Unsung Heroes: Lesser-known (yet no lesss deserving) champs of 2008

Courtesy the Press of Atlantic City

85th National Marbles Tournamnet, Wildwood, N.J.

CHAMPS: John Leffakis, Amber Ricci

PRIZE: $2,000 college scholarship, trophy, gold medal, induction into the Marbles Hall of Fame

SPECS: Over four days, contestants age 8 to 14 played dozens of duel matches of Ringer—first to knock seven of 13 marbles out of a 10-foot circle wins. When the rolling stopped, Leffakis, 14, and Ricci, 12, both of Allegheny County, Pa., were mibster king and queen.

SPEECH: "Your thumb really starts to hurt," says Ricci. "I broke it open underneath the nail during the semis." Adds Leffakis: "You just gotta keep your hands still."

2008 International Defensive Pistol Association National Championship (Stock Service Revolver Division), Allentown, Penn.

CHAMP: Curt Nichols

PRIZE: A trophy and bragging rights

SPECS: The shooter who hits the most targets through 17 stages in the least amount of time wins. Penalties are assessed for inaccuracy and shooting non-threat targets, such as a mother with a stroller.

SPEECH: "Shooting is a young man's sport. I've won three championships in a row," says 48-year-old Nichols. "I'd like to win seven more before my eyes and my knees start to go, so I'll have 10 total."

2008 OK Dinghy World Championship, Warnemünde, Germany

CHAMP: Karl Purdie

PRIZE: Trophy topped with sculpture of a dinghy

SPECS: Seafarers from around the globe competed in nine races over five days in one-man vessels. Purdie's carbon-fiber mast and specially engineered sail helped him blow by three-time defending champ Nick Craig.

SPEECH: "You have to suspend yourself over the side of the boat using your stomach and leg muscles, while holding onto 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of weight, while steering and monitoring wind shifts for an hour 15 minutes twice a day," says Purdie. "It's demanding."

2008 b.good Garlicky Greens Eating Championship, Cambridge, MA

CHAMP: Pete "Pretty Boy" Davekos

PRIZE: a Championship belt and a year supply of b.good restaurant comps

SPECS: 10 eaters had to gorge on as much spinach sautéed in garlic and oil as they could in five minutes. In total, they knocked out over 40 pounds worth of the veggie.

SPEECH: "This one is Boston-based, so I had to win the title," says Davekos, who's ranked 20th in the world by the International Federation of Competitive Eating. "Now, I have one of the few titles that's for health food. I'm absolutely going to defend it next year."

2008 World Yo-Yo Contest, Artistic Performance Division, Orlando, Fla.

CHAMP: John Higby

PRIZE: A medal and a trophy

SPECS: Eight competitors showcased skills in four-minute performances, with judges looking for imagination and artistic expression. Higby very much impressed the international panel with his multi-yo-yo homage to street performers.

SPEECH: "Earlier this year I was on a Guinness World Records show in which I knocked two-Euro coins off the ears of 15 people in a minute 50 seconds with my yo-yo," says Higby. "This tops that."