RetRollSpective – Chocolatiers

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have appeared in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re going to focus on the Chocolatiers, a team that debuted in the 2016 Marble League. Read on to see how this team has sweetened the competition!

The official logo for the Chocolatiers, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Chocolatiers, true to their name, are chocolatiers—simple as that. The team met—as confectioners do—in a chocolate festival held in the mountaintop village of Bonsel, known to tourists as the “Sweetest Place On Marblearth”. The Chocolatiers worked in towns surrounding the base of Mt. Bonsel, with Choc from Giradel, Cocoa from Lindel, Mocha from Toblel, and Fudge from Ferrel. Bonbon, fittingly, worked in Bonsel itself and organized the festival, where the goal was to create the longest chocolate bar in the world and set a world record. Over the course of ten days, the confectioners worked day and night to cook and shape the bar, and in the end, they succeeded.  

Shortly after they broke the world record, the chocolatiers celebrated the occasion with an official ceremony and reception. The ceremony was attended by marbles from across the South American region, including several celebrities. The night’s guest speaker was none other than “Royal” Candy of the Jawbreakers, who had entered the Surculo two years prior. 

“As my career in sports has taught me, you have to do the things you love in life, and when you work really hard at those things, you create something that is bigger than yourself. These chocolatiers have quite literally achieved that, and I congratulate them on this momentous achievement. Keep on rolling.”

After delivering their keynote, Candy introduced themselves to Bonbon and the rest of the chocolatiers. They spoke throughout the night, as Candy exchanged stories of their successes in the ELMC and the Surculo and the five confectioners described their process designing and perfecting the recipe for their chocolate bar. It was a night that would forever change their lives.

The next week, the five met up to celebrate, catch-up, and determine what they would do with the leftover part of the chocolate bar, which was being stored in a gymnasium. As they were discussing, Cocoa rolled away from the group and behind the bar. They sprinted towards the bar and leaped off of a ramp, jumping over the piece of chocolate. The four other members of the group, after measuring the bar to be about 30 centimeters long, then took their turns. Each of them landed at around 20-25 centimeters, with Fudge accidentally landing on the strip of chocolate and snapping it in half.

“That was the most embarrassing moment of my life,” Fudge recalled, shuddering. “I let it get to me a little too much, though. If I could redo my reaction to that, I would have accepted the invitation to join the Chocolatiers from day one.”

The Chocolatiers entered the Surculo just before the application deadline in 2013 and initially did not impress with a mediocre finish in the bottom half of the standings. The team hired a coach, Praline, early in the season to help them train and adjust to the competition, but they did not feel as if they were prepared enough. They debuted in the 2014 Surculo with a new trainer, Coach Truffle, and their results soared, qualifying them for the elite league in sixth. In the 2015 Surculo, the Chocolatiers earned consecutive medals during the first half of the season. They finished in fifth overall, even after a questionable latter-half performance.

The four original members of the Chocolatiers, as photographed in a 2017 photoshoot.

The Chocolatiers had heard of the Marble League from the Jawbreakers, who they were friendly with even in the Surculo. Candy had heard a rumor that the top three teams from the 2015 Surculo would be delegated to participate, meaning that the Jawbreakers, Rojo Rollers, and Quicksilvers would compete in the 2016 Marble League. The rumor turned out to be partly true—the top three teams would be invited, not forced to compete, and if a team declined, the invitation would be extended to the next best team.

“We were hoping that we would be invited,” Choc said. “We didn’t want to participate in the Surculo knowing that we were missing out on a greater opportunity—the opportunity to set world records in the League! When the Quicksilvers and Jungle Jumpers both declined their invitations, that was the most exciting day of my life.”

The Chocolatiers debuted in the 2016 Marble League in Balancing, where they—much to their shock—placed fourteenth. Despite their dismal debut, the Chocolatiers did much better in the Relay Race, winning the Consolation Round and placing fifth, putting their first three points on the board. What followed for the team, though, was five events of silence. With two penultimate finishes and several others outside of the top eight, the Chocolatiers earned zero points, and they fell from ninth to fourteenth in the overall standings.

A moment where it seemed like the Chocolatiers were raising the bar…

The team experienced a moment of potential revitalization when Choc earned the Chocolatiers’ first medal after placing second in the 10 Meter Sprint, which they followed with two fifth-place finishes in Team Pursuit and Quartet Diving. Unfortunately, the Chocolatiers’ fate was already sealed by their tenth place finish in Precision Slalom: they were out of championship contention. The Chocolatiers finished the 2016 Marble League in thirteenth place with 16 points, miring themselves in mediocrity for their inaugural season.

“There were a lot of factors going into why we did so poorly in 2016. The points system was harsh, but the simple truth is that we weren’t prepared for the rest of the teams competing,” Cocoa identified, “especially the Savage Speeders. They set two records!” 

The Chocolatiers returned to their villages and started searching for land to build an arena and training facility. They began construction on their Cocoa Arena in late 2016, which would sit at the foot of Mt. Bonsel, just outside of Ferrel. The stadium was completed midway through the 2017 Marble League, and its construction was supervised by Fudge.

In the meantime, the team trained in Jawnair, in a separate facility from the Jawbreakers, and traveled to Knikkegen in June 2017 for the Marble League Qualifiers. The Chocolatiers qualified in tenth place without any podium-worthy placements, conserving their energy for the main tournament.

A defining moment in Cocoa’s career, even if they didn’t break a Marble League record.

Mocha started the Chocolatiers’ 2017 Marble League season strong, with a sixth place in Funnel Spinning. Cocoa took this momentum and drove it into their performance in the Long Jump, leaping into the sand as if they were leaping over the world’s longest chocolate bar. With a final result of 71.3 centimeters, Cocoa won the event, winning the Chocolatiers’ first gold medal and sending the team to the top of the standings. The team continued to remain close to the top of the standings throughout the first half of the season, helped back up to the top from second with Choc’s fourth-place finish in the 5 Meter Sprint, and only fell to fifth overall after the Relay Run, where they placed tenth.

By this point, though, the Chocolatiers’ shortage of medals, combined with finishes in the bottom eight, was beginning to hurt their place in the standings. The team had earned 54 points during the first third of the 2017 Marble League and would only double their points in the next eight events by earning just one more medal: a silver in Archery. The Chocolatiers finished their 2017 season in eighth place overall, kept in the top half of the standings by Bonbon’s fourth-place finish in the Sand Rally. 

Critics of the team began referring to them as the “Choke-latiers” during and after the 2017 season, referring to their tendency to freefall down the rankings after earning one bad result by continuing to fumble in a streak of subpar performances. Needless to say, the team was not in favor.

“We were complacent,” Mocha admitted, referring to their success early on in the season. “I especially was, after doing so well in Funnel Spinning. Unfortunately, the League’s record in the Underwater Race was just out of my reach!”

“Choc-ing” back tears.

The Chocolatiers returned home without much fanfare, despite bringing two medals back with them. They got together a few times a week to train in anticipation of the 2018 Winter Marble League Draw in December 2017. During the offseason, the Chocolatiers recruited Fudge to join as the team’s reserve, and they accepted without hesitation.

The team was sorted into Group A, along with the Jawbreakers, Quicksilvers, and Rojo Rollers—all alumni from the Surculo—and the Minty Maniacs, one of their customers from Herbotamia. The stakes were high, and despite placing fourth in Curling, the Chocolatiers were not able to reach them in the other three events. All four of the former Surculo teams, along with the Jungle Jumpers in Group B, failed to qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League.

By now, you’ve all seen this infamous picture of the fallen 2018 teams. What will next year’s version look like?

“I can’t say we didn’t see it coming,” Bonbon conceded. “We weren’t confident heading into Qualifiers, and we all knew it! It still really hurt that we didn’t make it to our first Marble League, but that’s where all we need is that confidence. While we watched from the stands, we were already hungry…hungry for the championship in 2019!”

The five were not entirely inactive during the main tournament, though—they helped run concessions in the Arctic Circle and sold their homemade chocolate to fans. By staying in touch with their art, they were able to publicize their annual chocolate festival, which they hosted in Bonsel during the offseason, at the same time as the 100 Meter Water Race.

Although the Chocolatiers skipped the 100 Meter Water Race, they were eligible to participate in the Consolation Race, which featured the teams which did not qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League. Cocoa finished second after leading for much of the race, an encouraging performance from a team that desperately needed it. The four original members of the team competed in the Amazing Maze Marble Race and lost in their heat with a score of 31.

That said, the question of the Chocolatiers qualifying for the 2019 Marble League was truly a toss-up. The team had reportedly focused more on training since the end of the chocolate festival, according to Coach Truffle:

“We’ve reorganized our priorities, and we recognize that chocolate will always be there for us. The chance to qualify won’t, and we are determined to return to the main tournament in record time!”

The Chocolatiers were able to do so with four consistent finishes—two in fourth place and two in fifteenth place. They qualified for the 2019 Marble League in twelfth place, just barely making it—but making it.

The Chocolatiers’ best start to a Marble League yet.

In the months leading up to the 2019 Marble League, the Chocolatiers released a special Marble League-branded mint chocolate ice cream flavor named “Mint Chocolate Condition”, but they were otherwise training hard for their return to the limelight. Coach Truffle decided that Choc would compete in the Underwater Race instead of Mocha, which Mocha was relieved to hear. This decision paid off for the team, as the Choc earned the season’s first bronze medal. Much like 2017, the Chocolatiers were off to a good start.

That sentiment quickly shifted after Funnel Endurance and Balancing, where the team placed in the bottom four places and fell from third to eleventh overall. The team pivoted in the Gravitrax Slalom, placing ninth, and Cocoa performed well in the 5 Meter Sprint, placing sixth, but the Chocolatiers stumbled in the next two events. They were sitting in twelfth before the Summer Biathlon, which would mark the midpoint of the season.

Bonbon made it through both their heat and their semifinal in second place, advancing to the final and nearly overtaking Hop for the gold medal. Hop won the event by three-thousandths of a second in a razor-thin photo finish, and Bonbon earned a silver medal for their team.

The Chocolatiers ended the first half of their season in tenth place with 63 points and were determined to keep working hard. In a post-event interview, Mocha stated, “A lot of us aren’t doing the same events that we did in 2017, and that’s because during our training we’ve reevaluated where we’re most comfortable competing. I think that it’s working out well for us, even if we aren’t doing well in team events.”

It’s a good thing that Bonbon didn’t have to choke on the water portion of the Triathlon.

Mocha proceeded to place sixth in Hurdles, but the team fell to twelfth overall. What followed was yet another streak of the “Choke-latiers”, with Cocoa’s DNF in the Dirt Race looking and feeling the most disappointing of the three.

“I didn’t have the energy to keep rolling,” Cocoa confessed. “I know it looked so bad on camera, but I knew that if I tired myself out too much, I would injure myself in the final.”

The Chocolatiers began to rise from the abyss too late, even with Bonbon’s sixth place in the Elimination Race and the team’s fourth place in Collision. They finished the 2019 Marble League in twelfth place, a far cry from the beginning of their season in third, and a disappointing end to what could have been a comeback story.

During the offseason, the Chocolatiers became the first team to change their captain. Cocoa relinquished the role in early 2020, with Choc serving throughout the 2020 season. When asked if Cocoa couldn’t handle the pressure as team leader after 2019, they flatly denied it. “The decision wasn’t about how much energy I dedicate to the team. It’s just…Choc’s energy levels are even higher!”

The Last Bite

an addendum by Roilan Estates

Even with the disappointing season, the team was ready to get back to it—chocolate making, that is. The annual festival wouldn’t be for a few months, but they were always crafting brilliant chocolate delicacies for the Mount Bonsel region. Each new delicacy was an exciting challenge for the team, and it kept them busy when they weren’t training.

“The sting of failure isn’t as bad when you have something else you love just as much to fall back on,” Mocha explained. 

As the summer turned to fall at Mount Bonsel, and the festival quickly approached, the Chocolatiers focused more and more on perfecting their craft. The focus on confectionery responsibilities came at the expense of preparing for the upcoming Marble League Qualifiers. Training sessions were cut short in favor of sculpting magnificent chocolate creations, and training runs got skipped in favor of creating new flavors of chocolate delights. Even with some intense sessions in the weeks leading up to the competition, it was not enough to get them in top form.

The lack of form became apparent in a rough start to Qualifying for the 2020 Marble League. The Chocolatiers were first in the gate for Balancing to start, but could not put together a clean performance. They only got one marble past 100 and ended with 295 points—good enough for thirteenth.

“Seeing our names first in the starting order caught us by surprise,” Bonbon admitted, “It rattled us. We were too eager to get a good result and set the tone for the rest of the event that we tailed left. Choc did well with the 108, but we need to calm the nerves.” 

First in the gate to start Qualifying.

Cocoa had a hot start in the Funnels and was the last marble out of the first funnel, but after a few unfavorable collisions, fell quickly down the track. They made a nice move right at the end to get around Cyan Eye of the Crazy Cat’s Eyes to salvage fifth in their heat and seventh in the event. With their performance, the Chocolatiers sat twelfth in the overall standings—on the right side of the relegation line with two events to go. They were last in the starting gate for Block Pushing; despite winning their heat against the Jawbreakers, their score of 57.7 was only good enough for fourteenth. With a twelfth place finish in the 5 Meter Sprint, the team finished one point below the cut-off line in sixteenth and would miss the Marble League for the second time in three years. 

Almost unaffected by another poor performance, the Chocolatiers returned for the most exciting part of their year—the annual chocolate festival. Even in the winter, the weather was beautiful for the week-long exhibition of confection, which Stynth and I were briefly able to attend. While I spent most of my time sampling some of the finest candies on Marblearth, Stynth resisted the sweet temptation of the festival and conducted an informal interview with the team.

My trip up Mt. Bonsel, where I would attend the village’s annual chocolate festival, was nothing short of fantastical, with spectacular views from the trolley car as it teetered up to the top. I was welcomed there by Choc, the team’s new captain, and they escorted me through the winding alleyways to the city center…Choc smiled and directed me into a candy store, where the rest of the team was waiting.

“This is my home,” Bonbon stated with pride. “I’ve spent more hours in this shop than I have training, and it’s not even close.”

“We’re currently working with other Marble League teams on selling different sweets worldwide,” Fudge continued. “We secured a deal with the O’rangers to sell chocolate-covered candied oranges, and we’re working with the Oceanics on salt-water taffy.”

“But we’ve been training,” Cocoa hastily added. “Choc has been doing a great job leading the team. We feel more confident in team events now than we ever have before.”

from “Offseason Moments – ML2020 Showdown”, by Stynth
Wading in a stream atop Mount Bonsel. Photo courtesy of Vector.

There were seven weeks until the Marble League Showdown after the festival, and Truffle sat down to talk about the future of the team. The longtime coach had a minimal part of the team’s chocolatiering and had watched as their priorities shifted away from marble sports. In a long conversation, the team talked about what the future of their careers would look like and if they still had the motivation to continue. After much consideration and talk, Choc stood up and reinforced a comment from 2019.

“We recognize that chocolate will always be there for us. The chance to compete in the Marble League won’t.”

With the new mindset, the team had a reinvigorated motivation in their training. The divide in responsibilities became more balanced, and the training routine became more consistent and more intense.  

They arrived at the Andromedome a completely different team than when they were there the first time. Fans could enjoy the new “Choco’rangers” delights while watching the Chocolatiers conduct their best career four-event stretch in some time, not without some frustration. In the opening event, they were comfortably leading the Relay before Team Primary had a remarkable final handoff, beating the Chocolatiers in a photo finish and taking the final transfer spot. 

Resilient, the team did not let their disappointment distract them from the task at hand and they went into the Halfpipe determined to raise the bar. Even though they were paired with Team Primary who had just beaten them, the team pulled together. In their second run, Choc and Mocha got as far up the course as they could while Cocoa and Bonbon tactically got in the way of the Primary athletes, preventing them from rolling as far up the halfpipe. Their strategy paid off and the Chocolatiers finished on a time of 62.19, over four seconds ahead of Team Primary. For the first time since 2017, the team captured gold, standing on the top step of the podium after the Halfpipe. Adding a couple more top-half finishes, the Chocolatiers found themselves back on the podium at the end of the season with a third-place finish overall and 38 points.

Celebrating a Bronze Medal performance in the Showdown.

There was a new energy and optimism under the leadership of Choc.

“They’ve shown great leadership in competition and out,” Truffle described, “I truly don’t know if the team would have competed if not for Choc altering the team’s focus. Cocoa is a great leader in the competition, but the team feeds off of Choc’s energy.”

As usual, the off-season was dedicated to making chocolate. The annual festival was over, but they continued their Marble League collaborations. As they were finishing a new wave of collaborative confections, they got a surprise letter from the JMRC. They had been invited to the Marble League Winter Special. With no Marbula One to train for, the main priority at the time was chocolate. There had been consistent training sessions, but not to the intensity of in-season training. Again, the team debated whether or not to accept the invitation. However, in an attempt to keep them in form, Truffle accepted on their behalf.

“We probably would have convinced ourselves to decline,” Bonbon joked when asked about the moment. “This was a great opportunity to compete against some of the best teams again; I’m glad Truffle took the initiative.”

The performance in the special was less than ideal. They never really reached the potential that they showed during the Marble League Showdown. Their only notable result was in the final event when Mocha scored an overtime goal to beat the top-seeded Oceanics; the team finished in fifth in the event, just enough to jump the Snowballs in the standings end in 15th overall with 22 points. 

Toppling the top seed in the Marble League Winter Special.

The trip to the Himarblelayas did feature the release of a new delicacy. Rekindling a partnership from 2019, they worked with the unofficial hosts, the Minty Maniacs, to release “Choco-mint Mania Cakes”: chocolate peppermint lava cakes. Not long after the Marble League Winter Special, the five made the trip across the continent to Lewara and made an appearance at the Raceforest GP. They proudly launched “Choconut cookies”: a line of chocolate chip cookies with assorted tree nuts including almonds, cashews, and pecans. 

As the year progressed, and the team found a balance between making chocolate and training for the upcoming Marble League Qualifiers, there came news of the Jawbreakers going on hiatus. 

“The team was a big part in getting us into Marble Sports and the Marble League,” Choc reminisced, “Candy was, and is to this day, a huge inspiration to us. They were always so supportive. It won’t be the same without them around.”

The connections to the Chocolatiers continue through the manager position. Approaching the Marble League 2021 qualifying, the team hired Caramel to be the team manager. Caramel had spent a bit of time in the Jawbreakers organization before joining the Chocolatiers and was brought on to help Truffle balance the training schedule and miscellaneous managerial tasks. While Truffle is involved with the team no matter what, Caramel will stay out of the chocolatiering and be exclusively involved with marble sports. 

There was an excited buzz at the base of Mt. Bonsel as the team arrived in Felynia for the first time. They arrived and headed to the sand—not quite for qualifiers yet, but for a practice race. It was Bonbon in the starting gate, already with a fourth in the sand to their name. In a field of 28 this time, Bonbon was able to replicate their 2017 performance with a fourth-place finish.

Bonbon built on their overlooked expertise in the Sand Rally during the Practice Race.

Instead of going back home, the Chocolatiers went to Jawnair in their time between the practice race and the Marble League. Training in the building where they trained before the completion of the Cocoa Arena, the Chocs kept up with their strict training routine while spending some time with the Jawbreakers before the team had to go back to Felynia.

“It was a welcome break from the constant work we normally put in. We love chocolatiering, but we’re all perfectionists, so making chocolate isn’t exactly stress-free,” Fudge admitted. 

“We even got a chance to go to Lewara. The Jungle Jumpers were hosting a party in honor of the hiatus,” Cocoa added, “We’re all rivals during competition. It’s nice to step back and appreciate our competitors outside of the Marble League every once and a while.”

The two teams played round after round of Marbkart, a popular party racing video game, and shared chocolate candies provided by Bonbon.

In RetRollSpective, the Chocolatiers are one of the original teams that have seen up and down results. The inconsistency almost led to them folding but decided to continue under the leadership of a new captain and a reinvigorated mindset. With hope, the team will work on group events and raise the bar for this year. Best of luck to the Chocolatiers in the near future, keep on rolling!

Thank you to Foucaulf for helping craft the lore for the Chocolatiers!

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