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2001 Mardi Gras Open
New Orleans, LA

Sparky Shauvin from Aftermath -  One on One Competition Winner
Professional - Bob Long's Ironmen
Amateur - Naughty Dogs Red
Novice - Edge
Rookie - Heavy Hitters

What began in 2000 as a new and novel tournament for the GTS is back in 2001 with a vengeance.  The Diablo Mardi Gras Open has gained the status of a premier international tournament with 171 5 man teams in attendance - one of the worlds largest 5 man events, and one of the few large 5 mans to have open class play.

The location and timing, New Orleans during Mardi Gras couples the action on field with an extreme party atmosphere in one of the oldest cities, of the United States.  Jazz music, history, and Bourbon street block parties provided entertainment and fantastic cuisine after tournament hours.

The tournament itself was located across the Mississippi River from New Orleans proper, in the Alario Center, a regional sports complex.  The facilities allowed for an indoor trade show and team staging, with outdoor concept fields.

Criticisms of various tournament's netting, and two eye injuries in 1999 due to failed netting, prompted the Mardi Gras Open's insurer, National Paintball Association to draft specific guidelines for field netting.  These guidelines include how it should be suspended as well as an actual performance test - it must withstand the impact of a group of paintball shots at a set velocity at a set distance.  This standard marks an important step, as prior to it's writing there were no guidelines for what comprised "safe" paintball netting.

Tournament promoter Steve Rabackoff, adjusted the tournament layout to meet the new netting design criteria, using telephone poles and steel cables to suspend 20 foot tall nets in what was one of the most impressive and professional looking event fields seen in recent years.

Unfortunately, the netting, failed an impact test performed by a third party at Cossio's request.  Paintballs shot at the netting from approximately 20 feet away were able to tear, and then go through the netting. 

With this in mind, the decision was made not to rely on the netting as adequate eye protection, and to require players and spectators near the fields to wear paintball masks.  This is an extremely important issue nationwide according to Cossio, who commented that several companies have sold netting to field owners as "paintball netting," although simple testing has shown it will not stop a paintball.  Since this situation was discovered Cossio says, most but not all, have changed the material they sell, to a more robust weave that stops multiple 300 fps shots at 20 feet.

"It was incredibly frustrating to pay Springfield Paintball thousands of dollars for 'paintball stopper netting,' and go through the work of a professional installation only to find the material was too weak," said Rabackoff.  "We really would have liked to not require masks on our spectators, but there is nothing worth risking the safety of the players and audience."

To compensate for the netting problem, an entrance point to the field area was set up with a staff member making certain that everyone entering the field area was wearing goggles.  Additionally, since the netting was found to stop paintballs fired from over 30 feet away, the fields closest to the front netting were moved back away, to provide an effective barrier between the games and the parking area. 

The event began on Thursday with vendors and sponsors setting up their booths, and players registering and walking the fields in preparation for Friday morning's games.

On Friday, the preliminary rounds began.  Weather predictions for the day had included thundershowers, but fortunately the worst the skies dished out before the evening were high winds and a short deluge of rain.  The winds however proved to be enough of a challenge.  The netting on several fields tore away from the poles and cables to which it was mounted causing game delays while one of the fields had to be moved far enough away from the nearest roadway so that it would not be a hazard. 

This delay, along with others for net repairs required some game rescheduling to keep pace, shifting a number of Friday's games into Saturday's schedule.

Saturday's games were shifted due to the delays, and the referees worked to get the tournament back on schedule.  The games were reffed by Avalanche, Lockout, Joy Division, and Strange. 

Inside the enclosed Alario Center were air conditioned, indoor staging areas and a full trade show with dance and techno music going full steam.  WDP and Warped Sports revived Angel Heaven, their lounge for Angel owners and paintball VIPs, which was surrounded by WDP and Warped's booths.  JT also was set up outside, but after the winds of the first day, both relocated indoors.  Angel Heaven, complete with palm trees remained outdoors, a respite from the tournament.  WDP manned their indoor booth with recent graduates of their tech class which was held in one of the Alario Center's conference rooms.  The graduates gained real world repair experience side by side with experienced Angel techs, like Walter from Cobra Paintball. 

Worr Games Products made a larger showing than at other recent events, with their newly expanded paintgun line and the Black Magic Autococker.  The new WGP Autococker double trigger was a surprise to many, as it is a swing trigger design instead of a sliding trigger.  Bad Boyz Toyz showed a preview of the Shocktech hoseless low pressure regulator for the E Matrix.  Rose Griffith of Unique Sporting, who has used more and more helium balloons in her trade show booths recently took things a step further with the Unique Sporting Blimp - a remote controlled blimp that cruised around the vendor's area.  The Joy Masters video was on display for sale, as were several of Traumahead Sports' videos.  Diablo Direct displayed much of their product line including the new V-Force goggles, and many other vendors displayed their wares. 

Outside of the building, a line-up of Sea-Do jet-skis - prizes for the tournament sat covered with sponsor's logos to tantalize and encourage the teams.

Play was ended Saturday night before the preliminaries were completed, and timing was expected to allow for both completion of the prelims, as well as the finals on Sunday.

Sunday saw the wrap up of the prelims, as well as the semi-finals and the finals.  Concurrent to the semifinals was the one on one competition.  One by one, players went head to head until the final best 2 out of three games found Sparky Shauvin of Aftermath as the winner.  After facing off with some of the best paintball players - including pros, he was awarded a Sea Do watercraft for first place.  The last competitor he faced was Matty from the SC Ironmen.  Sparky won the first game, and they stalemated the second and third games.

In the face of criticism many event promoters took in 2000 over weak prize packages, the Diablo Mardi Gras Open set a strong standard for others to follow this season. 

Bob Long's Ironmen who finished first place pro received 5 Sea Do watercraft.  After the event, Bob's wife Phyllis reported that it was going to be a lot of work to get them home to California - either shipping them by truck, or riding them through the Panama Canal.  Bob's Ironmen showed again, that Long is a very skilled teacher and coach - able to build a powerful team.  The SC Ironmen finished in second place - receiving a $2500 check, and inviting one and all to the DYE Precision Los Angeles Open which they will be refereeing in March.  $1500 went to Image in third place, and $1,000 to the Ton Ton Flingeurs who made the trip from France to compete.

The Naughty Dogs were jubilant over their first place amateur win - another set of Sea Do jet skis going to them, making a repeat of their Amateur division win the previous year.  The JT Factory Team - Dynasty finished second, receiving  E-Matrix paintguns, Center Flag air systems, DYE Boomstick barrels, and planet bags.  The amateur prizes went down to 8th place with Freeflow, KAPP, and P&P Cold Fusion Autocockers down to fifth place, and paint and other goods to eighth.

Edge topped the novice division winning WDP Angels, CP Pro Barrel Kits, Unique bags and Shocktech drop forwards.  More prizes, went all the way to eight place, with Diamond Cavaliers taking second, Sudden Impact third, and Jus' Pimpin' with their cool anime shirts in fourth.

The Heavy Hitters took first in the rookie division and were rewarded with 5 Indian Creek Bushmaster 2000s, 5 JT barrels, and 5 32 degrees gear bags.  Second, third and fourth place went to Fear Factory Black, Tooth & Nail, and Soul Assassins.  Rookie prizes also went to eighth place with paintguns, jerseys packs and videos.  See the scoreboards and prize packages linked above for a full listing.

All in all, the Diablo Mardi Gras Open proved to be an exciting launch for the 2001 pro/am season.  With massive prizes, a huge team turnout, and intense competition, backed by extreme partying off the field it was an event to remember.  Only a few weeks before the LA Open, which counts for season points in the NPPL, many teams saw it as a warm-up, and are going hit the west coast with a vengeance.

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