We Are the (Obscure) Champions

Steve Wartenberg
Tori Boggs, 29-time world jump-rope champion

Humans love to compete.

If there’s a way to throw it, race it, lift it or jump over it, there’s bound to be a corresponding sport with a signature event. Think: the Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl, World Series, Tour de France and Wimbledon. But all these big-money showpieces are just the starting point. There are scores of smaller sports out there, each with talented athletes giving it their all on the local, national and international levels. “Sports bring people and families together,” says Robert Lorimer, president of the Arnold Sports Festival.

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Lorimer knows all about bringing people together with sports. The Columbus-based Arnold has grown to 80 sports and introduces new events every year to its 200,000-plus attendees, spawning a thriving subculture around obscure athletics in Central Ohio. “This is a huge platform and a great way [for organizers] to showcase their sports,” Lorimer says. “They want to come here and be part of this.” This past year, the Arnold introduced foosball, futsal and its first full-fledged American Ninja Warrior competition. “The Arnold is such a big thing for us, it really spurred the growth of our sport,” says Tori Boggs, a jump-rope champion.

The goal of the Arnold—and sports, in general—is to get people “up and off the couch and active,” Lorimer says. “Especially kids.” So, get up and get active. Run, jump and lift some stuff. But only after you’ve finished reading about—and get inspired by—four local champions of lesser-known sports.

By the way, Lorimer has a new sport lined up and ready to roll in the 2020 Arnold: medieval fighting. “It’s a Viking-type thing, with full armor, and people carrying and swinging clubs and axes.”

Read the four profiles and watch a video of the athletes in action:

Steve Beine: Foosball Hall of Famer

Tori Boggs: Jump-Roper Extraordinaire

Audrey Gibson-Zweifel: Futsal Prodigy

Matt Male: Mini Golf Champion

Video: Obscure Sports Champions


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