowballs) are beginning to take notice. Only time will tell how their performance here plays into the overall story of the 2020 Marble League.

The podium moment at the end of ML2020 Event 1: Balancing.

Conclusion: Chasing the Green

When they were planning the event structure of the 2020 Marble League, Team Galactic, in cooperation with the JMRC, could think of no better way to begin the fifth edition of the tournament than with the first event in Marble League history: Balancing. Even though they were hosting, Team Galactic opted not to suggest events that played to their strengths, but rather, events that honored past Marble Leagues and events that pushed the limit of what they thought was possible. Balancing fits both criteria: it is not only a classic event, but it also tests the limits of each athlete. As they roll forth, they must control their spin as best as they can to make it to the green bonus zone at the end and not knock their teammates off the beam. It is far from an easy task, but as Greg Woods remarked,

            “And while some marbles dream only of watching the Marble League, those who strive to compete in it find a daunting amount of dedication and difficulty in front of them.”

It is indeed a milestone to see three teams at the end of each Marble League event stand above the rest, because they—through months of training in the offseason, working to qualify, and dealing with the unquestionable presence of fortune that affects any sporting event—have preserved and put their best roll forward. They deserve their “podium moment”, but more than anything, they deserve their chance to shine.

Until next time, keep on rolling!

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