SALEM, Ore. -- More is on the line than ever before at the 2010 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Championship presented by Carhartt being held at the Oregon State Fair.
There's the overall champion, of course -- it's the title everybody wants -- but the final standings Sunday evening will tell a much larger story.
The top American will receive an invite to fly to Austria next week for the World Championship, and a group of five other Americans will accompany him to compete in a special relay event against teams from other countries.
Nobody knows more about what's at stake than Mike Forrester, who lives only two hours away in Idleyld Park, Ore. He's on the committee that will decide which five will represent the U.S. overseas.
Forrester said three of the top five have already been decided, but two are up for grabs this weekend. He didn't reveal which event spots were open or whether he was on the team.
"It's going to have a lot to do with what happens this weekend," he said.
To add to the pressure, many of the people who built the sports or have a long history in STIHL TIMBERSPORTS will be watching on site as they celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Forrester said all the lumberjacks will be feeling that pressure, which makes it more important than ever to keep his head.
"It's not about getting up there and going all out," he said as he checked out the venue on Thursday. "I have to be calm and collected, and go into each event with a certain strategy."
Thirty-two lumber jacks made the trip to Oregon. The bottom 16 seeds will compete on Friday, starting at noon local (PT) time. They will be timed in all six of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS lumberjack disciplines, with the top-eight advancing to the second round. Those eight will join the top 16 seeds on Saturday to form three new pools of eight, and after again competing in all six disciplines, the top 4 from each pool will advance to Sunday's 12-man final.
Forrester, who won't be chopping until Saturday, said he's been battling a knee injury of late but hopes it won't hurt his chances of making the finals.
"I'm in -- and I think everyone would agree with this -- the hardest of the three pools," he said. "I'm going to have to take advantage of the sawing events to have a chance."
But Forrester and friends are not the only pros competing for a championship this week.
All eight STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series boom runners and speed climbers compete in bracket format, two-person heats on Friday. Each heat winner advances to the semifinal round on Saturday and the winner of those heats will race head-to-head for the championship on Sunday.
Six collegiate lumberjacks -- who qualified from the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series at events all over the country this year -- will compete on Friday, with the top two advancing to the final on Sunday. The college lumberjacks will face off in the underhand chop, standing block chop, single buck and stock saw to decide a champion.