From rookie to pro

Dennis Schmitz on the way to the Stihl TIMBERSPORTS® Professionals Cup

Competitive, ambitious and enthusiastic. At the end of our last interview, the parting shot from Dennis Schmitz, the 2018 German Rookie Champion, was, "Plans for 2019? Yes, I could have." And indeed - the TIMBERSPORTS® competitor is just preparing for the TIMBERSPORTS® Professionals Cup. But first he has to pass another test: qualification in the disciplines Stock Saw, Single Buck, Hot Saw and Springboard. OCHSENKOPF has been supporting Dennis during the preparations.

So far, his path has been, and remains, both challenging and all about training: several times a week, Dennis - from Frechen near Cologne - practises his Standing Block Chop, Underhand Chop, Single Buck and Stock Saw. Then there are the sessions in the gym and mental training. This kind of passion and discipline is essential if, like Dennis, you have ambitions in this sport. The six competitive disciplines require tremendous levels of fitness, strength, precision and mental energy. So what counts just as much as talent is the motto, " Practice makes perfect".

Which is why Stihl supports the athletes intensively from the beginning. Test training marks the entrance into the world of TIMBERSPORTS®. Once a candidate has successfully completed this, Stihl invites him to participate in further training sessions. Qualified trainers introduce the Rookies to the six TIMBERSPORTS® disciplines, build up their strength, and guide them, step by step, towards the classifications. Which is not to say that anyone who can more or less split a block of wood with an axe can automatically start thinking about cups and competitions. As well as the times stipulated in the rulebook, working cleanly, technique and safety are key criteria that an athlete must prove himself in.

The first station for a new athlete after the training sessions is entering for the Rookie Cup. If a newcomer meets the requirements and successfully completes the competition, he starts preparing for the professional class and qualification for the professional competitions.

Rookie classification: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs – or chop wood without making splinters

To qualify for the Rookie Cup, the up-and-comers are tested in the disciplines Underhand Chop and Standing Block Chop. These "chopping" competitions have a time limit of two minutes, during which the rookie has to split a trunk using the required technique. The tester keeps a close watch to make sure that this is done. The Standing Block Chop simulates the felling of a tree. 30 cm of timber have to be chopped through on one side within the prescribed time limit. The level of difficulty increases for the Underhand Chop. While standing on a horizontally anchored block, the TIMBERSPORT®sman has to split through the trunk on two sides using targeted axe blows. Strength, endurance and technique need to be applied with absolute precision in order for a competitor to achieve Rookie classification. And the rulebook has to be followed to the letter for the Rookie Cup. If, for instance, a competitor is standing on the ground for the final, separating blow of the Underhand Chop, he is disqualified.

 

Dennis Schmitz has already proven his class. Even though the tension was almost palpable before the first qualifications – after all, all the camp participants were watching. A tip from the incumbent Rookie Champion: "You can switch off the tension by remembering why you're doing it. At some point, getting up on that stage and showing everyone what you can do. When far more people will be watching you than the 20 others on the training camp. Above all, you must remain relaxed and calm while striking the axe, and not get stressed – even if the clock is ticking." In the end, he was up on the winners' podium at the Rookie Cup 2018. Which isn't to say he's shifted down a gear since then – far from it, in fact: immediately afterwards, he started training for professional classification.

 

Professional classification: Stock Saw, Single Buck, Hot Saw and Springboard

Every free minute is spent training with axe and chainsaw. In June, Dennis wants to qualify for the last four TIMBERSPORTS® disciplines that he needs before he can take part in the professional competitions. At which time, his technique and execution of Stock Saw, Single Buck, Hot Saw and Springboard have to be absolutely spot-on. The premier league of the Stihl TIMBERSPORTS® disciplines is also Dennis's biggest challenge: contestants climb to a height of two metres and chop through a log mounted on the top of a tree trunk. The discipline owes its name to the wooden board – the springboard – that the athletes have to anchor in the trunk in order to reach the required height. The fact that the time limit has recently been reduced from 3:00 to 2:30 minutes is even more of a spur for Dennis. "There's the competitiveness. Keeping to the ambitious time limit despite my high standards for a 100% clean performance is the challenge," Dennis has a realistic attitude towards his own abilities.

 

This is where the Stihl training camps come in, where the athletes are able to optimise their techniques under professional guidance, to exchange experiences with each other and to support each other.

In some cases, some are even fortunate enough to meet the incumbent German Stihl TIMBERSPORTS® champion on-site: Dennis was able to acquire a final few tips for the technical finishing touches to his Springboard from Robert Ebner himself. Thus prepared, there's unlikely to be anything in the way of achieving professional classification this year.

OCHSENKOPF will continue to support Dennis Schmitz over the coming months, and is looking forward to meeting up with him again – no later than at the professional competitions in the summer.

 

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