The Dodgeball World Cup, a biennial event that first began in 2016, took place this past weekend at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City. The tournament featured the top ten men’s, women’s, and mixed teams from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, and culminated in the crowning of Austria as the men’s world champions, and England as both the women’s and mixed world champions.
The Garden was brimming with loyal dodgeball fans from around the world, and the energy in the building was no less rowdy than any other more well-known sport. The one-time gym class nightmare—dreaded by less-athletically-inclined students everywhere—has become increasingly popular over the years, attempting to disassociate itself from said childhood playground activities and Ben Stiller’s 2004 comedy, which skewered the sport. As anyone who has taken a ball to the face knows, dodgeball requires a lot of strength, agility, and precision, and athletes at the World Cup level commit much time to training and practicing when not at their day jobs. According to Business Insider, the sport is being considered for the 2028 Olympics—a move that would legitimize the sport even more in the athletic community and beyond. The men's championship on Saturday night was broadcast on ESPNU, which received a chorus of praise on Twitter, one viewer describing it as "the greatest thing I've ever watched."
Competitive dodgeball is open to all ages, thus drawing a wide range of participants. Darcy Johnson, a member of Team USA, said the sport is appealing to former athletes in particular, because of the ability to join a competitive league and still enjoy the camaraderie of a team sport. “I enjoy the community," Tasha Mabin, another member of Team USA, told VICE. "It’s a small group, so you become friends with players from all over the world. It’s fun to be able to compete on the court and then hang out with your opponents later.”
“The game is fast and furious,” said Joan Horword, who, along with her husband David, traveled to New York from England to cheer on their daughter. The two described themselves as loyal and longtime fans of the sport. Perhaps, in the future, there will be many more just like them.
Below is a photo gallery from this past weekend.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.