The eagerly awaited home World Championship finally began on the Wednesday before the event. I met up with Felix and the entire team as scheduled at the Glasgow Emirates Arena. Our preparations had been underway since April of this year when three junior teams from Hessen visited the British cycle-ball team in Bath. This exchange, led by coaches Timo Bartelmei and me, was followed by our participation in the International Indoor Cycling Camp in Frankfurt, just two weeks before the World Championship. These experiences allowed us to fine-tune our skills. Having participated in a World Championship the previous year, we had a good idea of what to expect, which helped to keep nerves in check among both players and staff. We were able to apply the knowledge and routines we had gained from the previous year.
Establishing connections with the hosting association is crucial for such an event. This year, we received support from British Cycling for the first time in the form of jerseys and polo shirts. Additionally, we defined qualification criteria for cycle-ball World Championship participants through phone discussions before the tournament. These criteria were based on performance in the classic cycle-ball circuit, results in a training tournament with German teams in April, and my personal assessment. It was noteworthy that the British association showed genuine interest, and we had conversations with senior staff members.
So, we entered the Emirates Arena for the first time, set up our area with our staff, and booked our first training session. We concluded the first day with a light training session, looking forward to the next day, even though it started very early due to our training schedule. On Thursday, we had two more training sessions to make final adjustments. I primarily played an advisory role during these sessions because Felix Young, the British coach, had planned everything meticulously, and the training times were optimally utilized, which is crucial given the limited training time at a World Championship. My expertise was mainly used for tactical finesse and minor adjustments in the warm-ups.
As the competition was set to begin on Friday, excitement naturally grew. This year’s competition was expected to be tougher with teams like Romania, composed of former 2nd Bundesliga players from Germany, and the absence of nations like Ghana, whom we didn’t struggle against last year. Friday started with the opening match against Japan, who eventually topped the group and moved to Group A. The British team showcased some of their skills, but competing against experienced teams was challenging. Although not everyone realized it, GB had lost to Japan last year with a score of 15-0. This year, they improved slightly but still lost 11-0. Fortunately, the Scottish audience, unfamiliar with the sport, was fair and supportive, viewing the matches and subsequent losses positively. Comparing two teams, especially when one is still at a beginner level, is difficult.
Game 2 against Hungary (10-0) and Game 3 against Malaysia (8-0) were lost, and the team was still waiting for their first tournament goal. This goal came in the game against Romania after successfully converting a 4-meter penalty. In the concluding match of the first day, the previously winless Canadian team awaited. In a fantastic first half that was won 1-0, the Canadians unfortunately managed to score, resulting in a 1-3 loss. Nonetheless, the team got a taste of earning their first point at a World Championship after scoring 2 goals on the first day. They went to bed with some satisfaction, knowing that another game awaited them on Saturday. Similar to the previous year, not much could be done against Hong Kong, but this time the defeat was not in double digits, and a goal from open play was scored by Jenson Harris. The British team was content with their performance after the last successful match.
Throughout the days, we conducted several interviews with local and international media. Felix Young was interviewed by Sir Chris Hoy, among others, and even got to commentate on Eurosport on the final day, Sunday. Following the announcement of the 2024 World Championship in Bremen, we promptly purchased tickets for family members, ensuring that Team GB will once again be represented in cycle-ball in 2024. The players draw great motivation from this home World Championship and will continue to work on identified weaknesses in the coming weeks and months to eliminate them.
Marco Wagner – ICWW Sponsor for Great Britain