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

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.

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.

With 10 athletes left to be revealed, who’s tearing up the sand in the 2020 Marble Rally? This year, the 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.

Let’s roll!

Ghost Plasma

Hashtag: #GHO

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Fantum (Asia)

Ghost Plasma, the inaugural champion of the Marble Rally, has seen both the best and worst of outcomes. Their 2016 championship was secured by winning Race 4 and finishing as the runner-up in three other races; Ghost Plasma was 21 points clear of Big Pearl in the final overall standings. Despite winning the championship, they had to qualify in 2017, and after qualifying, experienced one of the worst seasons in history for a marble athlete with 4 consecutive DNFs and 3 more scoreless races. Ghost Plasma finished in last, earning just 1 bronze medal. They were able to maintain their perfect attendance record in 2018 by qualifying against the odds, but experienced a similarly devastating season by finishing penultimately.

The Plasma franchise, crippled by an array of subpar performances, was in a dire position entering 2019. Team Plasma, facing difficulties in training and having little morale, retired from the Marble League and completely disbanded as a team, less than a month before Qualifiers. Although this seemed like the end for Ghost Plasma as an athlete, they in fact benefited by having more training resources and funding allocated for them. The 2019 Marble Rally revitalized Ghost Plasma’s career, with the former champion finishing in 2nd overall with a bronze medal in Race 6 and several other top 5 performances.

            “I guess my job this season is to prove that I’m not a ghost of my former self,” jested Ghost Plasma, chuckling at their own joke. “I’ll do my best.”

Lollipop

Hashtag: #LOP

Active Years: 2017-present

Place of Origin: Bewaring (Africa)

Bewaring, the “candy capital” of the world, is lucky to have an athlete as faithful as Lollipop to represent them in the Marble Rally. Lollipop debuted in the 2017 Sand Marble Rally strongly, earning a silver medal in Race 2 and taking the lead in the overall standings. Unfortunately, they were unable to sustain this momentum throughout the season, and finished in 10th overall with 3 scoreless races and no more medals. Lollipop returned in 2018 but earned no medals, finishing in 13th. After being relegated to the Showdown last year, Lollipop almost felt like giving up, but knew they had to keep training. They finished in 3rd, earning two silver medals.

            “Competing isn’t always as sweet as it looks, but I can only imagine how nice it is to win a race. It makes me want to try even harder.”

Marbly McMarbleface

Hashtag: #MMM

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Marblopolis (North America)

Try saying their name 5 times fast. By the time you finish repeating “Marbly McMarbleface”, they’ll likely be halfway down the course already! With four career medals, Marbly hasn’t been very successful since their rookie season, where they won Race 5 and finished in sixth overall—but they have had the perseverance to remain in the competition. Marbly demonstrated this best when they qualified for the 2018 Sand Marble Rally after missing out on the 2017 season, and although they finished in 12th with many inconsistent finishes, they were able to win Race 3 and restore some much-needed confidence in the fanbase.

Marbly McMarbleface is the current mascot of the Marblopolis Amusement Park, which opened to visitors in 2019. Although Marbly would have been relegated to the Showdown following their 17th place finish in the 2019 Marble Rally, they remain optimistic that they will be able to prove their spot in this year’s tournament.

Nemo

Hashtag: #NEM

Active Years: 2017-present

Place of Origin: Aslipi (Oceania)

A celebrity who once worked with the Non-Descript Entertainment Company on a crime documentary, Nemo became interested in racing after seeing the viral featurette about Jelle’s Marble Runs in 2014. They began training during the 2016 season, appearing in the 750 Foot Race, and applied in 2017, earning a spot in Qualifiers. After finishing 3rd in their group, they entered the 2017 Sand Marble Rally and made waves with a DNF in their first race. Nemo did record a few finishes in the top half, nearly winning Race 5—but several more DNFs caused them to finish the season in a disappointing 14th place overall. Since then, Nemo has continued to perform in the lower middle of the pack, placing 15th in 2018 and 8th in the 2019 Showdown.

            “I tend to look at my record as a glass that’s half-full,” Nemo reflected. “I’ll get there…I’ll just keep rolling until I’m at the front of the pack.”

Pollo Loco

Hashtag: #POL

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Pollota (South America)

The first victor of a Marble Rally main tournament race, Pollo Loco is one of the most popular athletes in the roster, even if they aren’t the most consistent. Pollo Loco finished 8th in 2016, placing on the podium several times but recording several DNFs and other bottom-half finishes. This pattern carried over to 2017, where they finished in 11th despite winning Race 6 and podiuming in Race 7. Fans were incredibly disappointed to see Pollo Loco relegated to the Showdown in 2018, but pleased to see Pollo Loco bounce back, qualifying for 2019’s main tournament after finishing in 2nd. The 2019 Marble Rally was Pollo Loco’s most consistent season yet with a finish in 7th overall, which they attributed to a new diet:

            “I realized after I failed to qualify in 2018 that I needed to make some changes in my life, and I decided to go vegan,” explained Pollo Loco. “While I miss eating chicken, I feel more confident about my nutrition and more appreciative of the world we live in. It’s also allowed me to slim down and become more nimble while racing, which helped me in Race 6 last year.”

Quicksilver

Hashtag: #QUI

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Quixote (South America)

A known opponent to Red Number 3, Quicksilver debuted in the 2016 Sand Marble Rally terribly, notching no top-half finishes and getting eliminated with a DNF after Race 6. Perhaps Quicksilver felt more confident competing as a part of a budding rivalry, as they and Red podiumed together several times during 2017. In fact, Quicksilver was on the cusp of winning the entire season with 2 golds, 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes—and choked it all away in the final race, getting marooned early in the course and being denied the chance of earning double points. They finished their most successful season yet in 4th overall, not even making the podium.

Quicksilver has continued to prequalify for the past three seasons (including their invitation this year) but has been unable to match their 2017 success—even after letting go of the Quicksilvers, their Marble League team that placed dead last in 2017. The Marble Rally athlete has only managed to earn one medal in each season since, earning a silver in Race 2 of 2018, where they finished 6th,  and a bronze in Race 1 of 2019, where they finished 11th. Red Number 3 won both seasons with several medals to their name, becoming one of the most popular athletes in all of marble sports.

            “It’s frustrating that I can never seem to be that good, but I don’t hold any of it against Red. We’ve trained together for this season, and there’s really no bad blood between us,” Quicksilver admitted. “The ‘not a marble’ controversy was really unfair, and I worry that the surgery was not only unnecessary, but could hinder Red’s amazing potential.”

Red Number 3

Hashtag: #RN3

Active Years: 2017-present

Place of Origin: Bifornya (North America)

The most celebrated athlete in Sand Marble Rally history, Red Number 3 won back-to-back championships in 2018 and 2019 after finishing as the runner-up in the 2017 Sand Marble Rally. Red made their debut in the first exhibition race in 2015, winning in a comeback against future athletes such as Blazing Fireball, Black Knight, Slimer, Phoenix, Cobra, Nemo, and past athletes like White that have yet to return to the tournament. Red did not apply for the 2016 Sand Marble Rally Qualifiers, choosing instead to support the Rojo Rollers in the 2016 Marble League. After they finished 6th, Red entered into an official partnership with the team, and they started training shortly afterwards for the 2017 season. Red Number 3 qualified for the 2017 Sand Marble Rally on 25 March 2017, narrowly beating Quicksilver to win their race and set the fastest time of all competitors.

Red Number 3 has podiumed 11 times, winning 5 races and finishing each season either in the top 2 or winning it all. To say that their record is great is an understatement: it has been astounding…but not without controversy. The “not a marble” allegations rose after Red’s 2018 championship and revealed a hole on the bottom of the athlete, which fans questioned might help Red navigate the sand easier. Jelle’s response, which confirmed that Red Number 3 had a hole, drew a mixed reaction from fans. As fans questioned the physical advantages of the hole, they either stuck by Red or left them behind. The Rojo Rollers chose the latter option, cutting their partnership with the Marble Rally athlete prior to the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers.

“I understand why [the Rojo Rollers] did what they did. I understand why my fans were so upset,” Red Number 3 sighed. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, and I feel the most disappointed in myself. I’m happy that I’m still being allowed to compete in this next season. I only hope the Rollers will forgive me for the way I acted.”

Despite winning the 2019 season, Red Number 3 continued to feel guilty, as if they had let down their fans. After helping the Rojo Rollers get through the 2020 Marble League Showdown (albeit not under a partnership), Red received surgery, removing their hole. It remains to be seen how this surgery will affect their performance, but one thing is for sure—Red Number 3 is a competitor to look out for this season.

Slimer

Hashtag: #SLI

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Lemono (Europe)

Slimer may seem like a lowkey competitor these days, but back in the first 2 years of the Marble Rally, they were a true force to be reckoned with. Although they weren’t able to compare against Red Number 3’s stellar performance in the 750 Foot Race, Slimer earned a bronze medal in Race 6 and excelled in the second half of the 2016 Sand Marble Rally, winning 2 races. They finished their rookie season in 4th place, well behind Ghost Plasma in the lead but safely above other athletes. Slimer similarly struggled during the first half of the 2017 Sand Marble Rally, recording two DNFs early on…but performing like an entirely different athlete in the final 5 races. Their bronze finish in the pivotal final race counted for double points, and this, combined with 2 race wins and a silver medal, allowed Slimer to finish the season on the podium, 5 points below the championship in 3rd overall.

            “The past two seasons haven’t gone as well for me,” Slimer conceded, “but I wouldn’t still be in this competition if I didn’t believe in my ability to compete. I’m going to do everything I can to keep pushing.”

As one of the 5 Marble Rally athletes to hold a “perfect attendance” record, Slimer also serves on the advisory board of the Syndesmarble, an annual competition held in Sotsevsa.

Summer Sky

Hashtag: #SUM

Active Years: 2016-present

Place of Origin: Skaigan (Asia)

The last of the 5 “perfect attendance” athletes, Summer Sky has had a mixed record throughout their Marble Rally career. They have podiumed at least once per season, winning 2 races in 2016, earning a bronze in 2017, winning Race 1 and earning a bronze in Race 8 of 2018, and winning Race 8 in 2019. Their most successful season was the 2018 Sand Marble Rally, where Summer Sky placed 5th overall, and their other final placements rank in the lower middle of the overall standings.

            “It is an honor to have competed here for so long,” Summer Sky said, looking out into an overcast horizon. “I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to the podium, but as long as I’m here and I love what I do, that’s what matters.”

Superball

Hashtag: #SUP

Active Years: 2018-present

Place of Origin: Supozi (Africa)

Superball’s reputation may be one of the strongest in the league. Although they have only podiumed 3 times in the past two years (and only won Race 4 in the 2018 Sand Marble Rally), Superball’s consistency has led them to finish in the top half of all but 3 races. They finished 3rd overall in both their rookie season and the 2019 Marble Rally, unable to surpass Red Number 3 both times but successful in beating more established veterans to the final podium.

Their legacy elevated the status of Supozi, a city towards the tip of the south African coast, to become one of the most “active” cities in the world. Superball used the proceeds from their Marble Rally success to begin hosting weekly marathons around the perimeter of the city, which continue independently to this day. Superball’s international reputation is also robust, and the athlete recently worked with the Limers as they trained for the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

            “Sports are really fun, but they’re also really important—exercise is the key to a long and healthy life. I’m lucky that I can make a career out of what I do and encourage others to find their passion in it…which will help them find their passion in anything they do.”

20 competitors. 12 races. One championship. Which Marble Rally athlete will tear up the sand and take home the gold?

A graphic depicting 7 of this year's Marble Rally competitors, designed by Betawolfs!

Find out on Tuesday, 15 September at 19:00 UTC, only on YouTube at Jelle’s Marble Runs. Let’s roll.

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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…

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