Footbaggers beat odds

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An Achilles tendon tear often lowers athletic expectations.

This year, Bruce Guettich was hoping for a top-10 finish in the singles net at the World Footbag Championships. He didn't want to put too much pressure on his already sensitive and repaired left Achilles tendon.

He had no reason to worry.

Guettich placed sixth out of 48 in the open division of singles net, and he and fellow Steamboat Springs resident Peter Shunny placed seventh out of 31 teams in doubles net. Shunny also placed 17th in singles net.

"The best news of all is I came back without an injury," Guettich said. "I had my typical pain in there, but it went good. I was seeded fourth, which was very generous considering my injury. I wouldn't have done that."

Guettich advanced to the quarterfinals before losing. Canadian Emanuel Bouchard went on to win the title, as expected. He teamed with countryman Jean-Francois Lemiuex to win the doubles net title, as well.

The 2005 World Footbag Championships were held in Helsinki, Finland.

Because of Guettich's injury, he and Shunny had limited time to practice together before traveling to Finland. The pair, who have been world champions at one point in their 20-plus years of playing footbag, were seeded 11th heading into pool play.

"We managed to outdo our seed," Guettich said. "In initial pool play, we upset the highest seed in our pool. Peter and I gelled nicely after not playing doubles together for an entire year."

Guettich said the level of play at each World Championships continues to increase, largely because of the influx of talented European players. No European won a net title, but a German team was in the finals.

"The level of play out of Europe was everything we thought it would be. It's so much more natural for them with their experiences they've had with soccer growing up."

Shunny and Guettich play a more precise style of footbag, choosing to place shots where the opponent will miss them rather than relying on power spiking. It helped them place higher than expected.

"It's efficient," Guettich said. "The older players play that way, but there's not a lot of older players around anymore. The younger players don't get a look at that style much. ... My style of play baffles people."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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