KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — After months of practice, some of Eastern North Carolina’s very own will be competing for a world title in axe throwing. The growing sport has nearly 200 throwers facing off soon in Atlanta on December 4-6.
The pandemic and time out during quarantine ignited a burning desire for competition. Michael Theodorou used to be a baseball pitcher. His teammate, Colby Dean, is a four-time Virginia State Champion wrestler. They are now focused on something new.
“During quarantine, we didn’t have a whole lot else to do, so we both have targets at home and threw a lot,” said Michael Theodorou. “We progressed quickly in a short amount of time.”
What started as a hobby turned into something much greater than they could have ever imagined.
“I told people last year that ‘hey, next year I’m going to worlds’,” said Dean. “Some of them just laughed.”
The competitive nature of these two former athletes earned them each bids to compete in the World Axe Throwing Championship. Theodorou and Dean are two of five athletes from Eastern North Carolina to be shown on ESPN, with hopes of being crowned ‘best in the world.’
“Honestly, I have always wanted to go to worlds, but I was terrible when I first started,” said Dean, with a laugh. “Since quarantine started is when it really became realistic. I thought ‘okay I can do this.’ Ever since then, I have just kind of been waiting.”
They have spent hours practicing at Ironclad in Kinston, in their backyards and traveling to competitions across the country to better their skills.
“It’s open to any skill level,” said Theodorou. “A lot of people say they are not good enough and that is completely wrong. You can have never thrown before and join the league. It can be for fun.”
Recently, Theodorou and Dean combined their skills. Forming a team, they competed in Duals at the Mid-Atlantic Open in Virginia Beach. Their talent shined, earning them a first-place title.
The sport itself is growing across the country, especially here in Eastern North Carolina.
“It [axe throwing] has definitely significantly grown in Eastern North Carolina. There has been a lot of new throwers,” said Nick Doane, a World Championship judge and thrower.
Newcomers are drawn by the pure enjoyment people get when competing with friends in this unique sport.
“There’s a lot of people coming into the sport. But, mostly a lot of people do it because of the comradery,” added Doane. “People love to talk with people and enjoy the sport that they love.”
There are three leagues throwers can earn bids to compete in for the World Championship:
- Standard League– features throwers with smaller axes
- Big Axe League
- Duals League– competition in pairs
Nick Doane is not just a competitor. He will take on a different roll at the World Championship this year. He will judge the qualifying men and women, enforcing the rules of the sport.
“It’s high stakes, and there is a lot of money involved,” said Doane. “I want to do the job accurately and to my best ability. I want them to be focused on their game, rather than a judge making a mistake.”
His judging will, in part, decide who will take home a large chunk of prize money.
“It’s exciting. We are leaving Friday, and Big Axe starts on Friday,” said Dean.
With only a few days left until competition, the guys are soaking in every last chance they can to enhance their skills before the big day.