The rise of even more nations in slow smoking. That’s one of the things Marko Bilic, founder of the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CSWC), was most excited about after the smoke from the grand final had settled. Countries like Poland, Germany, Sweden and the US have long been dominant, but this year a few new ones showed prominence.
“Especially Italy and Norway, but also Spain, did very well,” he says. “Marian Nadella from Italy broke his and the Italian record when he became the first Italian to smoke for more than two hours, for instance. And Tormod Skarmaas from Norway surprised everyone when he smoked for more than three hours in the first CSWC qualifier of the season. At the final he proved it wasn’t a one-time thing when he came in 5th.”
The final in Split offered both excitement and surprises as usual. The biggest upset occurred after a little more than an hour, when suddenly last year’s winner Borys Szkodzik was out.
“It hasn’t been his year,” Bilic says. “He didn’t do that well in the qualification round either, but from what people say he’s happy with the championship title he’s got. His goal now is the world record, but that’s just what I’ve heard.”
Instead it came down to Hauke Walter from Germany and Andrej Leontijev, a Russian competing under the flag of Belarus. The latter one was flying under the radar until the very end.
“I thought it was just me and Anastasia Arsenova, who was sitting at my table, left,” Walter says. “Suddenly the judge Pierre Gustavsson told me there’s another guy left, at a different table.”
Not even Bilic knew he was still in the game.
“I might have given him an advantage since I was the commentator and I was fully focused on the table with Hauke and Anastasia,” he laughs. “There wasn’t as much noise around him, so maybe he was able to focus better without that stress, but that’s the charm of any sport.”
In the end it wasn’t enough though. Arsenova, who’s also Russian but competing under the flag of Kazakhstan, was eliminated right after having passed three hours, and 24 minutes later Leontijev’s cigar burnt out, making Walter the third person ever to win a second title. Only Oleg Pedan and Alexander Shagai from Russia have managed this before.
“Five years ago it took me the whole day to understand what actually happened,” Walter says. “This time I was able enjoy the win right away.”
For the first time ever, all of this was broadcasted live, giving those who weren’t able to make it to Croatia a chance to be part of the excitement.
“We had at least 10,000 viewers,” Bilic says proudly. “We had people sending us pictures from cigar clubs all over the world organizing viewing parties like they would with any other sport. This isn’t just a huge step for Cigar Smoking World Championship, but for the cigar culture overall. Next year it will be even better. I promise.”
1. Hauke Walter, Germany 3:28:07
2. Andrej Leontijev, Belarus 3:25:10
3. Anastasia Arsenova, Kazakhstan 3:01:26
4. Henrik Kristensson, Sweden 2:56:18
5. Tormod Skarmaas, Norway 2:49:50
6. Klaudia Ide, Poland 2:48:44
7. Marcin Sakowski, Poland 2:44:06
8. Daniel Friedenthal, Austria 2:37:04
9. Marian Nedela, Italy 2:35:15
10. Drew Emch 2:25:59