COLORADO SPRINGS — Many sporting events or competitions have been canceled because of COVID-19, but the 2020 World Axe Throwing League Championship is still on. An athlete from Colorado Springs will be heading to Atlanta, GA next week to compete at the event.
Mike Mariolle, 32, began throwing axes when he got a job at Bad Axe Throwing in Colorado Springs just over two years ago. His passion for axe throwing has grown ever since, and now he's taking his skills to the next level.
"It's awesome. I really do work hard, but people just think that I throw axes all the time, because I work at an axe throwing facility," said Mariolle, who also told News5 it's the best job he's ever had.
At home however, Mariolle practices for several hours every day, throwing axes anywhere from 500 to 1,000 times.
"When COVID hit, we ended up having to shut down (the facility) for a couple months. I ended up building a target in my garage so I can keep throwing," said Mariolle.
For Mariolle, axe throwing initially began when he was younger. He grew up in the mountains and would throw axes from time-to-time. Eventually, it turned into his way to let go of stress, especially during the pandemic.
"Axe throwing has definitely changed things for me. For me, it's just a stress reliever, and it's my escape," said Mariolle. "Honestly, it's the most fun I've ever had. Just coming to get all that stress out, we all need it because of the pandemic."
"It doesn't matter what kind of problems you're going through, when you're sitting here throwing axes after about 30 minutes, you really do feel some of that stress fall off your shoulders," said Mariolle. "Right now most of the people that come in and they talk about their stress, it's about COVID or e-learning."
Axe throwing has been nothing but bullseye's for Mariolle. He is a three-time regional champion in Southern Colorado, and still holds the title. Now he's on his way to compete at the World Axe Throwing League Championship (WATL). It's not his first time going to the competition, but it is his first time competing.
"I went last year and bought my plane ticket thinking I was going to get my bid to go. Unfortunately I fell short by about seven points," said Mariolle. "But it just gave me more of a motivation to come back this season and really just throw as best I can."
There are four seasons in axe throwing; winter, spring, summer and fall. Mariolle says because of the pandemic, two seasons were cancelled. This year, to qualify for the world championships, he and other axe throwers participated in a throwing tournament.
At next week's competition, not only will he be representing the Colorado Springs community, but he's also representing the military community as an army veteran who served from 2006 to 2013.
"Colorado Springs has been home for me even before I joined the military. Being the only person that's going to be representing Colorado Springs in this tournament means a lot," said Mariolle.
Mariolle said his favorite part about axe throwing is the commraderie and how it brings people of all ages, together,
128 of the best axe throwers from 22 countries across the world compete at the competition which takes place Dec 4-6th. The final round will be televised on ESPN and the top prize is $25,000.