Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Writing the History Book - 2012 World Crokinole Championships

It probably isn’t that surprising to see John Conrad speechless. The generally quiet and consistent crokinole player has been one of the best for many years, but on Saturday, June 2nd anyone who is in his position would have been at a loss for words.
At the 14th edition of the World Crokinole Championships in Tavistock, Ontario, the record book was rewritten as John Conrad became the first to ever win the competitive doubles and singles world titles on the same day. Also breaking records was Justin Slater becoming the first to ever win 3 20’s World titles, while scoring a remarkable 142 20’s setting a new world record. And in the Cues divisions, Lorraine Proud successfully defended her singles title, and also won the Cues Doubles event in the morning with partner Carol Litt.
The World Championship began early Saturday morning. As always the large Ontario contingent was well represented, but this time joined by groups from PEI, Quebec, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas and Vermont. Once again the game’s greatest tournament had attracted crokinole enthusiasts from around the globe.
Competition began with the doubles portion of the day. After the 6 game preliminary round, the top 6 teams advanced to the playoffs for a shot at the money and the World title. The accomplished group included:
  • Fred and Justin Slater (a father/son team that had finished in the top 4 two of the last three years)
  • Ron and Ray Haymes (a father/son team that won the world doubles title in 2006)
  • John Conrad and Tony Snyder (a talented pair with years of doubles experience between them)
  • Murray and Donald Coulthard (a brother team from St. Pauls making their first top 6 appearance)
  • Chris Gosline and Louis Gauthier (a Belleville team with past appearances in the top 12)
  • Rex and Tom Johnston (a brother team that finished 2nd in the recent Brucefield tournament)
After three games of the round robin the battle for World Champions seemed to be a two team race with Conrad/Snyder edging Slater/Slater for first. After the fourth game Conrad/Snyder held a four point lead, and they would just need to hang on in the final game to secure the title. However, the late charge by Fred and Justin Slater is not enough as John Conrad and Tony Snyder win the 2012 Doubles World Championship. The Slater’s finish 2nd, to finish in the top 4, three of the last four years. The Haymes team finished 3rd and Gosline/Gauthier finished 4th. The win for Conrad and Snyder is their second as a team, but Conrad’s third doubles title after winning with Paul Hartman in 2003 and 2005.
In the Recreational division Murray and Greg Matthison sneak out the victory by one point to claim the title. And in the Cues Doubles division, Lorraine Proud and Carol Litt took the world title.
After the lunch break, the long and grueling singles competition begins. 10 preliminary games to try and earn a place in the top 16. After the preliminary round is complete it is revealed that Justin Slater has won his third consecutive 20’s title, but this time he did it in a fashion like no one has ever seen. For years the world record of total 20’s in a 10 game preliminary round at a championships tournament had been held by Jarmo Puiras, when he scored 108 in 2004. It wasn’t until 2011 when Frederick Smith surpassed the record with 109 at the PEI Provincial Championships. However, indication that the record could be broken was given when Quinn Erzinger set a BC record by scoring 108 20’s in Oliver at the BC Provincial Championships.
But Justin Slater left every other feat in the dust when he scored an unparalleled, unmatched, and unbelievable 142 20’s in the 10 games. This score meant that 44.4% of all of this shots (142/320) were 20’s. With the score Justin became the first to win more than 2 20’s titles, and the first to win 3 consecutive 20’s titles.
However, the preliminary round was not that kind to all. 8 time finalist and three-time World Champion, Brian Cook and 6-time Doubles Champ and 2006 Singles Champ, advanced by the skin of their teeth in a 4-way tie for 14th. Their scores of 91 and 78 20’s was enough to win the tiebreaker and earn a place in the playoff rounds, while Joe Richards, aka the “Crokinole Coach”, was left on the outside in 17th place. Meanwhile, recently crowned Doubles Champion was off to a flying start in the singles competition earning 77 out of a possible 80 points, cruising into first place. (Now I can’t be completely certain, but I would be willing to bet that 77 points is the highest ever achieved in the WCC preliminary rounds.) But all that matters is making it through to the top 16 where the previous points are all wiped out.
The top 16 players are split into two groups of eight to play a full round robin where only the top two advance to the final four. The groups were as follows:
Group A: 
John Conrad (top scorer in preliminary round)
Matt Brown (2nd place in the 2011 Doubles WCC)
Rob Mader (3rd in Singles in 2008, 2nd in Doubles in 2010)
Ray Beierling (6-time World Doubles Champ and defending Singles World Champion)
John Harvey (finish 8th on the NCA Tour in 2010)
Louis Gauthier (finished 16 in 2012 NCA Tour)
Fred Slater (3-time top 4 finisher in doubles, 2nd straight appearance in top 16)
Ezra Jantzi (first appearance in top 16)
Group B:
Justin Slater (20’s Champ, 2nd place in Doubles and 2010 Singles Champion)
Ronnie Haymes (3rd in Doubles, 2006 Doubles Champ)
Nathan Jongsma (5th in 2010 WCC Singles)
Rex Johnston (made doubles playoffs in the morning, 2nd place in Brucefield Doubles tournament)
Lawson Lea (first time at WCC, one of the top PEI players)
Tom Johnston (4th in 2011 Singles Competition)
Brian Cook (3-time Singles World Champion)
Jason Beierling (6-time Doubles Champion, 2006 Singles World Champ)
While the top 16 only contained 5 of the top 10 ranked NCA contenders, and 10 of the top 20, the competition was still intense. Anyone who may have made the top 16 solely with an easy preliminary draw must immediately prove their worth.
The cream of the crop through the playoff round though were the same two men who had already been crown World Champions, John Conrad and Justin Slater claiming top spots in both of their groups. Also making it through from Group A was Ray Beierling, his 5th trip to the top 4 in the last 6 years and the defense of his World title was still possible. In Group B, second place was tied between Brian Cook and Jason Beierling. Making it more interesting was that their head-to-head game also tied 4-4, but it was Brian Cook scoring a few more 20’s to nab the last spot, and finish in the top 4 for the 9th consecutive year.
This left a final 4 grouping with 3 singles World Champions and 21 World Champion titles (in doubles, singles and 20’s) between them. The first game pitted Brian Cook against John Conrad, and Justin Slater against Ray Beierling. Slater got off to a good start with a 6-2 win over Beierling, while Conrad and Cook played a close game including a perfect round that earned a round of applause from the audience. At the end of the second game John Conrad and Justin Slater were comfortably in the lead with 13 and 12 points respectively. After Conrad and Slater played to a 4-4 tie in the third game they finished first and second in the group to set up the championship final.
The third place game was then a repeat of the 2011 Championship Final. It meant the end of arguably Brian Cook’s greatest streak. In a career where he has won 3 consecutive world titles and 3 of only the 4 NCA Tours, the 8 consecutive years where he advanced to the World Championship final is astonishing. In the game he was able to defeat Ray Beierling (who has a few ridiculous records of his own) in order to claim 3rd place at the 2012 World Championships.
But the focus was all on the final, and undoubtedly pitted the best two players of the day against each other. Each had already claimed a title, and both had the feeling of finishing second behind the other, as Slater finished second to Conrad in doubles, and Conrad was second in 20’s behind Slater. This would be the tiebreaker and for one, the ultimate topper to an amazing day.
The best of 3 game final began neck and neck and the first game was pushed to a tiebreaking 5th round. Conrad’s higher finish in the round of 4 game him hammer advantage in the match, but Slater was able to steal the fifth round without last shot and claim the first game. With his back up against the wall, Conrad hit his stride in the second game and did not give Slater a chance to put the match away, winning it 6-0. And once again the World Champion would be crowned in a decisive 3rd game.
Conrad’s momentum from the second game allowed him to win the first round with the hammer and then immediately steal the second round to take a 4-0 lead. But Slater was not done yet, stealing the third round and then winning the fourth round on a clutch final shot. With the score tied 4-4 the match would be decided by one final round. 
The round started with each player matching 20 for 20, until Slater would leave two consecutive hangars, giving Conrad the edge he needed to win the match. With the win he became the 2012 Singles World Champion, and the first to hold the Singles and Doubles World titles at the same time.
Truly it was a record breaking World Championship, and the excitement will once again begin with the start of the NCA Tour in a few months.
Coming soon from CrokinoleCentre videos from the PEI Provincial Crokinole Championships, the NCA Tour Finals in St. Jacob’s, and the 2012 World Crokinole Championships all via youtube found on YouTube under the username “lshgmail”.