An unruly crowd and bleeding fingers failed to stop 22-year-old O'Neil Odel from dominating his rivals to retain his King of the Rock title at the National Stickfighting Competition final on Tuesday night.Odel was in a jubilant mood as he accepted his $15,000 prize from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at Fun Splash Water Park, Debe.
After presenting the cheque, Persad-Bissessar's maternal instinct kicked in as she inspected the young Moruga native's head for cuts before sending him off to party with his friends.Despite his triumph, Odel's Valiant Brothers Medil failed to retain their Kings of the Gayelle title which was easily won by the Mafeking Gayelle.
As the battles began, hundreds of fight enthusiasts screamed in excitement as the PM, Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, National Carnival Committee chairman Allison Demas and her CEO Clarence Moe all looked down from the VIP section.Odel competed like a gladiator in three gruelling rounds. It was the ferocity of his blows with his half-yard-long yellow-poui bois that powered him to victory.
In his first bout, he broke Arouca Gayelle's Peter Noel's bois on the first strike and then pursued him to beat his opponent like a child.So intimidated was Noel that he begun to swing his bois from afar to avoid being hit."When you hitting, hit wood," was the advice patrons shouted to NoelOdel destroyed four bois on his way to the final match against Rio Claro's Selwyn John, who proved a formidable opponent, with some swift and fancy footwork.
Longdenville's Anthony Byneal finished third when he defeated Mafeking Gayelle's Evan Ralph.Evan's father, Moses Ralph, who was controversially disqualified in the finals of last year's King of the Rock competition, got some justice when he overcame a pitiful attempt by St Mary's Learie Lichorich in the final bout of the Kings of the Gayelle competition to cop the $30,000 grand prize.
Lichorich put on a performance that antagonised the crowd, who shouted profanities as he constantly dingolayed around the ring in a bid to avoid confrontation with Ralph.However, Lichorich's gayelle still received the $18,000 second prize.The third prize of $12,000 went to Valiant Brothers Medil, whose Ronald Lewis gave the audience a worthwhile match against Arouca Gayelle's Kareem Austin.
It was a night filled with drama as the Prime Minister was among the audience when a woman took the microphone and used profanities as she expressed her disgust at the results. She was eventually arrested and taken to the Debe Police Post.Evan Ralph escaped serious injury when a patron flung a glass bottle into the ring which narrowly missed his head. This happened although there was a strict ban on glass bottles at the event and it was even more shameful that not a single broom could be found to clean up the splinters.
One man was also rescued from a severe beating by jab jabs, when several of the characters attempted to drag him into the ring, threatening to give him a severe whipping.There was even a brawl between several of the jab jabs which almost turned ugly.
Several of the fighters drew blood in fiercely competed duels. In the most serious incident, St Mary's David Brown was left almost bazodee when he was struck on the forehead in a two-strike match. He had to be rushed to the ambulance as blood began to drip from his head.The dangers of stickfighting was also felt–literally–by those watching from outside the ring, as the bois was flung into the crowd several times. On one occasion, a TV cameraman had to duck as the bois struck his camera.
Luckily neither he nor his camera was damaged.While all the drama was taking place, the few police officers near the ring had bemused expressions on their faces–but, as the crowd chanted, " If you can't take wood, stay home."