If ever the saying "Friendship knows no borders" applied - it did this week.
Xavier Thibaud, who was at the Petanque America Open in Miami in 2005, and who won the New York Open this past weekend with teammate Jean-Pierre Subrenat, had been talking to his friend Claudy Weibel for a while. "Why don't you come and see what pétanque is like in the USA?"
They've known each other for almost twenty years, from the days Xavier was living in Brussels, Belgium, and have kept in touch ever since. Meanwhile Claudy was part of the Belgian winning team (World Championships in Faro, Portugal - 2000) and just this summer became European Champion in precision shooting in Nice, France.
And Claudy said - "Why not?". He has never visited the US and is one of those players who love the game for its friendly atmosphere just as much as for the merely competitive angle.
Will the Weibel / Thibaud team be a juggernaut at the Open? Not necessarily. Remember there is always a luck factor in petanque. A little stone here, an unexpected groove in the terrain there. And there are quite a few other teams that have made tremendous progress lately.
One thing is certain: players and the public alike will see live shots that most pétanque players can only witness on YouTube.
Here's one such example. A shooting competition in 2000 between Claudy Weibel (in the blue shirt) and Philippe Quintais (considered one of the top 3 players in the world). This was a side event where players must perform intricate individual shots, at increasing distances. Call it "Ringers on your own". Look at the slow motion replays.
We'll make sure Claudy has a great time in Amelia Island and gets to meet as many folks as possible. I hear he's also an expert at pool. Maybe we'll spot him at the Hammerhead as well!