2019 IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships: Arneson Toughs It Out for the Win

Facing a tough field, Skylar Arneson (USA) held on for the victory at the 2019 IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships in Bressuire, France. IronMind® | Photo courtesy of Henrietta Borbely Facing a tough field, Skylar Arneson (USA) held on for the victory at the 2019 IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships in Bressuire, France. IronMind® | Photo courtesy of Henrietta Borbely

With 13,000 spectators cheering them on at picturesque Château de Bressuire (France), an international field of heavy events athletes competed in the prestigious IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships and when the dust had settled, Skylar Arneson (USA) claimed the title.

2019 IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships: Arneson Toughs It Out for the Win

by Francis Brebner
International Highland Games Federation (IHGF)
In one of the premier locations for a Highland Games, the Bressuire Games are held on the grounds of a thousand-year-old walled castle surrounded by a moat, that transports you back in time, stepping into an atmosphere you could only imagine and reliving a captivating folk story.
Within the last few decades, a small Highland Games exhibition of the traditional heavy events before a crowd of two thousand spectators has led to a full-blown two-day Highland Games, starting in 2003 with the IHGF Pro European Championships, which was a smash hit. Under the leadership of Jean-Louis Coppet, these games have grown from year to year and now attract over 13,000 spectators, a record number at this year’s IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships. With help of over 240 devoted and enthusiastic volunteers and a well-organized and professional Highland Games committee, the Bressuire Highland Games, in my opinion, have now become the number one games on the international circuit and one that every athlete and Highland Games enthusiast should experience at least once in their lifetime.
With no detail overlooked, athletes, pipe bands and dancers received first-class treatment from the moment they arrived until they departed. A total of 10 pipe bands from as far as Scotland competed in the very first French pipe band championships. Highland and Irish dancers also preformed, creating that very special and authentic atmosphere.    
This year’s IHGF World Amateur Highland Games Championships were held in Bressuire, and it was also the first leg of the IHGF Amateur World Highland Games series, the first ever amateur world series to be staged and which includes other countries, such as Switzerland and Norway. The line-up of 12 athletes consisted of Johan Longhurst (Netherlands), Glenn Nys (Belgium), Jamie Gunn and Murdo Masterson (both Scotland), Stefan Kolitsch (Germany), Maxime Billeaud and Fabian Patheney (both France), Yrjo Hamalainen (Finland), Svavar Sigursteinsson (Iceland), Tibor Kiss (Hungary), Skylar Arneson (USA), and Joe Pocock (Canada). The games were officially opened by the chieftain of the games, Jerome Pitorin, the French presenter of the travel program La Quotidienne on nationwide TV in France, and after official speeches and a spectacular display with the mass pipe bands, the competition got underway.
Athletes looked eager to get into the thick of the action with the 22-lb. Braemar stone. Arneson, renowned for his stone putting, had to work for the win, with Gunn pushing him all the way. Taking every round, Arneson ended with 40’ 1-1/4”, which set a new ground record, overtaking 39’ 5” set by Jimmy Van de Walle (Belgium) in 2013. Second-place Gunn did 38’ 5-1/2”, with third-place Hamalainen close behind at 37’ 8-1/2”.
In the 28-lb. weight for distance, Nys and Arneson contested vigorously, with Nys taking the victory with 75’ 11-1/4”, setting a new ground record over that of Pieter Karst Bouma (Holland) at 75’ 10-1/2”. Two inches behind was Arneson at 75’ 9-1/4”, with Masterson third at 71’ 5-1/2”.
Arneson, the current world record holder in the 16-lb. hammer, was on form, but with stiff competition, the lead changed hands several times with the win finally going to Nys with a throw of 124’ 11”. Arneson was a close second place at 123’ 10”, with Masterson third at 119’ 7”, pulling ahead of Gunn at 117’ 8”.
The 18’ 4” and 121-lb. caber, which allowed several athletes to showcase good technique, timing and extreme power, was slammed by Kolitsch at 12:03 for the win. Longhurst managed 11:56 and Pocock did 11:52.
Spectators cheered lustily for the athletes in the magnificent 18-lb. open stone. Arneson, in the lead from the first round, was followed closely Gunn, who was then overtaken by Masterson in the last round. Final scores were Arneson at 47’ 5-1/2” for a new ground record, overtaking that set by Janne Hartikainen (Finland) in 2012 at 43’ 5”; Masterson at 46’ 11”; and Gunn at 45’ 1’.
Nys put up a stellar performance in the 56-lb. weight for distance, the only athlete over 40’ with a winning distance of 41’ 9” and a new ground record, besting the 37’ 11” set by Bouma in 2013. Second place was a tussle between Arneson, who prevailed at 36’ 11”, and Gunn, who settled for third at 36’ 3”.
The 22-lb. hammer was riveting, with Masterson pulling ahead of Nys on his second attempt, but on his third attempt he twisted his knee and unfortunately had to withdraw from the final event—but he nonetheless sealed the victory in the hammer with a distance of 104’ 2”, also a new ground record over Bouma’s 98’ 8”. Nys did 103’ and Arneson 101’ 4”.
The final scoring event, the 56-lb. weight over the bar, was also for the title of the IHGF Amateur World 56-lb. Weight Over Bar Championships, and it started at 12’. At 14’ 6”, seven athletes remained and cleared 15’ 6”, but at 15’ 9”, only Arneson, Nys, and Longhurst were in. Longhurst and Nys cleared 16’ 4”, ending in a tie, with the win going to Nys on countback.

The challenge caber was 18’ and 131 lb. and was tossed for the title of IHGF Amateur Caber Tossing World Championships. Longhurst, a three-time winner and the defending champion, was pushed by Kolitsch, who took the early lead with a toss of 12:05. He was bested by Longhurst’s 11:56, who then did 11:58 on his final attempt in a climax finish. But it was not over yet as Kolitsch on his final attempt said, “I will do it—now I bring a 12 o’clock toss,” and that he did to win the IHGF Amateur World Amateur Caber Tossing Championships.
Overall places
1. Skylar Arneson (USA) 21
2. Glenn Nys (Belgium) 23
3. Jamie Gunn (Scotland) 29.5
4. Murdo Masterson (Scotland ) 35
5. Johan Longhurst (Holland) 35
6. Joe Pocock (Canada) 52.5
7. Svavar Sigursteinsson (Iceland) 54
8. Stefan Kolitsch (Germany) 65.5
9. Fabien Patheney (France) 75.5
10. Yrjo Hamalainen (Finland) 79
11. Maxime Billeaud (France) 79.5
12. Tibor Kiss (Hungary) 83.5
In all, this IHGF Amateur World Championships was one of the best to date, the crowds were wonderful, a total of 5 ground records were established. For Arneson it was a hard-fought battle with Nys, with Arneson crowned the new IHGF Amateur Highland Games world champion. Look out for up-and-coming Masterson, who at 20 years old, has so much potential and will make a huge impact in the games, I predict.
The IHGF would like to thank co-chairmen Alain Rousselot and Jean-Claude Bordonnat, secretary Gisele Bordonnat, treasurer Pierre Giret, and Jean-Louis Coppet, member of the Executive Committee of l’AJEF (Association des Jeux Ecossais en France) and all the volunteers for their hard work in putting on these fantastic games. We look forward to the next Bressuire Highland Games in 2021


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