MADISON, Wis. - The official opening of the 2004 ESPN Great Outdoors Games started with the rhythmic crack of axes across Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center.

The timber springboard opener wowed more than 5,000 fans who flocked to see some of the world's top choppers build a set of "stairs" into 9-foot-tall logs anchored to the timber stage.

The head-to-head springboard competition had each lumberjack chopping a notch into the log, anchoring a plank in the notch, repeating the process and chopping through an 11-inch log at the top. The first person to sever the top log wins the race and advances to the next round of the bracketed competition.

For the second year in a row, the event was dominated by the competition from Down Under. The finale had the potential to mirror that of the 2003 Great Outdoors Game, when David Bolstad of Taurmarunui, New Zealand, celebrated his defeat of Dale Ryan in a blistering gold medal round. The pair was set for a rematch.

In 2003, Ryan came back for revenge. Ryan, of Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia, edged out Bolstad with a time of 56.03 seconds to Bolstad's 59.07. Jason Wynyard of Auckland, New Zealand, took the bronze, his second medal in the event since 2002 when he won silver.

At the end of the 2003 gold medal round, Dale Ryan announced that with this win he is retiring from U.S. competitions, "but I continue to compete in Australia."

Bolstad, while extremely happy with the medal, commented that "this was a difficult competition and I did not cut into the log the way I would have liked to. I missed some crucial hits after chopping through most of the wood, and it should only take three hits from the back side to go through the 12-inch block, but it took more this time."

The Games are sponsored by Dodge, Miller Brewing Co., Stihl Inc., Valvoline Durablend, CITGO, Eukanuba, Johnsonville Brats, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Tinactin, and Beretta USA Corp.

For additional information, contact ESPN Outdoors Communications at 608.256.1463 or visit