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7 Man World Cup
by Simon "Manike" Stevens
Finish - Avalanche (USA)
Toulouse last year was the highlight of the European tournament scene, this year's event surpassed it and brought the Millenium series, and tournament paintball to a new level.
There was obviously a lot of thought and attention to detail paid into the Millenium series 2000 Opening Tournament at Toulouse and it showed from the moment you stepped onto the tournament site.
This year's event played host to 60 teams (actually58 due to two no shows) from all over the world, the US was very well represented with All Americans, two Image teams, Avalanche, Ground Zero, Ground Zero Gold (AKA team USA). Many European teams came to play and Rage even made it from South Africa after what sounds like a difficult journey and at great personal cost. It really was amazing to see so many countries represented.
The event is set up running on four fields that are usually used for football (soccer) and so the ground is beautifully flat, short grass making an excellent playing surface. Two fields (1 and 2), are set up inside the main open top stadium with grandstand viewing and two (3and4) are out on the practice pitches with viewing from raised grassy banks.
The fields were very large, 3and 4 being well spaced out conventional Sup Air bunkers. Inside the arena the fields were well packed with bunkers, field 2 especially having some new tricky styled bunkers including 'butterfly's', 'spiders', tunnels (also dubbed the carwash) and ‘mini-subs’ or ‘pigs!’ So named due to the faces and tails adorning the bunkers.
“If you like paintball... Toulouse was the place to be.” Pete Martin Captain of the Rushers UK- Amature runners up.
The large fields with few back bunkers are definitely encouraging and rewarding for aggressive play. Many teams are even making the long breaks to the center barricades and winning some quick games. Between the two sets of fields is the trade area and staging set up.
There are a huge selection of trade stands from many European and American companies, DYE and National (32 Degrees) having made it over from the US to bring their products to the European market.
The weather was hot, but with some clouds giving shade and making it easier on the teams. There was also a strong cooling wind making straight shooting harder on the outside fields but keeping players and spectators more comfortable. The set up for the fans and spectators is excellent with total netting on the stadium field and very high netting between the main trade area and bar/spectator area.
Marshalling was conducted well by some top European teams including the Ton Ton Flingeurs, Storm UK, Endurance, Camp Tigers and the Magic Boys. All good teams who worked hard in the heat to keep the tournament flowing.
This years competition looks to be harder and better than ever as many teams make the step up to Pro after good results in last years Millenium series. There were 17 pro teams, which makes the Pro qualifications harder, with no guaranteed places and gives new hope and chances for the amateurs.
Play on the first day saw the All Americans at the top of the leader board closely followed by Avalanche. The Mayhem Tigers had an excellent first day with what is mostly a fresh new team brought up from their amature second team, they pulled some impressive maxes to end the first day in 5th position. Shockwave from the UK leading the Ironmen by one point to show the American teams it wasn’t going to be an easy ride to the Finals.
Saturday morning started with the teams re-seeded and a new set of games to play to see who would qualify. There was also an hour's rain and the players braced themselves for the mud of Mayhem. Thankfully the sun broke out and all the rain did was to cool everything in readiness for the days play. As the teams started to realize what they needed to qualify, the play heated up and some very aggressive, fast paintball was played.
Ground Zero started off against the Icemen and in an impressive display of team shooting had their hands on the flag in just over one minute. A leisurely stroll back had the whole game finished in one minute, 45 seconds. The Rushers, an amateur team from the UK, started the day with a draw they really should have won against the Marvin's and looked set to lose against Estrago until Darren Lane pulled off a game saving dead man's walk. He walked through to take the Dorito, eliminating two Estrago as they were bringing the flag back and then after grabbing the Estratego flag, fought out a one on one with the last Estrago player to take a win and great applause from his team and the crowd.
The crowds at Toulouse really got behind the teams and would award good play with great cheers and clapping. Many players stayed to watch the games under the shade of trees next to the bar. It was great to see so many friends and family watching the play and so many teams staying on to enjoy the paintball games and hospitality that was on offer
“The most prestigeous event of the year. It should be the pinnacle of the Millennium Series” Phil Web- Smart Parts Europe
The fields are providing some very exciting watchable play and Laurent Hamet the Organiser told us there was going to be a 9 TV crews at the event to capture the action, and that he was expecting the Event to reach 60-100 thousand people.
Three out of four fields feature a snake set right next to the spectators and are providing great play (although some people did say they missed the old type of large sub bunker). Some people have criticised concept fields for killing the art of crawling and sneaky play but the set-up here has shown how it can be used to it’s full potential. Most noticeably, Lane Wright from Image has been using the snake to great effect; After taking a shower to clean off a few extra shots from the Ducklings game that ended in a messy draw, Lane crawled the snake against the Dragons, eliminating the center players before taking a tight spot behind a lay down cone, all guns turned on Lane who sat tight and allowed the rest of his team to steam down and mop up.
The wind rolled in for the late afternoon session making the target shooting competition to win a Smart Parts Impulse very difficult. It also made play harder but the spectators were grateful for the cooling breeze.
Conspicuous only by its absence were any timing problems The whole event ran fantastically to time, the only complaint being, some of the teams that made it through to the finals found the 3 hour wait between the semi’s and finals whilst the one-on-one was played to be rather long to keep the motivation and adrenaline going… especially after what had been a fantastic players party the night before. Laurent told us the party had cost over $15,000 to stage and I know many players found it hard to drag themselves away. Some stayed all night at the party then just turned up at the field to watch the games on the Sunday morning! With a strict timing regime set up, teams knew exactly when to stage and so were ready waiting for their games.
As the Saturday drew on more and more teams were trying center bunker breaks and pulling off spectacular mugging (bunkering) runs as they become desperate to make the qualifications. With a change to the rules allowing teams to start anywhere along the back tape instead of the center, there’s a new element to the game where stunning breaks can be carried out more easily. The top 8 teams from each Pro, Am and Novice make the cut for the Sunday games.
The semi’s threw up one big upset, as the All Americans failed to make the finals. However, the top four pro’s were American, Avalanche, Ironmen and the two Image teams showing that the European teams still have some way to go before being able to compete at the top level. At the Amature level Rushers who were looking good all weekend were joined by Estratego, Scalps and Consilium Dei. The novices saw Campain Power, Vision, Team terror and Dark Elves make the Cut.
The finals saw some good paintball played in front of the grandstands that were absolutely jammed full of people. Ultimately Avalanche continued on as they had been playing all weekend, taking the first two games as maxes but leaving the push too late against Image1 so the game ended as a draw, people held their breath as the scores were calculated and at first many people thought the Ironmen had won the title, but after doing the math, Steve Rabackoff captain of the Avalanche team knew they had done enough to take a well deserved win. Estratego were playing some great paintball all weekend but certainly didn’t find it easy to come through and take the win in the Amature Division over the Rushers. Team vision took a hard fought first place in the novice division over Team Terror from the US. Although the pro bracket consisted entirely of Americans teams the Amature and Novice brackets had no less than 5 countries represented by the 8 teams, Showing this truly was a World Cup of paintball.
The Tournament was also special for another reason, Laurent Hamet and his team showed us the future of tournament paintball and how it should be done. There were a huge number of people at the Tournament that had never played paintball but were there to find out about what our sport is, and they were shown paintball in one of its finest hours yet. There was a practice field laid on for the public to try out paintball first hand, and from the great numbers of children that took there first shots on that field, I expect the future stars of the Millennium series to grow. The public was made to feel welcome at all points of the Tournament and the media coverage that supported the event should help to see the sport grow to meet its full potential. I hope this event is to be the start of the greatest series ever. My congratulations to Laurent Hamet and the Powergames team for the best tournament I have ever attended, their vision of the future is inspiring and the plans for next year are even bigger.
Simon ‘Manike’ Stevens