COLUMBUS, Ga. -- There are few athletes who can claim supremacy in their sport, and on Sunday, STIHL TIMBERSPORTS lumberjack Jason Wynyard earned that right.
At the Aflac Outdoor Games in Georgia, on the infield of a softball field originally built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, Wynard, of Massey, Auckland, New Zealand, outchopped and outsawed seven of the top lumberjacks in the world to win the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Professional Series presented by Carhartt.
A year ago at the championship, Wynyard was taken to the shed by countryman David Bolstad, which was a new feeling for Wynyard, a 6-foot-4, 297-pound lumberjack. He and Bolstad have been trading the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS championship since 1997 (no one else has won it since then), but it had always been close between them.
The 11-point shellacking by Bolstad shook Wynyard, making him take a second look at the way he'd been approaching the sport.
"Definitely when a guy beats you by so much, it's not a good feeling," Wynyard said as he wrapped a smile around both sides of his face. "I went back after last year and worked really hard. I guess you put the work in and sometimes things come out right for you."
Only 10 minutes earlier, Wynyard was packing up his gear in disappointment. After dominating most the day and taking advantage of a few rare slips by Bolstad, Wynyard went into the last of six events -- the hot saw -- with a four-point lead.
Four points in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series means four places. Wynyard just needed to finish third (out of eight) to guarantee a victory, and a fourth would pit him against Bolstad in a saw-off for the championship. But the hot saw is not like the other five events.
In short, a hot saw is a modified chainsaw, but when snowmobile and personal watercraft engines are used, "modified" doesn't seem to cut it. To make matters more unstable, weight -- or lack thereof -- is key in lumberjack competitions, so the saws are stripped down to their most basic components.
When they work, it's an incredible sight -- Matt Bush set the world record in the hot saw by cutting through 19 inches of white pine three times in 5.085 seconds in 2003. But the roughly $10,000 saws are constantly breaking, which is exactly what Wynyard's did the day before the final. It just quit working.
"I can't explain how I felt," said Wynyard, who had spent two years building his saw for this competition. "I've put a lot of work in this year and built this machine of mine, and unfortunately, it crapped out on me yesterday. That really messed with my head last night."
Wynyard ended up borrowing his brother-in-law Dion Lane's saw (Lane lost in the semifinals of the competition) and it just didn't work out. New equipment and a shaky start ended in a disqualification for Wynyard and shot his hopes of a title -- or so he thought.
"I felt pretty sick when he DQ'd," Lane said. "He could have run a much better time and won the thing comfortably with his own saw."
A disqualification in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS earns no points, which meant Bolstad now needed to finish fourth or better to win the championship for the third straight year. But he didn't. A mistake halfway through his second cut hurt his time and put him sixth, one spot out of a tie.
"I feel really bad for David because he had things in his grasp," Wynyard said. "It would have been nice if I had won it with us both going head-to-head in the hot saw, but that's the nature of this competition.
"I would have felt a lot worse had I come in second place. He's a fantastic competitor and a hard man to get on top of."
Lane, who also trains with Wynyard, didn't let shakiness in the hot saw take away from the real reason Wynyard bounced back from last year's beating -- hard work.
"He trains at least two to four hours a day, five to seven days a week," Lane said. "In my mind, you can put him right up there with the [Michael] Phelps and other champions because he trains just as hard as them, and today you saw the results."
Wynyard said the taste of victory woke something up in him that had been dormant for at least a few years, and it gave him something even Phelps seems to be missing at the moment.
"It really brought back my love of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS competition," he said. "A couple events really made me feel good and reintroduced me to the love and the passion I have for the sport.
"I'm hungry. I want to go back and improve myself, and I see a lot of room for improvement. I think some of these world records can be taken down. That's my new focus."