Generational Showdown for #1

Jake Gauthier has been sitting on top of the open division rankings since the 2011 Prague world championships. That position has always been vulnerable because of the other players in the mix and the plethora of points available throughout the year in Europe versus Gauthier’s limited opportunities to replenish his total in the States.

This month, the race for number one got tight. Real tight. The top three players – Jake Gauthier, Marco Prati and Randy Silvey – are within 11 points of each other, a spectacular dead heat given that each player has more than 1400 ranking points. Also significant is the fact that the three players represent three generations of freestyle. Silvey emerged in the late 1980’s, Gauthier started playing in the 1990’s, and Prati began freestyling in the 2000’s.

Even more stunning is the microscopic difference between number one and number two. By winning pairs and taking second in co-op at Paganello, Prati scored nearly 200 points and closed the gap to Gauthier, adding nearly 50 points to his best-8-results total of 1454.13. That would have given him the number one spot had Gauthier not played the Virginia States. By finishing 3rd at Fredericksberg with Arthur Coddington, Gauthier scored enough to up his total a whopping 2 points, from 1452.5 to 1454.5. He retains the number one spot by a little more than 0.3.

What’s next? It’s likely that Prati will take the number one spot with any sort of solid performance at FPAW Riccione. He did not play the 2010 FPAW in Seattle, so he has been challenging for number one without the benefit of the huge points the world championships offer. After Riccione, he will have point totals for two FPAW’s, while Gauthier and Silvey must replace hundreds of points from the 2010 FPAW. In 2010, Gauthier was 2nd in co-op and 3rd in pairs, which contribute more than 400 points toward his ranking. Silvey placed 3rd in co-op and 4th in pairs, contributing more than 300 points toward his ranking.

On the other hand, all three players have huge upside, meaning the value of their worst (8th best) result is low. Prati’s is the strongest at 114 points. Gauthier’s is 89 points. Silvey’s is a mere 24 points. Any result that earns more than that 8th best result increases their ranking points. That puts all the summer tournaments into play, especially for Gauthier and Silvey. A win at any tournament with 20 players or more is worth at least 125 points, so there is a lot of opportunity for any of the three to shore up their totals before Riccione. Gauthier is already entered in June’s Jammers Championships and US Open.

And let’s not forget the other top players. Who would have predicted that Gauthier would jump from #11 to #1 after Prague? Anything can happen. Claudio Cigna is defending 0 points in pairs from the 2010 FPAW, and he won the title in 2011. Four other players have more than 1300 points, and with the absence of number of top American players in Riccione, they will have less of a battle for the top spots (and points). Both Joakim Arveskär and Reto Zimmerman have big upsides (82.5 points and 72 points respectively), so any strong performance in pairs could move them up.

One final note: Judith Haas retook the number one spot on the women’s rankings from Eleonora Imazio. This shuffling has more to do with points falling off the rankings than new points being added, as Haas is taking a break from competition to have a child.

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