Qualifying for the World Championships was one there; getting there was another.
Arden Cogar, Jr., champion of the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series presented by Ram Trucks, couldn’t drive his new prize truck across the Big Pond for the event in Lillehammer, Norway, instead having to rely on the airlines. And they let him down some.
“I had a very trying journey to Oslo,” he said. “Travelling with a great deal of lumberjack equipment is simply difficult.”
Not only did the equipment cause some outrageous baggage fees, but it almost didn’t get to Norway. After flying from Charleston, W.Va., with cousin Matt Cogar, their layover at Washington Dulles turned into a worrisome affair when their flight to Newark, N.J., was overbooked.
“When we got onto the plane, we were told there was a ‘weight issue’ with the plane, so they began unloading luggage,” said Cogar, who saw his 70-pound axebox and oversized saw bag pulled back out onto the tarmac. “Needless to say, I was not pleased, but there was little I could do and I accepted my fate.”
Cogar began contacting friends and was quickly offered the use of equipment for the Worlds.
“I knew I would have gear to race with when I got to Lillehammer; even though it may not be my own gear, it was gear nonetheless,” he said. “Some gear is better than no gear.”
As Dulles, they had to deplane as weather in Newark cancelled incoming flights. It actually gave Cogar his first break as a number of passengers didn’t wait it out and found alternate means of travel. The handful of folks leaving the plane allowed his equipment back on.
Rushed to get to the gate for the flight to Olso, Matt and Arden narrowly made it and met up the rest of the U.S. team members except manager Roger Phelps, who was flying ahead to make arrangements.
“Or so we thought,” Cogar said. “Poor Roger’s flight to Oslo was eventually cancelled and the athletes of Team USA fended for themselves. Luckily Avis let us rent the car that Roger had secured for us and we began our Trek northward to Lillehammer.”
Collegiate champion Tim Benedict was drafted to drive the van from Olso to Lillehammer, but was pulled for Warrick Hallett after stalling the 5-speed standard as he tried to pull out of the parking lot.
The team stopped by the venue, Hakons Hall, the hockey arena for the 1994 Winter Olympics, to get credentials and watch the 20 countries vie to reach the relay finals. The top six countries from the previous year and the host country are automatically seeded in the finals.
After a good dinner, the groggy members of Team USA hit their hotel, and Cogar for one, slept soundly.
“So soundly I was told by other Team USA members that I shook the walls snoring,” he said. “And I don’t snore. Or at least I don’t know I snore.”
Phelps, whose travels were worse, finally made it to Lillehammer just before the relays began on Friday, Sept. 8. The U.S. finished second to New Zealand and had the second-fastest time in beating Switzerland in the semifinals.
Cogar said he had fun the next day in the individual competition, finishing fourth.
“My placing was strong and had I not performed so poorly in the stock saw, I would have made the podium,” he said. “To be frank, had I cut the underhand to my potential, I would have placed higher and still been on the podium; but there are many variables that caused that not to happen.
“I am thankful for the opportunity and feel blessed to have represented my country at such a wonderful event.”
Getting home was even more arduous. After competing until midnight, the U.S. contingent got back to the hotel and packed around 3 a.m. They had three hours to sleep before a 6 a.m. drive to take off from Olso at 11. Cogar said he can’t sleep on planes and the 9-hour flight to Newark was exhausting. Then he missed the connecting flight to Dulles.
“On this trip, I realized that flying on international flights, you must first go through customs, then reclaim your bags, then recheck your bags, then go through security again,” he said. “Well, on my way through security, the Newark TSA questioned the mini-tripod I use for video camera. They questioned it so much, that I missed my flight to Dulles.”
Cogar was told flights were booked solid for the next three days. So on less than 3 hours sleep over the past 40 hours, Cogar rented a car and drove the 9 hours home so he could be at work Monday morning. Fortunately, Matt made the connecting flight and picked up his equipment.
With wife, Kristy, competing at the Royal Adelaide Show in Australia, Cogar came home to work and kids.
“I then spent the week as a single father looking after my 15- and 11-year-old daughters, who were cared for by their grandparents during my absence, until Kristy returned home from Adelaide,” he said. “It was, to be frank, a very hectic two weeks.”
Ah, the life of a STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® lumberjack.