The Czech Republic is the site of the 24th World Footbag Championships, where Steamboat Springs resident Peter Shunny and his partner, Chris Siebert of Virginia, will attempt to repeat as men's doubles net champions.
Fellow Steamboat resident Bruce Guettich will make a run at another world championship as well, after winning two freestyle titles earlier in his career. Guettich's longtime partner is Jimmy Veney of California.
Shunny and Guettich will also compete in individual net.
The sport of footbag has evolved to the point where Shunny and Guettich can no longer compete in freestyle because younger men and women have developed tricks and moves that require so much speed and agility that it makes veterans of the sport shake their heads.
"I believe age has more of an affect in freestyle than in net," Guettich said.
Footbag net is a combination of volleyball and tennis requiring the use of the feet as opposed to the hands and arms. If the footbag strikes a player above the knees it is a penalty and results in a point or a side out, depending on who has the serve.
But just because the feet are used doesn't mean the game isn't played above the net.
The World Footbag Championships begin in Prague on Monday and run through Aug. 3. This will be Guettich's 23rd year participating in the world championships. It will be Shunny's 19th.
While freestyle footbag may have passed the Steamboat pair by, net certainly hasn't. Both are still in excellent shape and continue to possess the flexibility necessary to strike balls above the net or to lunge out and dig a spike.
In the weeks leading up to their departure to Prague, the pair -- though competitors in the world championships -- got together to fine-tune their game. They will meet with their partners overseas.
Rarely seeing his partner makes it more difficult to play together, Shunny said, but Shunny and Siebert did compete in a recent net competition in Montreal and took third, giving them a shot to do very well in Prague.
Montreal boasts some of the world's best players, Shunny said.
It is easier for net players to come together and perform well, despite living on opposite coasts, Guettich said. The same isn't true of freestyle teams, where synchronization, practice and precision are essential for the routine.
"As long as we stay physically in good shape and hone our skills, we can stay pretty conditioned," Guettich said. "Before World's, we'll compete two or three times a week. In addition, we'll freshen up on competitive skills a month or two out."
As operators of the World Footbag Association, Shunny and Guettich travel the country putting on shows for a variety of organizations, groups or schools that teach children and adults life lessons while learning more about footbag.
Before the world championships, however, Shunny and Guettich have to limit their show commitments to train.
The World Footbag Championships will be held at the Slavia Sports Complex in Prague with the finals scheduled to start on Aug. 1.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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