Competing in Sydney Australia

April,  2002

Sponsored  by  Stihl Chainsaws,  &  Carhartt Clothing

The United States Axemen's Asssociation would like to congratulate the US National Team for their successful trip to Australia where they represented their country in the most prestigous international event in Lumberjack sports worldwide.  For the 3rd time in as many years the US has been able to field a strong team of competitors to face off against the best in the world in the International Relay competition at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, thanks to the sponsorship of Stihl Inc USA.  Thanks Stihl, without your support the incredible improvement our competitors have shown over the past few years would never have been possible!  While the US continues to struggle to beat the incredibly strong New Zealand and Australian teams in the Sydney hard woods, we get closer every year and the overseas competitors that we face are now recognizing Team USA as a real threat to their continued dominance of the sport of wood chopping.

Team USA stands for the playing of our National Anthem.

This year's International Relay was one of the most closely contested in recent years with great teams fielded by host Australia, New Zealand and the United States.  While Canada's axemen were represented at the Royal Easter Show, they were unable to field a team to compete in this event for 2002.  Australia is the defending champion of this event and the partisan crowd was behind them in the packed Olympic Baseball Stadium where the races were held again this year.  Unfortunately for the Aussies, the screams of 50,000 fans were not enough to help them overcome an incredibly powerful New Zealand team which managed narrow wins in all three trials of the 2002 race.

Each of the races in this best of three series started out differently although they did all end up the same with NZ winning, Oz in second and the US a close third.  In the first race the US team jumped out to an

Dave Jewett cutting a Standing Block.
early lead behind the dominating chopping of interim captain Matt Bush of New York.  Matt flew through the first underhand chop of the race, easily ahead of the other teams and Wisconsin resident Brad Turner was able to keep the US team even through the 2nd event, the standing block chop.  Unfortunately for the US team equipment difficulties made it impossible to maintain this pace through the single handed sawing event and we fell behind coming out of the back to back single and double handed sawing events, which were ably performed by Paul Pfenninger, Mike Eash and Mike Slingerland who hail from NY, PA and NC respectively.  Behind in the race and with the hardest wood coming up for the chops of Rob Waibel (OR) and Dave Jewett (NY), all the US team could do was watch as their lead disintegrated and they fell from a stunning first place upset all the way down to third behind both the New Zealand and Australian teams.

In the second race it was Australia that jumped out to the early lead only to have their hopes for a first place showing dashed by the masterful chopping of the New Zealand cutters, led by team captain David Bolstad.  The US Team never led in this race as disaster struck in the very first block, once again cut by Matt Bush.  Bolstered by his incredible performance in the first race Matt gave it everything he had in an attempt to once again give the US team a lead they could build upon.  Unfortunately this time he may have given it a little too much, as his block came apart underneath him.  With slabs and pieces of his block all around, Matt struggled with balancing on the remaining pieces to finish without disqualification as the other teams were able to gain a comfortable lead that the US found impossible to overcome.  NZ came from behind to beat Australia and the US finished respectably close thanks to terrific chops by both Rob Waibel of Oregon and Dave Jewett of New York.

In the third and final race of the International Relay the excitement of

Group photo of Team USA.
a close race was back as all three teams were virtually tied through the first event.  In the second event NZ slowly pulled ahead and in fact seemed to add slightly to their lead with each succeeding event.  In the end, despite some of the best sawing and chopping that the US team had done all week, the final standings remained NZ first, Australia second and the United States in third.

The US team is now looking forward to the return of team captain Mel Lentz and top standing block cutter Arden Cogar Jr for the up coming races against Team Canada in Webster Springs, WV this May.  Due to training injuries to these men as well as to top sawyer Mike Forrester, the US team was without their services in Sydney, but hopes to take advantage of their return in our much anticipated rematch of last year's North American Cup challenge against Canada (which will be filmed for broadcast on OLN this fall).  With the sponsorship of Stihl Inc, the number one outdoor power equipment manufacturer in the world, and Carhartt makers of workwear and rugged outdoor wear, the US expects to once again emerge holding the Cup.

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 Article by Michael Slingerland
 Page Design By StarInfo
 © 2002 USAA
 Access  No.  3216