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Diablo International Amateur Open
7 Man Novice - Mayhem
7 Man Amateur - Tippmann Effect
5 Man Rookie - Hardcore
5 Man Novice - Energy Kids
5 Man Amateur - Brimstone Smoke
3 Man - S.P.O.R.E.S.
Women's Bracket 3 Player - Wicked Sistas
Young Guns - Erie Rage

Nations Cup Xball Winners - USA

This year marks the 12th year of the International Amateur Open,  making it one of the longest running annual paintball tournaments in the world.  The IAO began as the Cal Mag Amateur Open, then the event became known as the Zap International Amateur Open.  The tournament's main sponsor nearly became synonymous, with players often talking about going to compete at “the Zap” in Pittsburgh.  For 2002 the event has become the Diablo International Amateur Open, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods.

The IAO has become a mainstay event because it is more than merely a tournament.  The week long event traditionally kicks off with paintball technical training classes and an industry conference, and has one of the largest trade shows in the sport.  Dealers come to Pittsburgh to see the new products for the year and meet with manufacturers and distributors.

In 1999, some observers were left with the impression that the tournament was even being overshadowed by the industry presence.  In 2001 Team Effort Events, the company producing the tournament didn't cut back on the industry side, but focused on improving the tournament, and the event was hailed as a success. 

For 2002, Team Effort Events owners Debra and Ryan Krischke pulled out all the stops, determined to take the IAO to the next level as a paintball experience.  The first major announcement came at a press conference held in Celebration, Florida during the 2001 NPPL World Cup, when Procaps employees stood side by side with the Krischkes to unveil a banner with the tournament's new major sponsor, Diablo and presenting sponsor Dick's Sporting Goods.  The tie-in with Dick's proved to be of great benefit to the tournament.  Dick's promoted the event prominently in their national newspaper inserts, spreading the word not only about the tournament, but about paintball as well.

The next major announcement was that the tournament was “coming out of the woods.”  While the NPPL, and other major North American tournaments such as Skyball and the Mardi Gras Open had all converted to concept fields, the IAO had been a holdout, with games held on wooded fields at Three Rivers Paintball in Cranberry, PA, a short drive outside of Pittsburgh.  For some, this was an attraction to the event, for others the unbalanced woods fields were considered a drawback compared to concept fields. 

The main problem with the wooded fields had already become abundantly clear to Debra Krischke.  “We've outgrown the site,” she said, even during the 2001 tournament.  That year land needed to be cleared across the street from the tournament site in order to have enough room for parking.  The concept fields that had been set up at Three Rivers on some of the limited open space, for some of the smaller classes such as young guns, were well received. 

For 2002 the tournament was moved to the Big Butler Fairgrounds.  The location proved ideal.  It was a scant 20 minute drive from the Sheraton Hotel in Cranberry, which serves as host to the industry conferences and ancillary activities such as the fourth annual National Paintball Supply Megasale (a wholesale trade show and sale).  The fairgrounds offered flat grassy land on which concept fields could be set up, and an exhibit hall to bring the trade show indoors, instead of under a tent (which usually had some leaks in inopportune places during the thunderstorm that traditionally happens one afternoon during the event).  With plenty of space, the fairgrounds offered more room for the growing number of semi trailers that paintball companies are using for their appearances at tournaments.  The adjacent campground also offered an opportunity for teams to save some money on accommodations.  The Society of Paintball Players and Teams (SPPLAT) promotion with Cruise America made it possible for teams to rent recreational vehicles at significant savings.

Through the spring and summer of 2002, Team Effort Events kept making new announcements about how the tournament was growing into more than just a paintball event.  It rapidly evolved into an extreme sports and music festival that focused on paintball. 

Making its debut at the IAO would be X-Ball, a very differently styled paintball game.  During the Nation's Cup (scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the IAO) eight all star teams made up of professional paintball players, each representing their own country would compete in the X-Ball format.  More like football than double or center flag paintball, X-Ball is a game of endurance.  Teams focus on making as many flag hangs as possible (a hang does not end the game, it just starts the clock on a 3 minute pod and air filling break) during each of four 10 minute game quarters.  Hanging a flag is a one point score, and there are no points for eliminations or live players.

Another new addition to the IAO would be other popular extreme sports.  Some of the world's best freestyle supercross riders were scheduled to make their fantastic twenty to forty foot motorcycle jumps that include aerial acrobatics as wild as coming completely off the bike.  Joining them in exhibition jumps on Saturday would be BMX freestyle riders, both groups fresh from the Gravity Games the week before.

The International Amateur Open is well known for its player's parties and industry parties, but new for this year was a focus on music.  Wretched 7 Paintball, inventors and distributors of the Crypt-O-Night paintball, came on board to produce a music concert to follow the BMX and supercross exhibitions.  Chicago based headliner Mest would be joined by Midtown (PigTV viewers will know them from the soundtrack to the 2001 Mardi Gras Open episode), and The Reunion Show.

Team Effort Events had new things in store for the tournament side of the IAO as well.  One of the first announcements was that in honor of the 10th anniversary of Kingman International, company president Arthur Chang decided that instead of running the Spyder Cup in 2002, Kingman would pay the entry fees for rookie 5 man teams shooting Kingman paintguns exclusively.  Kingman additionally put up contingency prizes for teams winning with their paintguns.  In a move that surprised many, the 10 man competition was changed to a 7 player format and had a new team classification added – open class.  The IAO would now allow pro and top ranked amateur players to compete for a first place prize of $7,000 and a package totaling $20,000 in cash for first through fourth place.

The pre tournament activities started on August 5th.  Airgun Designs president, Tom Kaye taught technical classes about the Automag paintguns, with special attention to the Warp Feed, and AGD’s new Level 10 system which reduces the force of the Automag or E-Mag’s bolt allowing it to shoot extremely brittle paint without chopping while greatly reducing overall recoil.  Centerflag Products seminars taught players and airsmiths how to tech their regulators, and Mel Meraville of Paintballistix led seminars in maintaining and repairing the AKALMP Excalibur and Viking paintguns.  Paintballistix is becoming a value added reseller of the AKALMP paintguns, and assisting with east coast tech support.

For teams, Tuesday was the first big day, as the fields were officially opened for inspection, and players started walking fields and laying out their strategies.  Meanwhile, at the Sheraton hotel, the industry conferences were under way. 

The conferences consisted a guest speaker talking about marketing in the morning, followed by 'New Products on Parade', and then a break up into separate discussion groups dealing with issues like ASTM standards and field operation.  New Products on Parade is a place where traditionally, many ground breaking products have been first shown to the world.  Prime examples were the first two electropneumatic paintguns, the PVI Shocker from Smart Parts, and the Angel V6 from WDP, both first unveiled at the conference.  This year did not seem to be as big a year for innovation.  While there were many presenters showcasing new products, few were radically different or groundbreaking.  The most talked about new invention from the product parade was from Rocket Paintball, a funnel shaped hopper that holds 1,000 paintballs and has a fitting and quick opening gate at the bottom so that players can fill pods very quickly without spilling paint.


With a sunrise at 6:30 am, 5 man games were scheduled to start at 7:30.  Games got going a bit later than that, and the morning ran close, but not quite to schedule.  The schedule allowed for all of the rookie and novice 5 man teams to play their 7 prelim games, take a short break and finish up in the mid afternoon.  In the afternoon start of the 3 man and young guns preliminaries started up, set to finish on Thursday. 

Most of the vendors had set up and were displaying their wares, with a substantial crowd taking a look at the latest products.  The fairgrounds exhibition building held only a small fraction of the trade show.  A tent nearly two acres in size, lined with four rows of booths housed the rest of the smaller displays while the entire trade show area was surrounded by trailers and show trucks.  National Paintball Supply's T2 trailer with its newly expanded tent system now featured an air conditioned tent lounge in the back, and was right next to the Draxxus show truck - something that would not have happened a year ago. Smart Parts only had one of their three display trailers on site, but augmented it with a series of smaller awnings.  In their lounge area, a pair of networked X-Box game systems saw steady use.  Prizes were offered to anyone who could beat members of team Strange, and that typified the fun carnival atmosphere at the tournament.  In all over a dozen show trucks and trailers were on site.

The crowds looking through the trade show were about as heavy as they have been in recent years at the IAO, if not a little heavier for Wednesday (typically Friday and Saturday are the biggest days), but there was a difference.  Many were locals attending not to play in the tournament, but simply to see the trade show and watch some games.  Team Effort Events understands the "promotion" part of being an event promoter, and had done a substantial amount of local advertising about the tournament.  Billboards, both from Team Effort Events, and other paintball companies, including Airgun Designs and Kingman International lined the roads leading to the tournament site. Music spread over the fairgrounds in the morning, courtesy of a local radio station's live remote broadcast promoting the tournament.  One of the nice features of the site layout is that the trade show is separated enough from the fields, that music and DJs on the trade show side don't cause communication problems on the fields, as they have at many other events.  Spectators and trade show attendees paid a $5 daily admission fee to attend.  While some had expected this would cause the crowds to be smaller than in the past, that was certainly not the case.


5 man prelims continued on Thursday.  In the IAO, teams are grouped into divisions, eight teams to a division with each team playing every other team in their division.  The top two teams in each division are selected to move on to the semifinals, ranked based on their total score from the prelims.  Icon led the pack of amateurs six points behind them was Brimstone Smoke, followed by Brass Eagle All Stars.  With four divisions, eight amateur teams advanced to the semifinals which would be played the following day.  The five man novice teams played their prelims in 3 divisions meaning that the top two teams in each division would move on to the semis, and two more wild cards (the next two teams ranked by overall score from all three divisions) would join them.  Kung Fu Assassins was the novice leader.  They were followed by Energy Kids and Team Fraction.  The 5 man rookie competition was more popular and the teams filled up 6 divisions.  Hardcore was the top ranked.  Lock-N-Load ranked second and Chill Factor third, while a total of 12 rookie teams would compete in the semifinals.

The rookie semifinals had 12 teams grouped into four divisions, where one team from each division and a single wildcard would go to the finals.  WFO, who finished the prelims in the 12th seat topped the semifinalists.  Ranking second was Chill Factor, third was Hardcore, and the wild card team was the Virginia Rangers. 

With eight semifinalists, the novices were broken into two divisions, the top two teams from each becoming finalists.  Energy Kids led the pack, joined by Kung Fu Assassins, Team Fraction and Invasion.

The four rookie finalists had it out with the total scores from their finals games determining their final ranking in the tournament.  Hardcore was the champion.  WFO took second place, Chill Factor third, and Virginia Rangers fourth.

The novice teams finished their finals games ranking exactly how they were ranked by the semifinals.  Energy Kids took home the first place trophy.  Kung Fu Assassins took second, Team Fraction took third, and Invasion took fourth place.

The amateur teams had a night to rest before their finals games on Friday.

Thursday was also the day for 3 player format prelims.  Three divisions of young guns teams competed for their positions in the finals (no semis).  Bucktown Bandits ranked first, Out Kast second, Erie Rage third, and Compete Kids went on as a wild card team.

The main 3 player class teams filled thirteen divisions.  Wall of Brisk topped this group, followed by Assylum, Drop Zone Dislexic Dogs and thirteen other semifinalists.

5 teams competed in the 3 player women's class, and played only one round of games (no semifinals or finals).  Wicked Sistas won all five of their games and came in first place.  Fallen Angels finished second and International Iron Maidens in third.  Red's Rabid Dawgs finished fourth and Paintgirls in fifth.

While the games were finishing at the field and vendors were wrapping up their booths for the night, media, staff and players gathered for the Nations Cup Captain's Meeting.  While attendees filtered into a hotel banquet room, the all star teams from each country signed a set of commemorative jerseys.  Mike Ratko from Procaps, makers of DraXxus paintballs chaired the meeting that started with an explanation of the X-Ball game format and rules.  X-Ball is a paintball game played very similar to traditional tournament paintball, but designed to be oriented toward a longer game format more visually oriented for television and spectators.  An X-Ball match is divided into four 10 minute quarters.  Unlike traditional paintball games, a flag hang does not end the game.  It simply stops the game for a three minute time-out and a single point score.  During the timeout the teams reload their paint and air, assisted by pit crews, and player substitutions can be made, then it's back to the game to fight for the next flag hang.  Player penalties are assessed not as one for ones, or point penalties, but by placing a player in a penalty box until the penalty time is served.  Penalties can be two minutes, five minutes or ten minutes in duration.  The rules were reviewed at the meeting.  One of the X-Ball rules permitted team coaches to communicate with their teams from the sidelines during the game.  This rule was put to a team vote.  Team USA and Team Portugal voted in favor of sideline coaching, but all of the other teams voted against it, so it was not to be used.

X-Ball and the Nation's Cup are being produced with the goal of giving paintball a professional look that will be good on camera, and there is more to that than just the game.  The playing field was set up immaculately, with key sponsor banners in banner walls on the sidelines full netting and Sup'Air bunkers.  A central announcer's tower holds both the game announcers and the scoreboard.  Similar to an electronic scoreboard in hockey or basketball, the X-Ball scoreboard shows the score and game time information.  Additionally, it has two chronograph displays.  When the referees chronograph players on the field, their hand held chronographs use wireless technology to relay the velocity reading to the scoreboard where it is displayed, and penalties can be assessed immediately on the player. 

Also in the evening was the National Paintball Supply Gangster Gala.  This industry party hosted by Gino and Jen Postorivo was a 1930's themed party that as in years past has served as an enjoyable social gathering for dealers, manufacturers, and others in the paintball industry.  It is a time to network, as well as a time to simply relax and have fun.  A local band played era music, and included a guest appearance by Craig Miller of Procaps singing "Mack the Knife," from the Three Penny Opera.

The morning dawned bright and beautiful again at the IAO on Friday.  Games getting underway for 3 man semi-finals and finals as well as wrapping up the games for the Amateur 5 man.  Icon flew into semi-finals in the top slot but had a difficult morning during semi's not making the cut into finals.  From their bracket, Team Bam and Boston Paintball Factory Team advanced on.  Brimstone Smoke sailed through their bracket, moving onto finals with Tippmann Effect.  In the finals, Brimstone Smoke prevailed for first place, with a scant 10 point lead, using Spyders, giving them the Kingman prize of $50,000 dollars.  Way to go guys - so proud of you!  Tippmann Effect came in second behind them, Boston Paintball Factory Team in third and Team Bam in fourth.

Three man competition squared up after semi finals saw S.P.O.R.E.S., Assylum, Wall of Brisk and ECX Kidz moving onto finals.  They finished nearly in the same arrangement as they started, S.P.O.R.E.S. taking first, Assylum in second, ECX Kidz in third and Wall of Brisk wrapping up the finals in fourth.  Competition in the 3 man was great, scores ending up a with 90+ differences between each team.

Also in the morning was the Young Guns finals -- they went from preliminary games straight to finals.  Erie Rage triumphed in first place at 371, Bucktown Bandits in second at 296, Compete Kids in third with 243 and Outkast rounding things out with 13 points in fourth.

Friday morning started the first XBall competition with Sweden and France, editors, Bill & Dawn Mills providing the commentary and information for the spectators.  Running strong all morning, Sweden won with a solid lead of 5 points over France.  The next game was Portugal vs. Canada.  Running longer periods of time, less turn over time and more stalemating of the two, the match seemed to move much more quickly than the first.  Ending with a lead of two, Canada will move on to battle against Sweden on Saturday morning, while Portugal will play against France later on Friday in the afternoon.  The third bracket of games was played USA vs. Russia with the US winning with a stunning 6 point lead.  Crowd participation was huge during this game, with much chanting of 'USA! USA!' before each start.  The game started off slow for USA, as the first two flag hangs were scored by Russia.  This was an especially exciting match, as there is often a debate over skill versus teamwork.  Team Russia was made up of members of the Russian Legion who practice together several times a week.  Team USA on the other hand was made up of "superstar" players.  While they represented not only the best individual paintball talent in our country, they're also arguably the best in the world.  The problem is that they had never practiced together as a team.  At least at the beginning of the match the game favored the team with the track record of practicing together.  The X-Ball game format gives time for teams to size up their competition, and try out different strategies, and by mid match, Team USA was coming together and working as a team.  They took the lead and held it to the finish.

The Nation's Cup was well received by spectators, proving to be more popular than expected.  Grandstands set up on the sideline weren't large enough much of the time for the numbers of people who wanted to watch.  People crowded around the netting and sides of the grandstand during portions of the matches. 

Following the Russia versus USA Nation's Cup game was France versus Portugal.  This was an important game, as using the double elimination structure, the loosing team would be the first one knocked out of the tournament.  France came on strong from the start, making a few flag hangs before Portugal made their first.  While the final score difference was high, the teams were a lot closer match on the field.  France never devastated Portugal.  Both teams would make good breaks, but France did a better job of getting into secondary positions, and taking more ground a minute or so after each start.  In the last minute of the match, there were a couple of exciting games.  By that time it was no longer possible for Portugal to make enough hangs in the remaining game time, so both teams played a bit more aggressively.  In the second to last game, a French player charged the center and slid headfirst on his back through the bottom of the giant X bunker, then rolled and shot the Portugal player who had been one of the bunker's legs for cover.  The crowd leapt to their feet in the stands cheering that move.

Also starting in the afternoon was the 7 man competition on the IAO side of the event.  Forty 7 Man Novice teams faced off in preliminary games Friday afternoon with 24 Amateur teams.  The Novice were shooting for being the top three in their bracket, advancing those top three from each of the 5 divisions plus one wildcard for 16 teams moving onto the semi-finals.  Amateur battled for the top two of each division plus two wildcards for 8 teams in the semi-finals.

Friday night wrapped up with the IAO player's party, another event that sets the IAO aside from other tournaments.  With a stage set up at the fairgrounds horse racing arena, players were able to eat the provided dinner in the grandstands.  On-stage the awards were presented, including the $50,000 contingency prize that went from Kingman to Brimstone Smoke for winning the 5 man amateur competition with Spyder paintguns.  That was in addition to the trip to the Aruba Open and other prizes they won from the International Amateur Open prize package.  During the party, BMX freestyle riders were warming up on a pair of quarter pipe ramps set about 20 feet apart.  As the party wound down, the attendees were dazzled with riders doing 360 degree flips, and other wild jumps.

By midway through the event, it was clear that the IAO had set a new standard for what paintball tournaments can be.  With the definition of success shifted from simply having the most teams attending to producing a professional looking event that showcases the sport to players and non players alike, Team Effort Events has done a remarkable job.  The event grounds were kept constantly clean, parking was ample and non problematic, game schedules ran smoothly, especially considering with the diverse number of competitions going on, there were quite a few cross-overs that needed to be avoided (i.e. the same players competing in both 3 man and 5 man needed a schedule that didn't conflict).  In addition to the constant clean-up crews another reason that the site looked good was that the playing fields were well separated from the trade show areas.  No teams were staging out of their sponsor's booths and that kept their mess in their area, away from the public showcase area.  A variety of on site food vendors kept stomachs full with a big selection of food, not just burgers.  One of the most exciting things about these changes is not just improvement of this one event, but that it is indicative of where major paintball tournaments are going, and is just a glimpse of things to come.

Seven man teams hit the field at 8 o'clock on Saturday morning, ready to wrap up their preliminary games to move onto semi-finals and finals on Sunday.  XBall also started up again, playing the first two winning teams from yesterday - Sweden vs. Canada.  Sweden won with a crushing 7-1 score.  Play was tight and intense.  USA and Germany faced  off next, with much crowd  participation again for the US team.  This game swung heavily in favor of the US an ended with a score of 21 to 3.  Two of the German points came from US penalties.  If a team has three players in the penalty box, a penalty results in a point for the opposing team, rather than taking the remaining two players out of the equation.  In an action resulting from the comparatively relaxed reffing they are used to receiving in the NPPL and Millennium Series, the US received four penalties at one time.  The US had the flag, and had eliminated all of the German players.  They were stalling the hang, opting to run the clock further down when US Coach Bob Long and three waiting players walked onto the field, as is sometimes done in the NPPL, the game being considered so close to over that it doesn't matter.  The referee's warnings to the players and coach were either misunderstood or ignored, and one penalty was issued per person resulting in three players in the penalty box and a single point penalty.  Many of the  penalties assessed to the US team were for issues that would often be allowed to slide at other tournaments even though they were against the rules.  Chief amongst these was talking after being eliminated.  A player would get hit, get their armband pulled, and then start protesting to a referee about someone on the opposing team that needed to get pulled or why they were pulled.  Eliminated players don't talk period, and that was enforced at Nation's Cup.

The US victory over Germany did not create hard feelings.  As soon as the game was over, Todd Adamson and Chris Lasoya from the US team were immediately coaching players from the German team on better tactics for the XBall field in order to help with their next game in the tournament. 

Team USA definitely had a home court advantage.  This wasn't with the referees, as some of the other countries had suggested, but rather with the spectators.  The spectators are permitted to cheer and yell to the players, which makes perfect sense when one considers that the model of X-Ball is meant to get the audience involved.  The goal is to eventually have spectators paying to see a tournament, and the players paid to play, a flip flop from tournaments now where the players are the customer instead of the performer.  One of the steps to meeting that goal is to get the crowd involved.  During some of the games announced by Paul "PGP" Bollenbach of the Jax Warriors, and Avery Amaya of Texas Storm, the two had the crowd doing waves in the bleachers.  Some of the Europeans chose to protest the problem posed by the crowd involvement, rather than recruit people to cheer for them and yell out advice and tactics during the game.  National pride has definitely come into play.  A father and son were spotted next to the scoreboard, the father saying to the son "Look son, we're still in," as he pointed the the US flag next to a win.

7 man games were played in the morning and afternoon on Saturday.  Only four of the fields played on schedule, all of the others finished their games ahead of schedule.  During the tournament, another of the advantages to the IAO's new location was that the fields were able to be close to each other, and close to car access.  This avoided the inevitable delays of teams late to fields because they were hauling gear from their cars to the staging area, or getting up and down hills from the staging areas to the fields.  Two of the fields were less favored by the players.  One field using Ball Wall hard sided bunkers drew criticism from both 5 and 7 player teams, as did the Airgun Designs Ultimate Airball field, from players who felt its bunkers were spaced too far apart.  All fields were, however of balanced layouts, and faced north to south in order to minimize any advantage the sun's glare might offer to one team.

During the afternoon and into the evening the freestyle motocross riders jumped their motorcycles 30 feet and more into the air.  The crew from MD Extreme had a truck that unfolded into a landing ramp, and carried their jump ramp.  The group was sponsored by Mountain Dew and Sobe, and their appearance at the IAO was facilitated by Raven who has recently been expanding their product line from just paintball clothing into gear for motocross and skating as well.  David Demanges, Chuck Carothers and Wes Burr wowed the crowd with jump after jump.  For most of their performances the winds at the site kept their show somewhat tame.  That term is relative, just jumping from one ramp to the other is an extreme feat.  Despite the winds they were making some incredible jumps, including the kiss of death, and lookbehinds.  For the last exhibition however, the wind died down a little and the riders turned things up a notch.  There were some Supermans where the riders let go and sailed through the air above the bikes before grabbing onto the seats and then back to the handlebars, and things moved on from there.  Team Effort Events' Debra Krischke was able to get her first live look at the riders doing this performance and literally screamed in fear for the riders as they went through their death defying motions up in the air.  The addition of this exhibition to the IAO was a definite success.

The 7 man competition filled five divisions of novice teams and three divisions of amateurs.  The planned open class which would allow pros had been canceled because many would be appearing in Atlantic City later on in the month and many having played the weekend before in Sweden at the Millennium Series, or during the IAO at the Nation's Cup.

The 7 player prelims were wrapped up Saturday afternoon, and schedules were set for the semifinal games the next morning.  Mayhem, Turtles and Saint led the pack of 16 novice teams into the semifinals, while AGD Lions, Rush and Boston Paintball factory team were the top amateur teams out of a group of 8 going into the semis.

Saturday night, after the last freestyle motocross jumps, crowds started arriving for the concert produced by Wretched 7 paintball in conjunction with Team Effort Events, and sponsored by Warped Sportz and P8NT magazine.  In a bit of pre-show warm-up act, a lighting tech got stuck in his harness hanging from the rigging about ten feet off the stage, much to the entertainment of the rest of the crew. 

Taking to the stage that night were Jumpstart, The Reunion Show, Midtown, and Mest, the audience getting more and more exited with each performance.  In pre-show interviews Mest's front man Tony said that the band had never really played organized paintball, but most of them had paintguns they'd bought from WalMart and would occasionally play in the woods.  None of the members of Midtown had played but when they learned that they were being booked at a paintball tournament, drummer Rob hopped that they'd get hooked up with some paintguns.  Midtown's song Direction was featured in the 2001 Mardi Gras Open episode of PigTV, which includes links to their web site for more information about the band. 

The bands gave energetic performances and the audience responded.  Stage Dives and crowd surfing were common through the night and the event security did a great job of keeping things from getting out of hand, but still letting everyone have fun.  Highlights from the show and band interviews will be featured on the Jawbreaker Video series from Warped Sportz. 


Sunday morning, the 7 player semifinals started up and ran smoothly, winnowing down the field to four finalists in each classification.  The novices ranked Saints, Team Teel A, Mayhem and Twisted Factory, while the amateurs ranked as Missouri Magic, Rush, Tippmann Effect and Aces Wild.

The Nation's Cup was so well received by Aruba Open producer Jossy Mansur, that he approached Richmond Italia about having the pro teams at the Aruba Open play in the X-Ball format.  Italia liked the idea, and now this September's Aruba open will feature X-Ball.  Only the pro teams will play X-Ball, all of the amateur and novices will still play standard format paintball, as with last year's Aruba Open which was a well received event.  Plans had been in the works for a special exhibition tournament the day after the Aruba Open, arranged by SPPLAT and Maxim Magazine to be videotaped and pitched to some major sports television networks.  That plan has now shifted to the X-Ball portion of the Open getting the television coverage, which means better publicity for the pro teams competing, and better exposure for the event's sponsors.  Mansur is hoping that this will give some more pro players a chance to try X-Ball, and suggests teams planning to attend the Aruba Open should make their arrangements now, before airfare rates increase.

[editor's note: While both Richmond Italia and Jossy Mansur announced that the Aruba Pro/Am would have X-Ball format pro games, they have decided not to change format, and the tournament will be held as planned, in traditional NPPL format]

Not all of the X-Ball teams were quite as pleased with how things were going, though they expressed enthusiasm for the format.  Several of the European teams felt the reffing left something to be desired.  England's coach Pete Robinson, best known for his years playing on the All Americans and Aftershock, as well as writing for Paintball Games International, thought the reffing was not as strict as it should have been.  He was frustrated by some of the US players that were either talking back to the refs, or overshooting the other teams, and getting by with it. 

Sunday morning's first Nations Cup game was Sweden versus USA, and it was one of the most anticipated of the whole event.  These were the two strongest teams in the tournament, and pretty evenly matched.  By the time the match progressed to the fourth quarter, the score was 10 to 7 with four minutes remaining on the clock.  Sweden ran the flag in expecting to take the score up 8 to 10, but the referees found a hit on the player.  Under the X-Ball rules this gave the point not to Sweden, but to the USA.  This completely took the wind out of Sweden's sails.  Both technically, and considering how the two teams were playing, Sweden still was in a position where they could make a comeback, but they chose instead to forfeit the match.

The winner of the Sweden versus USA match was to go on the play the final game against the winner of France versus Russia to determine the Nation's Cup winner.  After a team meeting, Sweden decided they were going to withdraw from the tournament.  "We still support X-Ball and will not talk smack about it," said team coach Magued Idris from Joy Division.  According to Idris the team was simply too exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically to be able to give the tournament their best effort.  Due to a small roster they had been running their strongest players for the whole tournament, while larger squads like team USA had the luxury of rotating more of their players in and out of the game to keep them fresh.  The team planned to remain on site to watch the final game and show their support for the winning team.  When asked what would improve the game, Idris said that he would like to see a squad of international referees.  Idris was frustrated with some of the calls Sweden had received and with the reactions of some of the refs on the field.  There is no doubt, with their track record of past Nations Cup wins, that Sweden is a World Class team, and spectators were very disappointed not be able to see them in the finals game.  Sweden's Alex Lundqvist described X-Ball as, "The most fun I've ever had playing paintball."

Seven man wrapped up finals on Sunday before 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  The Novice bracket leading with Mayhem earning an stunning all win finals, Saints in second, Team Teel A in third and Twisted Factory Team in fourth.  The Amateur bracket put Tippmann Effect in first, again with the full win finals, coming in with a 292 for first place.  Missouri Magic followed with a 204 for 2nd  place.  Rush took third with 111 and Aces Wild in fourth.

By the early afternoon on Sunday most of the crowds had dwindled and the vendors were taking down their displays, packing up.  Some were going home to stay for a while, while others were going to head home with about a week break before turning back around and once again heading to the east coast for the NPPL Atlantic City Open produced by Paintball Sports Promotions.

Almost every person at the Big Butler Fairgrounds who wasn't working taking apart a booth was packed around the Nations Cup field for the final match - USA versus Russia.  Most expected the US to be victorious as they had already beaten Russia earlier in the tournament, but the Russian team had no intentions of going calmly into the night.  Much like their previous match, Russia managed the first score.  Team USA kicked in though and managed a lead before the first quarter was finished.  By the end of the game it was a win for Team USA with a score of 16 to 7.  X-Ball was well received by spectators and players alike.  While some of the teams and players did have complaints about the format and or how it was run, they also expressed how exciting its potential was, and see it being improved at future events.

2002 definitely proved to be a coming out year for the International Amateur Open.  This was in more ways than just coming out of the woods.  The event moved into being more than a tournament and trade show and became a full blown paintball festival designed around showcasing the sport, as much or more than simply offering competition. 

Stay tuned to, the official internet resource and score archivers of the Diablo International Amateur Open for the PigTV Paintball Television Amateur Open episode.

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