Sunday, August 14, 2022

Wood chopping runs in family for champ Kiwi axeman

There are few sounds more satisfying than the smack of axe into timber, and Jack Jordan of Taumarunui has proven he is one of the best at making that sound echo the loudest. The world Timbersports champion spoke to Richard Rennie about his latest win.

Jack Jordan admits it has taken a while to come back down to earth after claiming victory over the world’s best wood cutters in the world trophy event. 

Little more than two weeks after leaving for the Timbersports event in Vienna, Jordan is back at home on the family’s 1600ha sheep and beef unit southwest of Taumarunui, cautiously eyeing the heavy early winter rain now dousing the farm.

Were it not for the covid-19 pandemic, Jordan would have been packing his axes every three to four months to travel the globe competing in wood-chopping events that gain intense spectator and competitor interest, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. 

His latest win in the Timbersports event required him to complete four separate events in as quick a time as possible. 

The event has returned after a two-year hiatus due to covid.

The sixteen competitors faced off with a simple remit. 

That was to slice and chop through their allotted wood blocks in the quickest time possible.

The straight-line race was something Jordan managed to achieve 10 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor in the tiring final fifth round, much to the delight of the vocal, supportive crowd of 3500 in Vienna.

Starting with a chainsaw slice, the event gets significantly more physical from there, including an underhand chop, a cross saw slice and finishing with a standing block chop.

After a minute and five seconds, Jordan was finished.

The 26-year-old had managed to set the fastest time of the whole competition on his way to the final. 

In the arm-aching final round of the night he defeated individual world champion, American Jason Lentz, with Australian Brad De Losa finishing third.

This came after Jordan had also managed to slice down rookie world campion Jack Argent in round 16, with a scorching 58.07 second finish.

On the night of his victory no one seemed more surprised than Jordan, who said he’d never have thought he could win something as big as that event against the best in the world.

After a week’s reflection and a return home he is now eyeing the next run of competitions, often held in the Northern Hemisphere where the champions are regarded as athletic heroes. 

Back home, the sport appears to have faded from New Zealanders’ minds after the glory days in the 1970s and ’80s. 

Back then wood chopping was televised on Sunday afternoons, getting ratings matched by other iconic shows including Country Calendar, It’s in the Bag and A Dog’s Show. 

Champions like Sonny Bolstad became the example for country kids everywhere with access to an axe and a few old fence posts, trying to emulate his powerful, unrelenting slice, often with messy results. 

The sport was the centrepiece event at many A&P show days, themselves increasingly under threat today as attendances dwindle.

“It certainly doesn’t have the younger guys getting into it that there used to be and maybe a few things will have to change to try and get the numbers back up again,” Jordan said. 

His inspiration was his brother Shane, also a competitive woodchopper and world champion in his own right, who stays in tune running his own firewood and saw milling business in Taranaki.

Jordan says the brothers don’t get to train together often, and when they do usually avoid letting it gravitate into all out brotherly competition.

Jack Jordan sawing a log in a competition.

“I tend to be a bit better on the undercut and Shane’s good on the standing block,” he said.

Jordan said one reason fewer younger competitors may be getting into the sport is the cost of both the equipment and the travel to events.

“Just for one axe you can be looking at $800-$900 to have one that’s ready for competition and then a crosscut saw, that will be anywhere from $3000 to $4000. Then you have to be prepared to put in a lot of training in to be competitive. You are really doing it for the love of it,” he said.

Leading up to the latest event, Jordan started visiting the local gym every week to push his aerobic fitness harder. 

But he says the best way to get fit is simply to practice what you are competing in, which he does at least three times a week running through each of the events three times every training session.

As Jordan hunkers down for a King Country winter on the farm, he is also planning his next campaign. 

This is the world team title event held in Gothenburg Sweden in late October. 

More than 100 athletes from 20 nations will compete over two nights, with the world’s 12 best vying for the individual world champion title. 

He said he is confident New Zealand can field a good team this year, welcoming any offer of sponsorship to help them on their way.

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