Peculiar Passions

Ryan Yoch, Sports Reporter

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What do handball, horses, paintball and Scandinavia all have in common? I know, it sounds like the beginning of a joke. However, to some Mounds View students, the punch line couldn’t be more serious.

Some of the best athletes at Mounds View don’t compete in sports like soccer or volleyball. They use their talents in unusual sports, ranging from bowling to horseback gymnastics. Yes, horseback gymnastics.

Officially known as equestrian vaulting, horseback gymnasts execute routines on horseback while the horse is cantering, between a trot and a gallop. Routines include handstands, jumps, leaps, and tumbling skills.

Sarah Whillock, 12, is a master of this sport. Last year, Whillock took second in the national equestrian vaulting competition. She is training hard to take first this year.

“It’s very physical. You have to be very strong and just as flexible. It takes a lot of working out,” said Whillock. Despite the tough training, Sarah says she really enjoys the creativity.

Whillock is used to explaining her sport. When others discover she is a horseback gymnast, “they ask if the horse is moving, then they say it sounds dangerous,” said Whillock.

However, horseback gymnastics is one of the safest horse-related sports. In the past five years, only two head injuries have been recorded by the American Vaulting Association.

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Ever tried playing soccer on ice? Then you’ve never played bandy. Bandy, a Scandinavian sport, is a combination of hockey and soccer. Like hockey, bandy is played with skates and sticks on ice. However, the field is rectangular and players try to score using a ball instead of a puck.

Ben Bodine, 9, has played bandy for eight years. He started at the Roseville Oval.

“In Roseville you can play it as a rec sport. One year I thought it sounded cool, so I gave it a try,” said Bodine. After eight years, Bodine says, “Bandy’s pretty interesting. I wouldn’t ever give it up to play a big, high school sport.”

French foreign exchange student Antoine Vaxelaire, 12, watched proudly as France’s handball team won gold in the 2008 Olympics. After some consideration, he decided to try playing and found it was a match made in handball heaven.

“I played it for pleasure at first, then I played in a competition, and I thought it was really cool,” said Vaxelaire.

Handball is a team sport that pits two teams of seven (six players and one goalie) against each other. The game is fast-paced and includes body contact as defenders try to prevent the other team from approaching their goal. A match consists of two 30 minute periods.

Handball is a high scoring game. A typical match may consist of 20 goals for each team. The sport is generally popular in European and some South American countries.

Any Call of Duty fanatic would consider senior Yevgeniy Pozdeyev’s sport a dream. “My best friend’s dad has a paintball club and we played there a lot. One time we entered into a contest to see how we’d do and we got second,” said Pozdeyev.

In paintball, individuals or teams compete to eliminate opponents by tagging them with a washable dye contained within a gelatin shell. A paintball gun propels the paintballs by using compressed gas.

Even though Pozdeyev gets a lot of bruises from paintball, he said “the feeling you get when you are in the middle of a round” makes it all worth it.

The exhilarating, adrenaline pumping sport draws thrill seekers of all ages and nationalities.

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