Who’s Tearing Up The Sand in 2020? – Part 1

The official logo for the 2020 Marble Rally, designed by Pim Leurs.

The Marble Rally embodies the best of classic marble racing. Since the dawn of marble civilization, marbles have enjoyed rolling. Not only have marbles enjoyed rolling—they’ve enjoyed rolling in competition with one another to achieve a specific objective fastest. The earliest known example of classic marble racing occurred in Numerun, where, after constructing an artificial brick-and-sand hill, dozens of residents would race down per day. La Colina Umerun became a symbol of not only the city, but of marble sports in its entirety. The hill was preserved throughout centuries thanks to frequent renovations, inspiring generations upon generations of athletes and sports fans.

Jelle Bakker, founder of sports association Jelle’s Marble Runs, was inspired to organize their own sports leagues following a trip to Numerun when they were just 4 years old. After returning from the trip, where Jelle took an exhilarating ride down La Colina, Jelle received a sand shovel as a birthday present, and the next day, Jelle traveled to Doornse Gat for the very first time. Accompanied by their older sibling, Dion Bakker, Jelle made their very first slope, a straight run lasting just about 5 meters. Thirty years later, Jelle would be creating 100 meter tracks for dozens of professional racers to carefully and quickly navigate to the finish line.

Jelle held the first Sand Marble Rally in 2016 after holding several exhibition races, and received applicants from around the world. Their popularity was amplified by the success of Jelle’s Knikkegen Marble League, which, after going viral a few years earlier due to its superb track design and overall high quality, would be held with 16 teams as the Marble League in August. The 2016 Sand Marble Rally, which debuted on 18 June 2016 at Doornse Gat, featured 32 individual athletes at the start of the tournament, following an unaired qualifiers race featuring the top 100 applicants.

Since then, the tournament has served as an entryway for new sports fans around Marblearth to Jelle’s Marble Runs, with classic sand racing guiding the Marble Rally as its north star. The focus on simplicity with few gimmicks (barring the role of the Ghost marble, race-offs, and chevrons) allows races to remain easy to follow yet feel just as engaging, with chicanes and dual paths accompanying simple straightaways. Several races in this style have gone viral, the most recent of which being the 500 Foot Race from 2016, where Comet beat Tarantula in a close race, and the 2019 Marble Rally Showdown, where 12 marbles that failed to qualify for the 2019 A-League competed in four races. Other races have had hundreds of thousands of views, with more certainly on the way. The tournament has even expanded to include races on different terrains and is now known as the Marble Rally.

So, who’s tearing up the sand in the 2020 Marble Rally? This year, the Sand Marble Rally will extend across 12 races for the first time in 3 years. Unfortunately for some racers, this extended season would also put too much strain on their bodies after years of racing. In the off-season, multiple newcomers and some veterans announced they would not participate this year and move to the lower leagues. The final list of invited racers includes long-time winners, fan favorites and four marbles that showed they can win in the Showdown. Their past experiences will be chronicled in this series of articles, which will roll out in the coming days as we anticipate the start of the season.

Let’s roll!

Black Knight

Hashtag: #BLA

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Onyxburgh (Europe)

A sports legend in their home village of Onyxburgh named for the town’s dark night skies, Black Knight was fortunate to make it through the initial qualifiers in 27th place. Despite a poor finish in the 2016 Sand Marble Rally, Black Knight established themselves as a mainstay when they improved in the 2017 season. Their best finish was 4th in 2018, as one of 4 athletes able to win the tournament by the final race.

            “I am honored to have received an invitation to return this year, despite doing poorly last year,” said Black Knight, acknowledging their 14th place finish in 2019. “I promise that I won’t disappoint my fans this year.”

Blazing Fireball

Hashtag: #BLF

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Checkum (Oceania)

“I was really surprised to receive my invitation…but I’m grateful. This is my chance to redeem myself.”

Blazing Fireball, hailing from the port of Checkum in Oceania, has had a consistently rough history competing in the Marble Rally. Not only was Blazing Fireball eliminated after the sixth race in 2016, they had yet to qualify after 3 failed qualifying attempts, recently appearing in the 2019 Marble Rally Showdown and placing 6th overall. This season will mark Blazing Fireball’s first return to the A-League in 4 years, and who knows? Perhaps it could finally be this ball of flame’s time to shine.

Blizzard Blaster

Hashtag: #BBL

Active Years: 2017-present

Place of Origin: Winterpeg (North America)

A fitting athlete to represent the “city of eternal winter”, Blizzard Blaster entered the Sand Marble Rally in 2017 after failing to make it through the initial qualifying race in 2016. Despite two podium finishes, they finished 13th due to several DNFs and a slew of inconsistent placements.

Blizzard Blaster continued to feel the heat when they failed to qualify in 2018, placing last in their group, but they came back stronger with a respectable 5th place in the Showdown. They are currently coming off of their best season yet, finishing 6th overall in 2019 and winning the first race of their career in Race 3. Is winter coming to the 2020 Marble Rally?

Cobra

Hashtag: #COB

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Chi (Africa)

Taking their name from the cobras indigenous to the forests, Cobra has been an active athlete since the Marble Rally’s debut—although like Blazing Fireball, they haven’t done remarkably well. Cobra’s only points in 2016 came from a silver medal in Race 6, where they were eliminated and finished in 26th overall. Cobra did not return to the Sand Marble Rally until 2019, after failing to qualify in both 2017 and 2018, and began their sophomore season by banking on top of the course. Although Cobra finished in 17th overall, they were able to earn a bronze medal in Race 2.

“I would have been relegated to the Showdown this year. This is a chance for me to, ahem, rattle the competition. Ha. I was never a comedian. That’s why I’m an athlete.”

Comet

Hashtag: #COM

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Startove (Asia)

Comet is the kind of athlete that has improved with experience, improving in final placement year after year since their debut. Comet hails from Startove, a city north of Polaria, and after being inspired by Team Galaxy’s performance in Polaria’s 2014 Stardust Classic, Comet became interested in marble racing. They appeared in and won the 500 Foot Race prior to qualifying for the 2016 Sand Marble Rally, where Comet finished 20th at the end of the season. Apart from the 500 Feet Race going viral earlier this year, Comet’s career highlights include winning Race 5 of the 2018 Sand Marble Rally and earning a silver medal in the final race of the 2019 Marble Rally. They are one of only 5 athletes to participate in every Marble Rally race to date, and they will be able to continue their streak this season.

            “I can’t even describe how much this year has meant to me,” Comet said of their viral moment. “It’s given me validation that all the work I’ve put in over the years will pay off…because then I’ll finally get to feel the way I did at the end of the 500 Foot Race again.”

Cool Moody

Hashtag: #CMO

Active Years: 2019-present

Place of Origin: Los Marbeles (North America)

Known to have one of the brightest personalities in marble sports, Cool Moody was the most recent addition to the Marble Rally in 2019. They did relatively well for their rookie season, placing 8th overall and earning 1 silver medal in Race 5.

The former high school track star and champion of the 2018 Marbelethon had this to say about their short, yet robust career:

            “I take none of it for granted, considering that I almost didn’t even qualify,” said Cool Moody, citing their close finish against Green Turtle. “I’m more than happy just to be here, and I’m looking forward to tearing up the sand this year!”

Crazy Cat's Eye

Hashtag: #CCE

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Felynia (Africa)

Crazy Cat’s Eye, not to be associated or confused with the Marble League team, has competed in the Marble Rally since 2016. They have become a legend in Felynia, training in the “Cat’s Dunes” sand dunes east of the city, but, like the Marble League team, Crazy Cat’s Eye has only done well recently in the rallies. They were eliminated after Race 6 of the 2016 season, finishing in 30th, but came back strongly in 2017, finishing 1st in both their qualifying race and Race 1. Since then, Crazy Cat’s Eye has ironically been considered an underdog in the tournament, able to take advantage of good starts and long straightaways but unable to exercise control. Their most successful season was in 2019, where they finished 4th overall with 2 race victories and 1 bronze medal.

            “The fact that my city has been chosen to host the 2021 Marble League makes me want to win this year even more. My eye is on the prize,” promised Crazy Cat’s Eye.

Dragon's Egg

Hashtag: #DRA

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Longdan (Asia)

The champion of the 2017 Sand Marble Rally, Dragon’s Egg is a historian who found their passion for marble sports competing in and winning the individual division of the Ramen Bowl, held thousands of miles south of their home village of Longdan. Dragon’s Egg’s success carried over to the 2016 Sand Marble Rally, where they finished in 3rd after winning Race 3, earning 1 bronze medal and placing in the top half for most of the other races.

It seemed as if history would repeat itself in the 2017 season when Dragon’s Egg was in 4th after 12 races with a gold and a bronze, but they persisted, earning a silver medal in the final race and winning the tournament over Red Number 3 by just one point. Although Dragon’s Egg’s consistency hasn’t been matched in the past 2 seasons, having placed 7th at the end of 2018 and 9th at the end of 2019, they have still won a race per season.

Do they intend to do so again? “With pride,” replied Dragon’s Egg, without hesitation.

Ducktape

Hashtag: #DUC

Active Years: 2018-present

Place of Origin: Tapai (Asia)

Ducktape was admitted into the 2018 Sand Marble Rally after finishing their qualifying race in 2nd, becoming one of 4 rookie athletes to enter that year. They attracted fans for their reflective uniform, which sparkled like an unraveling roll of glossy duct tape. Unfortunately, Ducktape finished their rookie season in 16th overall, earning only 1 bronze medal and finishing 3 races in a place lower than 14th.

After changing their uniform to purple, a rarity among marble athletes, Ducktape was relegated to the 2019 Marble Rally Showdown after just missing out on qualifying through the Wildcard Race. They pulled through the tournament in 4th overall, placing consistently in the top 5 of the 12 athletes, which would have ensured their return to the A-League regardless of the new invitation system.

El Capitan

Hashtag: #ELC

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Excelona (Europe)

El Capitan hails from Excelona, a coastline city in southwest Europe facing the Mediterranean Sea. They were featured in the news for their intense training routine: racing alongside high-speed rail tracks connecting Excelona to Isble, Accellaise, Vellis, and other nearby cities. El Capitan has placed 5th in every season except 2018, where they did not qualify and appeared in that year’s Showdown. By winning at least 1 race per season, El Capitan has remained a constant contender for the Marble Rally championship, even if they haven’t always gotten there.

            “The Savage Speeders are a tour de force around my region, and I’ve always been inspired by their grit,” noted El Capitan. “Their success is a constant reminder to me to take charge and never let up in pursuit of eternal glory.”

Which Marble Rally athlete will tear up the sand and take home the gold?

A Glimpse at the Gliding Glaciers

The Gliding Glaciers’ brief appearance in the world of marble sports was nothing short of a disaster and the cause of their failure has seldom been explored. That is, until now. Written by LiechtensteinMAN An unofficial logo for

Read More »

Who’s Tearing Up the Sand in 2020? – Part 2

The Marble Rally embodies the best of classic marble racing. Since the dawn of marble civilization, marbles have enjoyed rolling. Not only have marbles enjoyed rolling—they’ve enjoyed rolling in competition with one another to achieve a specific objective fastest. Jelle Bakker, founder of sports association Jelle’s Marble Runs, was inspired to organize their own sports leagues following a trip to Numerun when they were just 4 years old.
Check out the final 10 athlete profiles here!

Read More »

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