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James Waldrop, Forsyth County resident, set for World Axe Throwing Championships
James Waldrop
James Waldrop will compete this week in the 2021 World Axe Throwing Championships in big axe and duals. Photo courtesy Jessica Renner

James Waldrop has been a thrower all his life.

Sometimes it would land him in trouble with his father. Now, his inclination for throwing is leading him to the 2021 World Axe Throwing Championships in Fort Worth, Texas.

As a child, Waldrop recalls taking hold of his father's screwdrivers and throwing them at the ground to see if he could get them stuck.

James Waldrop
Photo submitted
"My dad would say, 'James, where's my screwdriver at?' So, I've thrown sharp stuff just about all my life, just never in a controlled environment or a league or anything like that," said Waldrop, a Forsyth County resident.

Not until about two and a half years ago, when Waldrop's wife, Melissa Waldrop, introduced him to axe throwing.

Melissa went axe throwing with her co-workers as part of a team-building exercise, and she knew James would love it.

"She and I went with three other couples and just made a reservation," James said. "We all went and met there and threw. She was right — I loved it. I absolutely loved it from the first time I threw."

Suddenly, James had a new hobby. He joined a league that summer at Freedom Mill Axe Throwing and won the end-of-season tournament. 

Waldrop began honing his craft and joined a travel team at Big Axe Throwing in Dalton.

"No one was great the first time they threw an axe. They just weren't," Waldrop said. "You might have an idea what's going on and you might have thrown axes at trees as a little kid, but it's not the same. You've got to put in some practice; you've got to put in some work to get really, really good. Everybody on our Big's Axe Throwing team has put in a lot of hours and a lot of practice. I've got a set of boards that I put up in my backyard. I throw every chance I get. Weather permitting, I try to throw every day, if not every second day. You just have to stay sharp."

There are four disciplines when it comes to axe throwing: big axe, duals, knife throwing and standard hatchet.

Waldrop qualified for the 2021 World Axe Throwing Championships in big axe and duals, where he will compete with his throwing partner, Jon Allen.

"Big axe I don't expect to dominate the field whatsoever, because I threw better than I've ever thrown when I qualified," Waldrop said. "But me and my partner, Jon Allen, are really good at duals. You don't ever know what's going to happen, but I think we've got a real good shot to do well in duals."

"No one was great the first time they threw an axe. They just weren't. You might have an idea what's going on and you might have thrown axes at trees as a little kid, but it's not the same.
James Waldrop

According to World Axe Throwing League regulations, big axe competitors must stand 17 feet away from the target and throw an axe that weighs at least three pounds and no more than 4 1/4 pounds. The handle must be made of wood and be between 23-30 inches.

In duals, competitors must throw from the 12-foot line, and televised tournaments consist of a best-of-three series that feature five throws per game. 

This weekend's duals world championship will host 64 teams.

"To me, that is the very most exciting [discipline]," Waldrop said. "You've got a teammate and you live or die by how well you do with your teammate. There's just a bunch of stuff going on that makes it very exciting to me."

Waldrop has lived in Forsyth County since 1994 and is a senior project coordinator at Northside Hospital Forsyth.

He will leave for Fort Worth on Thursday and compete in the big axe tournament Friday evening, followed by the duals tournament Saturday afternoon.

The first-place winner in big axe will receive $3,500 and the first-place winners in duals will receive $4,000. In all, there is $50,000 at stake at the 2021 World Axe Throwing Championships.

ESPN will stream the 2021 World Axe Throwing Championships finals, which will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday.

"I'm 60 years old and I'm an old man in this sport," Waldrop said. "The guys that are fantastic at it, they're 25, 35 years old. I think it's pretty cool that the old man James is somewhat hanging up there with the young guys."