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Words by Trish Medalen for the Red Bull Media House.
Featuring the best athletes to trick their way to the top of national qualifiers around the world, five Regional Finals have determined the 16 men and eight women who will compete for the official World Championship of Freestyle Football when the Red Bull Street Style World Final comes to the magnificent Pula Arena in Croatia this October 8th. Here’s the lowdown – and the list of World Finalists!
Evelyn Okafor (Nigeria) claimed the title of African women’s champion with smooth combinations featuring impressive control across uppers, lowers and transitions. The first freestyler from her country ever to earn a place on the World Final stage, Okafor makes it all look easy.
The most intense battle in the men’s competition came when Mohannad Hosam (Egypt) and Ali Yahia (Algeria) faced off for a place in Africa’s final round. Hosan, a contender in the 2019 World Final, was determined to return to the global stage, but Yahia was equally as focused. Only a flawless performance by the Egyptian took him to the final battle, where he stamped his ticket to Croatia.
In the most riveting men’s clash of the Asia Pacific tournament, perpetual standout Philip Warren Gertsson, aka PWG (Philippines) claimed a place in the regional final by delivering everything in his arsenal against lightning-fast Jay Hennicke (Australia). With the region’s championship eventually going to Mohammed Akbari (Iran), the second place to PWG and the third to Hennicke, the trio have earned positions in Pula. As a result, for the first time ever there will be no men from the freestyle hotbed of Japan in the World Final.
But Japanese fans will still have a home favourite to cheer this October. The concluding Asia-Pacific rounds for women featured three female athletes from Japan, as well as a strong talent from Iran. All four delivered, but it was Miyoshi Miharu (Japan) who claimed the regional crown and will be bringing her super-stylish moves to battle the world’s best.
The final four in the European women’s tournament included three Red Bull Street Style World Champions: reigning titleholder Lia Lewis (United Kingdom), 2018 winner Aguśka Mnich (Poland) and four-time victor Mélody Donchet (France). The climactic showdown between Mnich and Lewis was a nail-biting rematch of the deciding round in the 2021 World Final, but this time the Polish star came out on top. In the battle for bronze, young Jasmijn Janssen (Netherlands) defeated Donchet – excluding the French legend from the World Final for the first time.
The men’s field was also packed with talent and showcased a dream final between brothers Brynjar Fagerli and Erlend Fagerli (Norway), where the judges used words like ‘mind-blowing,’ and ‘next level’ in describing the action. While Erlend is the only three-time men’s world champion in the history of Red Bull Street Style, in this faceoff Brynjar’s high-risk moves gave him the edge. They’ll both represent Europe in Croatia, along with third-place Jesse Marlet (Netherlands), who was runner-up at the 2021 World Final, and three other outstanding regional performers – Tristan Gac (France), Máté Hajagós (Hungary) and Anto Sanz (Spain).
The North American men’s final was a thriller, with two freestylers known for their strength and ability: Pat Shaw (USA) versus Jeff ‘Pagu’ Chacón (Costa Rica). Each served up monster combos, and while Shaw took the victory, both earned a spot in the World Final, along with fellow North American Anthony Noguez (México).
Among the women, the experience, unique style and fresh tricks of Caitlyn Schrepfer (USA) won the hearts and minds of the judges, and the Californian says she’s got even more to give in Pula. Schrepfer was the third-place finisher at the World Final in 2021 – this year, could she be the spoiler who goes all the way?
In South America, gripping battles and strong emotions showed just how much it means to make it to the World Final.
The men’s final came down to Boyka Ortiz (Colombia) against Moisés Carruyo (Chile). A freestyle icon, Ortiz has previously podiumed in the Red Bull Street Style World Championship, but young Carruyo holds high potential, having dethroned the best freestyler in Chilean history for his national title. Neither held back, and when Carruyo was announced the South American winner, he was overwhelmed. Carruyo and Ortiz both advance to the World Final, along with Nicolás Gondra (Argentina).
Back in 2012, Laura Biondo (Venezuela) and Cata Vega (Chile) were part of the very first women’s lineup on the World Final stage, and they’ve been instrumental in growing the sport. So it was inspirational to see them a decade later, at their peak, going head to head in South America’s final. While Biondo squeaked out the win, both move forward to Pula. Blinking back happy tears, Biondo said, “Going to the Red Bull Street Style World Final after being there since the beginning 10 years ago… it means a lot. See you in Croatia!”
World Final lineup 2022
- Mohammed Akbari, Iran
- Moisés Carruyo, Chile
- Jeff ‘Pagu’ Chacón, Costa Rica
- Brynjar Fagerli, Norway
- Erlend Fagerli, Norway
- Tristan Gac, France
- Philip ‘PWG’ Warren Gertsson, Philippines
- Nicolás Gondra, Argentina
- Máté Hajagós, Hungary
- Jay Hennicke, Australia
- Mohannad Hosam, Egypt
- Jesse Marlet, Netherlands
- Anthony Noguez, México
- Boyka Ortiz, Colombia
- Anto Sanz, Spain
- Patrick Shaw, USA
- Laura Biondo, Venezuela
- Jasmijn Janssen, Netherlands
- Lia Lewis, UK
- Miyoshi Miharu, Japan
- Aguśka Mnich, Poland
- Evelyn Okafor, Nigeria
- Caitlyn Schrepfer, USA
- Cata Vega, Chile
For more information about the activities of the WFFA, follow its official channels to get the latest updates!