When I compile the rankings each month, I see a lot of slow movement. Players drifting up and down in little waves, with a few big splashes of rising or retiring players making sudden moves. It’s generally very calm and orderly.
For this year’s 2004 rankings list, I decided to add information about each player’s rank on the 2003 year-end list. Taking a step back from the month-to-month rankings revealed just how much of a revolution our sport is experiencing. Dozens of new players entering the list. Some outrageous upward movement by emerging stars. Looked at year-by-year, the rankings is no calm pond. It’s a roiling, raging rapids.
There were 163 new entries on the year-end rankings. 163! That’s nearly half the rankings list. A few of those players are veterans who took some time away from competitions, but the vast majority are new freestylers. Wow! And it’s no surprise that this rankings invasion is led by the Italians.
The top new entry is a reminder of just how fast this new player has established himself at the top. One year ago, Fabio Sanna had never competed. One year ago, he was unranked. Today, he stands at 16 in the world. Sanna worlds teammate Stefano Mestroni did not compete nearly as often, but still managed to debut at #35 for the year.
Austria’s Thomas Gereben re-emerged from his knee injury this summer at the Worlds. He ends the year at the 33rd ranked player in the world.
And what about Andrea Meola and Piccio Cusma? Familiar names for sure in this year’s rankings summaries, but now we see just what they accomplished this season. Meola started the year in a tie for 258th place; now he is #19. Cusma was the #151 player on the list last January. Where is he today? #22.
Other notable upward movers include Eduardo Favorini, who made enormous improvements between FPAW2003 and FPAW2004. He rises from #74 to #23. Matteo Gaddoni built off his strong debut in 2003 and moved from #88 to #29. Favorini’s teammate Alessandro Damiano moved from #51 to #32. Last January, Paolo Mirabelli had drifted out of the top 100; now he’s in the top 40 at #38.
Italy was not the only powerhouse to emerge this year. The training programs established in Israel by Dori Yaniv are bearing fruit. Yaniv himself ended the year at #42. He is joined by four countrymen in the Top 100: Ayal Benin at #74, Dan Lustiger at #81, Oriel Heled at #85 and Yinon Werner at #88. Last year, none of the four was ranked.
Gregory Lo-a-sjoe represented the Netherlands by moving from a tie for #205 all the way up to #58, as did Iwan de Moor at finished at #72, up from a tie for #184. Denmark’s Jan Soerensen moved from #192 to #61.
That’s got to be it, right? Not even close. Japan held its national championships this year, flooding the rankings with players like Akihito Gotoh, Yutaka Harashina, Tomokazu Yamamoto (tied at #90) that we are looking forward to meeting. Germany laid the groundwork for a big 2005 with almost two dozen new players.
Meanwhile, things at the top of the year-end list feature a lot of familiar names. Dave Lewis recaptures the year-end #1 spot from Arthur Coddington. It is the fourth year Lewis has won the #1 spot, more than any other player since the introduction of the rankings in 1993.
New European Tommy Leitner solidified his ranking from last year by moving from #5 to #3 and drawing less than 6 points from #2. Clay Collera now has two seasons of results counting on the rankings, and he moved from last year’s #12 to this year’s #6. Toddy Brodeur picked up his first FPA title and a year-end top 10 position at #8. Pat Marron picked up two runner-up finishes at FPAW2004 and moved up to #7 for the year.
Stefan Karlsson, like Collera, accumulated more results, lifting him from a tie for #29 last year to #11 in 2004. Reto Zimmerman has been in the top 20 before. Last year’s #40 finish was sub-par for him; now he’s back to familiar territory at #15. Do not ignore #21. Dave Schiller may not have played a Worlds in a few seasons, but it seems like a comeback is imminent. Watch out. Keep the video cameras ready.