By: Ryan Reese
Why do people compete for a world championship? Because it is the one and only title that will give them the honor of representing an elite group of players from their native land. Winning a world cup in any sport is the highest achievement possible. And it is no different when it comes to kendama. Winning the Kendama World Cup instantly puts you right at the top of talented players in the kendama community. And each year the list only gets longer when a new champion is crowned. So before we see who comes home with the KWC 2019 trophy, let's take a look at who has previously taken the win at Hiatsukaichi.
It may not seem surprising that Krom Kendama's Bonz Atron took home the first World Cup but what is really amazing about is that he picked up kendama for the first time in August of 2012, and only two years later, he won the Kendama World Cup in 2014. In an interview with Vice, Bonz stated, "Before I'd even touched it, I knew I would play for the rest of my life."
The next year, in 2015, another American, this time KendamaUSA's Wyatt Bray, brought the World Cup back to the States. He was the first to be commemorated with his own limited edition pro model celebrating his World Cup win. In an interview with the Willamette Week, Wyatt explains how he found kendama saying, "I borrowed my friend's kendama during a free period and landed some random sick trick and got super-stoked," he says. "I was hooked. I just never put it down."
When 2016 came around, the one who made it to the top was yet another American, this time Bryson Lee from Hawaii. With a record-breaking 976 points at the time, Bryson demonstrated he was worthy of a World Cup title. His win was also honored with a special edition kendama from Sweets Kendamas. In an Instagram post, Bryson says, "I feel very confident with the designs I picked out for this kendama, every engraving has a meaning."
In 2017, a new high score was reached in Hiatsukaichi, a staggering 1300, and this time, not by an American. So Kanada, who is apart of the Sweets Japan Team, won the 2017 Kendama World Cup and was also honored with a commemorative kendama to celebrate his excellence. "When designing his Champ Mod, So was inspired by 2 of his favorite kendamas," says the description on Sweets Kendamas website, "The OG Willie P Pro Mod, and the most recent Matt Sweets Pro Mod. Our design team worked with So to create a unique tama that paid homage to those designs, but was uniquely his own."
Perhaps the most skilled kendama competitor to date, Nick Gallagher has risen in the ranks to become a force to be reckoned with by scoring 1,447 points in 2018. He is one of the few kendama players who has won nearly every event he has competitively entered into, and there seems to be no stopping him. But for Nick, KWC 2018 was special: "So happy to have taken 1st place at the Kendama World Cup this year! It’s an insane feeling. I love going to Japan every year but this has got to be the best trip yet," he says in an Instagram post.
The Kendama World Cup defines who has committed the most to make it all the way to Japan and slay their way to glory. It gives kendama a world stage and reminds us that no matter where you are from on this planet, kendama is universal. These guys listed above are only the few handful of players who have won the Kendama World Cup, and with the talent that we are seeing these days, the list is surely just going to grow.
Ryan Reese is a writer and kendama player. See more of his work on Skillderness.org