The Olympics—a time to showcase our national strength and unite as Americans. One might think this fraught and polarized moment would make the Olympics a perfect opportunity for us to come together, sit back, and enjoy watching Americans whoop some ass.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough winning for Team USA, nor have the games produced enough athletes that inspire national pride. Save for the attitudes and performances from a few athletes, these Olympics may be defined by America-hating competitors and the worst opening day for the United States in nearly 50 years.
First, transgender BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe said in a March 2020 Facebook post, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.” Earlier this month, third place hammer-thrower champ Gwen Berry also made national news when she turned her back to the American flag and scowled during the national anthem.
Our number-one-ranked women’s soccer team got crushed last week by Sweden (ranked fifth), a karmic conclusion to their tired anti-American antics and kneeling. Then this week, our gymnastics team lost to Russia after superstar gymnast Simone Biles unexpectedly stepped down from the team.
For the first time since 1972, the United States failed to win a single medal on the opening day, and as of right now, according to Sporting News, our Olympic gold medal count has us in third behind Japan and China. We’re tied with China for total medals.
Let’s be frank. The Olympics have been an unpatriotic bore this year. But there’s another major sporting event happening right now that’s sure to lift your spirits: The Lumberjack World Championships.
That’s right, the LWC finals are taking place this Saturday in Hayward, Wis., a small town in the north woods that still manages to attract more than 12,000 fans annually and showcases the world’s most elite lumberjack athletes.
With Olympic athletes smearing the country more than winning for her, why should Americans invest time cheering for them? It’s time the fans, camera crews, and sports reporters head to Wisconsin to witness an authentically American sporting event and it’s patriotic competitors.
What Are Lumberjack Sports?
Lumberjack sports are made up of five main events: log rolling, boom running, speed climbing, chopping, sawing, and axe throwing. This is what they look like:
Where Did Lumberjack Sports Come From?
Lumberjack sports were born out of logging camps in the 1800s. In the early days of America, lumber production and forest clearing were what facilitated westward expansion into the frontier. By the mid-1800s, forest clearing became more than just a domestic necessity when companies began exporting timber from North America to Europe.
The lucrative business needed logging camps to feed the demand for timber exportation, westward expansion, and the lumbermen. These hardworking lumbermen became known as lumberjacks.
Log rolling, one of the most famous lumberjack sports, is rooted in logging transportation. In the early times of America, road transportation was primitive and, in most cases, nonexistent. Luckily in Wisconsin, the extensive river system allowed for the loggers to run their lumber downstream into the sawmill towns.
The logs floating downriver created many jams, so lumberjacks were hired to get rid of the jams. The lumberjacks would stand on the logs, prodding them down river. Naturally, when they stood on the logs, the logs would spin and the men would fall into the freezing Wisconsin water.
By balancing on the spinning logs (now known as log rolling), the men prevented themselves from getting soaked. They created a game out of their job by challenging each other to roll and seeing who could stay on the log the longest.
Indeed, lumberjack sports were born out of these men’s daily jobs. Records suggest the earliest known official lumberjack sporting competitions were held at camps in the 1890s, where men competed in not only log rolling, but axe throwing, chopping, and sawing.
When river drives ended at the turn of the century, Lumberjacks kept lumberjack sports alive by passing their skills onto their sons and daughters.
Today, many competitors have the opportunity to practice log rolling year round in local YMCAs, who have opened up their pools across the country to keep alive a sport so richly embedded in our American history.
Major lumberjack competitions take place across the United States, in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but the biggest competition is Hayward’s Lumberjack World Championships.
The Lumberjack World Championships
The first Lumberjack World Championships were held in Hayward in 1960 as part of Historyland, a historical theme park that commemorated the heritage of Northern Wisconsin’s fur trade, Indian culture, and logging industry. Today, Historyland no longer exists, but the annual Lumberjack World Championships continue on.
Every year, the competition is held in late July at Hayward’s historic Lumberjack Bowl, which was once a holding pond for log drives down the Namekagon River.
“The Lumberjack World Championships were inaugurated in 1960 to perpetuate and glorify the working skills of the American Lumberjack,” said Tony Wise, founder of the Lumberjack World Championships. “Hayward, Wis. came into existence because of the lumber industry; therefore, it was fitting that one of the largest logging competitions should be held here also.”
Some might call lumberjack sports quirky, but once you step on a rolling log or look down from a 90 foot climbing pole, you’ll never call them easy. These are grueling and entertaining sports that never fail to keep spectators on the edge of their seats.
So if you need a break from the unpatriotic Olympic mess in Tokyo, click over to ESPN3 for the Lumberjack World Championship finals this Saturday. It’s the perfect way for Americans to embrace a sport that honors America’s pioneer history, and to support the patriotic lumberjill and lumberjack athletes who train all year to keep it alive.