RetRollSpective – Golden Orbs

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have competed in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re going to focus on the Golden Orbs, a team that blends in with the history of the Hubelino Tournament. Read on to find out how this team has dazzled the competition!

A fanmade logo for the Golden Orbs, designed by MightyCucumber.

The Golden Orbs’ story starts in a place where gold and other precious metals aren’t rare to find: Spirit Jewelry. As the name suggests, this jewelry shop, located in the Rockbrite District, known as the brightest area in downtown Chlorotopia, is owned by one of the original team members, Spirit, who built a friendship with Willo, the sales representative, over a few months of working together.

It didn’t take long to realize they had another common interest: sports. On the weekends, Spirit and Willo used to practice together at the Herbotamia Recreational and Sports Club (HRSC), which helped them to further strengthen their relationship. “We were often approached by other club members who said we had something special and could even become successful athletes. I didn’t take it very seriously at the time”, said Spirit. Willo continued: “[Entering a tournament] wasn’t on our radar, we just played for fun and to stay fit. But another marble changed our minds.”

Fairy, a regular presence in the individual “turf tournaments”, was looking to move up and was searching for teammates. “Somebody told me there were good marbles who worked in that jewelers, so I decided to pay them a visit and make them an offer.” Willo was initially taken aback that someone would approach them about competing in marble sports. Willo called Spirit to inform them of the exciting opportunity and the duo agreed to call Fairy back later that day after they had finished working.

After multiple hours of discussion, Fairy convinced the two friends to form a new team, which they promptly named the Golden Wisps. Fairy’s sibling, Pixie, was also interested and was chosen to complete the original roster. “I paid attention to the conversation and reminded my sibling of the Minty Maniacs, who wanted to have a more consistent rival for future tournaments”, mentioned Pixie.

The team name is the combination of two different ideas. The Golden came from the jewels sold by Spirit and Willo, which also represent glory; the Wisps was a suggestion from Fairy, a fellow mythology aficionado, inspired by the Willow Wisps from Harva.

A week later, the Golden Wisps and the Minty Maniacs faced each other for the first time in a turf tournament. Fairy tells us about that initial experience: “Minty Fresh gave us a warm welcome, although it helped that I had already known them for a while. We could only think of how we would come out of that event. As for the results, it wasn’t even close, but we were newbies, while they had been together for a long time.” 

At least once a month for the rest of 2009, the Wisps and the Maniacs would face each other on public roads, parks, or whatever they could use to design an event. Occasionally other teams joined them, but never permanently. At the time they didn’t worry about having a tournament structure for the matchups; each day was a one-off event.

A small number of observers often appeared. One of those, a group who stopped a casual roll to watch the duel, was intrigued and approached the teams to ask about the games and possibly participate in a future match. They were professional card players who would later be known as the Black Jacks.

A meeting between the Black Jacks and the Golden Wisps.
(Photo Credit: Vector)

“After we finished the match that day, we discussed letting another team compete with us, and we agreed that it could be an extra incentive to improve ourselves and allow us to find new opportunities,” explained Spirit. In 2010 the Black Jacks were introduced, setting the foundation for a tournament that grew in ways nobody could have imagined back then.

The expanded friendly competition still took place in various open spaces, but for the first time, the results of each event added to a cumulative overall score. The Minty Maniacs won the inaugural edition of this format by a comfortable margin, with the Golden Wisps coming in second and the Black Jacks in third. About the small first tournament, Willo said: “I still have the notebook I used to keep track of the results. But the most exciting memory I have is the Catwalk win. The Maniacs were still a better group, so beating them gave us a sense of improvement, that we were heading in the right direction as athletes.”

The “turf tournaments” became a more frequent subject in discussions between fellow amateur athletes, with some of them forming their own teams, and this rising interest eventually led to another expansion. “Minty Flav messaged me and Heart to tell us about a potential new squad they came across during a street race, and they wanted to give these marbles a chance to join us. We didn’t object, and that’s how we got Team Phoenix for 2011,” explained Spirit.

The second season saw another overall win for the Minty Maniacs, but this time the Golden Wisps were beaten out by the Black Jacks in a close battle for second, while Team Phoenix didn’t impress in their debut. “It was a fun race, even though we lost the runner-up place at the last moment. But this is what makes sports so cool.” 

Pixie’s words about that decider in an improvised Halfpipe Dash were followed by the team’s worries about the growth during the past few years: “We realized our tournament was getting serious as the stakes kept on rising. Having expanded to four teams, we believed it wasn’t ideal to keep a totally amateur setting—we had to seek a solution for this changing reality.” Spirit and Willo still visited the HRSC during their free time, and with the support of their fellow athletes, they booked a meeting with the directors of the club to propose the creation of a new regional cup that could offer a platform to evolve the local sports scenario. After a week of discussion, both parties reached an agreement and began planning for the series.

The five teams that composed the first official Herbotamia Tournament.
(Photo Credit: SuperJackJack)

2012 saw the launch of the new era, and what started as friendly duels for fun officially became the Herbotamia Tournament. Fairy explains how it was organized: “[The HRSC] offered us the structure, such as courts, locker rooms, equipment, referees, medical and other staff, but they didn’t directly bring money to the table. We had no grandstands to keep the costs low. The athletes still had to take care of some costs, and we split the responsibilities according to what each marble could offer. For example, Spirit sponsored the medals for each event and the champions trophy. That’s how we operated during these four years of collaboration with the club.” Despite the inclusion of the Ruby Rollers and mild media coverage, the tournament continued to be relatively low-profile. Pixie added on their sibling’s thoughts: “Although 2012 was the first year as an official championship, we like to think of it as a continuation of the previous two years.”

In this first year of the tournament as a professional competition, the results were surprising as the Black Jacks won the title over the Minty Maniacs, and the Wisps missed the podium, with third place going to Team Phoenix. The rookie Ruby Rollers had to settle for last. The team’s thoughts about the new phase: “We spent some time helping the organization to ensure the events were conducted smoothly, but that meant we couldn’t really focus on competing. While we did great behind the scenes to execute a successful season, it was also a distraction that held us back. Anyway, it’s amazing what we, the athletes, achieved that year, for how much it represents to local marble sports.”

The Golden Wisps continued on to the 2013 Herbotamia Tournament hoping that the best has yet to come. With fewer worries about external factors, the Wisps had more time to train and prepare for the championship. This additional training routine paid off right from the start, as they won gold in the Relay and silver in the Maze! The team got only a fourth in the Halfpipe Crash but was in a good position to fight for the overall title at the midway point. 

After that event, a reporter got in touch with the athletes, asking permission to show the action in a TV featurette, but the general consensus was to decline the invite. “We weren’t sure of how beneficial it would be to have more media presence in our tournament; we cared more about challenging ourselves than anything else. So we let it pass,” says Spirit.

The Wisps continued to impress and podiumed in all the remaining events, leading them to be the 2013 Herbotamia Tournament champions! “We amazed ourselves with how we performed. Five podiums in six events, we couldn’t believe it. It was a true statement of what we could achieve when competing was our main goal! Gold is for glory, and we finally could enjoy some of it”, said Willo. “The trophy is displayed in the jewelers to this day, so anybody who passes in front of the shop can see it.”

The Golden Wisps pose with their 2013 Herbotamia Tournament trophy.
(Art Credit: Phoenix)

The night after their championship win, the Wisps decided to have a celebratory dinner at a restaurant. While the players waited for the pizza, a special report appeared on the TV screens and got all the marbles talking: it was the same featurette they chose to not take part in. “It was cool to see the sports we love getting media attention and bringing new fans in, but we realized the uncertainty in ourselves had made us miss a big opportunity”, Fairy revealed.

The 2014 season saw the Wisps settling for second and the Maniacs back on the top spot for the first time in the professional era. “That was a fun battle, like in the early days. Even the smallest of differences could affect the results. I’m sure any of the Minties would agree if you ask them.”

After an old-fashioned battle on the course, the Golden Wisps and the Minty Maniacs get together for a friendly meeting.
(Photo Credit: Pesky)

2015 was an atypical year that saw the original trio losing ground as the Ruby Rollers won it all and Team Phoenix finished second. But the final standings weren’t the main reason why this season was unusual, as Spirit tells us: “The administrative board of the HRSC organized a meeting to announce that the club could no longer fund the tournament and that we had to bring in sponsors to make the 2015 season happen. My shop didn’t profit enough to comfortably back it, but I thought of a solution: what if we hold a raffle?” And that’s what they did: Spirit’s shop raffled a necklace to obtain funds for that year’s Herbotamia Tournament, and the idea paid off. All tickets sold out in two weeks, securing one more season.

Unfortunately, with the Minty Maniacs disbanding, it seemed to be the end of the road for the regional competition they loved, after six years of development. Spirit continued as they touched on the situation: “A pensive [Minty] Swirl approached me to say it wasn’t worth it to continue if there’s nothing on the horizon. I told them to hold on, that we can find ways to keep going. But their eventual decision was to dissolve, and I can’t blame them. No overall podium for the first time [in Maniacs history] didn’t help either.”

The Wisps understood it didn’t feel right to continue without their original rivals, and eventually decided to pause their sporting activities. But by the end of 2016, the gold would see another chance to shine, and Fairy brought the good news once again: “I was cooking lunch at home when my phone rang. I answered the call, and [Minty] Flav reached out to tell me that a renowned event organizer from the Knikkegen area was interested in rebuilding the Herbotamia Tournament. I made sure to relay the news to all my colleagues, we all needed to know more about this possibility.”

In a group chat, the athletes analyzed the proposal by Jelle Bakker, who was looking to run a regional competition after the Marble League expanded to become an international series. “We knew their tournaments were making waves and entering the mainstream since they ‘stole the show’ back in 2013,” Spirit said, with a slight grin. After looking for advice from various competitors, including Phoenix, who took part in the original broadcasted Marble Rally, the Maniacs were convinced to return and all teams agreed that they couldn’t let this chance pass.

The logo for the 2016 Hubelino Tournament.

Jelle and the five teams signed a deal that consisted of a pioneering video broadcast and a sponsorship that would provide all track parts in exchange for the naming rights for the series. The 2016 Hubelino Tournament was confirmed, expanding to eight teams and preserving some of the original vibes by having no crowd during the events. The reformed championship would also serve as a testbed to experiment with different, usually simpler formats, and new events, some of which would eventually be introduced to the Marble League.

The Wisps resumed training in preparation for the new chapter of their careers, and to represent this moment, the team developed a logo. “In the same notebook I used to record the results, I drew a quick draft [of the logo]. It was just a small exercise at the time, but once we decided to have a ‘brand’ for this new era with JMR, we brought that to life with some professional help”, Willo mentioned. “It was never displayed in a video, but it was still a cool detail to have.”

The logo used by the Golden Wisps during Hubelino Tournament 2016, designed by Hershy926.

Soon, November arrived, bringing the opening event, Funnel Spinning. Things looked good for the team who led the race in a tight battle against their classic rivals, but Pixie slipped from the ninth funnel and finished in third. However, it didn’t take long for a win, which came with two finishers and an outstanding 38 points in the Catwalk. The Wisps jumped to the lead in the standings just like they shot out of the balancing beam in their gold performance. 

The team led the tournament after winning the Catwalk.

Looking to stay strong, the team hit a slump, tying for seventh in the Halfpipe Crash and just missing out on the podium in the Elimination Maze in a heartbreak that saw Willo stalling from the lead. But the team soon recovered with a score of 22 points in the Quartet Jump, a good result despite a toppled tower, thanks to Fairy holding on to the limit to add five points. Although Team Phoenix executed a stunning final run to win gold, the silver put the Wisps back in the chase for the title, residing in second overall.

Confidence was high after this event, and the team hoped to take the second championship in their history. Willo was heard sending a message to their teammates: “The championship is wide open, and the momentum is ours. We need to keep building on it.”

Fairy scores 5 points by the smallest of margins.

In the Pursuit Slalom, the team was knocked out early by the Bluefastics, but salvaged a fifth-place to stay one point behind the leader. However, the team’s momentum faded and the Golden Wisps fell apart in the remaining two events. They were eliminated in the first round of the Swing Wave and lost ground in the final maze of the Combination, finishing seventh in both events and dropping to fifth by the end of the initially scheduled tournament. “Saying we were disappointed was an understatement. The way I fumbled in the Combination race was really painful”, mentioned Spirit. “However, not long after the eighth event, Jelle announced that the Hubelino Tournament would be extended by four more events—four more chances to show what we were capable of. We viewed this as an opportunity for redemption.”

And the Wisps did redeem themselves in the Halfpipe Dash. Willo showed speed down the track, missing out on a win by a slim margin against the Green Gang, who was also bumped by Team Phoenix. The team stumbled again after failing to finish the Relay Course in the first round.

The Golden Wisps were fourth in points before the intermission for Marble League 2017. All Hubelino Tournament teams traveled to watch the elite competition at the Bakker Bowl, gladly accepting Jelle’s invite.

“We had an awesome opportunity to sit in the grandstands for the Marble League and discover what makes a successful championship with a worldwide reach. Being there really changed our perspective and gave us a feeling of the heights marble sports has reached”, Spirit said about the experience. “It was very special to see some of the events we liked and knew, such as Funnel Spinning, being introduced to the world’s most elite marble sports series.”

Back to Herbotamia, the Wisps showed strength throughout the Block Push event, overcoming the championship leaders, the Ruby Rollers, and the Green Gang, and winning another gold over Team Phoenix by 0.4 points. The win took them to third overall and theoretically kept them in the runnings of winning the competition outright, although the probability of overall victory was very low.

The tiny margin that decided the Block Push in favor of the Wisps.

Unfortunately, the team could not capitalize on this tiny flicker of opportunity, performing poorly in the Ball Battle, and getting knocked out in the group stage with a last-place finish. However, the Golden Wisps held on to their overall third-place, scoring 71 points. As they left the arena, the team reflected on a successful Hubelino Tournament as well as their future.

“Well, we wanted to show that we could challenge for another win, but we lacked the consistency to actually take it all. Our season was very up and down, especially on the season’s backstretch”, explained Pixie. Fairy added: “But looking at the organizational standpoint, the partnership with Jelle proved to be excellent for everybody, it crowned years of effort to keep our small tournament going.”

The said partnership brought an exciting new possibility: the Hubelino Tournament teams could now enter the main stage of the Marble League by joining the qualifiers for the winter edition of 2018. The Golden Wisps were eager to accept their invites, but the four original members were concerned that it could be too big of a step for them. They eventually decided to not participate by themselves. Spirit expands about the decision: “I needed more time to take care of the business and the family. I met my colleagues to explain the situation, and I realized there was a feeling that we weren’t bred for a high-end competition such as the Marble League.”

Alongside their choice to retire, they also had a plan to continue Golden representation in future tournaments. After returning from Knikkegen, Spirit and Willo visited the HRSC, where they found a group of five youngsters who represented the club in regional athletics events.

Spirit took the time to observe their training, and during a pause, talked to one of the athletes. “Firstly, their workouts were intense—they put more thought and effort into their workout than what I could imagine for me or the original team. I had a conversation with Orby, who certainly was the loudest, most outspoken of the batch. They were constantly talking to the coach and the teammates, passing instructions to the other marbles, and were also very excited to share about their careers and achievements. I could feel the passion for sports, which was fundamental to choosing them.” Orby, on the other hand, said: “When Spirit brought up the proposal to represent them in the Marble League, I was overjoyed. I had the chance to reach the dream of most, if not every athlete: the chance to partake in the world’s largest marble sports championship! Well, not everybody; I heard the Green Gang say ‘no, thanks’. Anyway, my colleagues and I were on-board from the beginning.” 

The now-retiring original formation worked alongside the new members for a transition that had been orchestrated since September, passing tips and instructions on to the fledgling team. Why the early planning? Willo lets us know: “It wasn’t reasonable to execute the transition in a time crunch, it wouldn’t work properly in the short space between Hubelino and the Marble League. Thankfully, it was a smooth process, because these youngsters cooperated very well, props to them.”

In a conversation with the club’s directors, they concluded that recruiting these athletes would check off both parties’ needs: for the HRSC, an opportunity of sending their locally developed talents to international competition; for the Golden Wisps, a renovated roster to carry their colors and an imminent rebranding to further differentiate them from the Midnight Wisps.

Some fans could argue that since the Golden Wisps were part of a JMR series since 2016, they had the right to keep their name. But Fairy thought the other way: “While I was away for Marble League 2017, I chatted with Wispy for a few minutes about our teams and experiences as athletes. Once they learned we took some inspiration from a legend of Harva, they were joyful and congratulated me. But it’s something from the culture of their land, and they already were part of the big league. We felt it was best to see them carry the namesake for the future.”

As December started, the team, now renamed the Golden Orbs, arrived at Hailfern with its new members: Orby, Glorby, Gorby, Goldby, and the reserve Glordby. Spirit followed the team during the trip, mentoring them in the final preparations for the qualifiers. According to them, the atmosphere was of happiness, excitement, and astonishment, but not without some stress from the nearing debut.

The Golden Orbs in their official photoshoot for Marble League 2018.

Goldby was the first to talk to the media, in an interview for a special feature about all newcomers by a local newspaper. “I would be lying if I said we aren’t a bit nervous. But I know and trust my teammates, I’m confident we can do a great job against anybody.” Days before the first qualifying event, Curling, the team worked to better understand and adapt to the cold climate and the wide variety of events they were about to face. They expected to surprise by using the novelty of a winter edition in their favor.

It was time to get the feel of the competition, but their first duty at the Arctic Circle wasn’t to compete. Nominated to represent the Golden Orbs in the draw, Glordby rolled down a familiar Hubelino track, accompanied by familiar Hubelino teams, the Minty Maniacs and the Black Jacks, in pot 7 of the qualifying draw. They were the second to drop down the funnel, consequently being placed in Group B. The Orbs would face traditional opponents such as Oceanics, Team Momo, and – what a coincidence – the Midnight Wisps. “Yeah, we had a fun chat after the draw, especially Spirit, who they’ve met before. Neither of us expected to face each other off so early”, said Glordby about this outcome. The team reserved the last days before the qualifiers to study the events and train to get ready for the conditions they would face.

The event that kicked it off was a precision challenge, Curling, an event so long each group had a full day of competing, and the Group B teams were the second to go on 17 December. Precision was, unfortunately, lacking from Glorby, who pushed Sea into the house and helped the Oceanics build a lead in the second half. The Orbs still had the hammer, and it was up to Goldby to take a risk to make them go through: “It was all or nothing, I had to remove an Oceanic to keep us alive.” They attempted to take out Sea, but missed the shot and quickly turned their attention to control the damage, settling on the two points zone, a move that put the debutants ahead of the other eliminated teams by point differential. After the match, Orby was heard incentivizing their teammates: “Well, it happens. But we can’t let this knock us down, there’s still a lot of game ahead. It’s all open.”

Up next, the Snow Race, for which Goldby was chosen: “Coldest race I’ve ever done”. The course was short, straight, but still very tricky, thanks to the bad weather. Although a storm was approaching the venue, all teams decided to go ahead with the event. The Golden Orb had a slow start out of the gate, but found a speed boost down the second half of the course, gaining positions from errors of Glidy and Wuspy, closing the gap to the top three but couldn’t find a way around Hop and Momo. “That was a great race from Goldby. It looked simple, but the circumstances weren’t. Just see what happened right after in Group C,” said Orby, with a slight chuckle.

Another racing event came up right after, the 5 Meter Ice Dash, a sprint with no lanes and a low grip surface. Glorby would have their chance for redemption after Curling, which they took with a 4.91, the second-fastest time in the group. “I felt like I was floating down that track,” said the athlete, who actually got airborne after hitting one of the seams. They also were the only racer to successfully stay off the walls in the heat, a key for any Ice Dash success: “I just focused on going straight and fast, and my instinct was right at that moment.”

Glorby gets some air time while leading the field in the Ice Dash.

The Orbs were now second in Group B with 15 points, tied with the Midnight Wisps. The team had a qualification in their sights, which would be an amazing feat for their debut season. However, they still needed to get past one more challenge to clinch it: the Halfpipe. “All we needed to do was to stay consistent,” mumbled Spirit, the team’s mentor. An endurance event, where the goal is to stay on the field the longest they can. Only one run for all teams, and in such a close group, there was no room for error. 

The Halfpipe matchup: Golden Orbs vs Team Momo.

The pressure was on, since their closest rivals, the Oceanics and the Pinkies, were first (with the record) and third, respectively. Orby, right before their go, could be heard shouting: “This is the time, we must give it our all!” The Orbs were set to face Team Momo in the final heat to seal their fate. Neither team had a good run, but the Orbs lost the heat due to a costly misunderstanding: Orby was the first to reach the top of the track, but didn’t control their speed in the descent and went past two Momo marbles. “I had the image of a Hubelino-styled halfpipe event, which usually is built for speed. I watched the original [Orbs] formation take on those tracks. But I forgot things work differently in the Marble League, at the worst time possible.” 35.47 seconds, the worst time of the group, a result that knocked the Golden Orbs down to sixth overall, out of the qualification zone. 

A usually joyful Orby was sad in the locker room, apologizing for their rookie mistake. Spirit and the teammates responded with supportive words. Wispy, on behalf of the Midnight Wisps, also left a message for them in front of their hotel room door: “Don’t let this knock you down, take this as an opportunity to learn and keep working to pursue your dreams. Y’all have a great future ahead, and we wish to meet you once again.” Orby made sure to turn this support into an incentive going forward: “We still have unfinished business.”

The Golden Orbs, among the teams which failed to qualify for Marble League 2018.

“Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom. We still got to watch the League from really good seats,” mentioned Glordby. “We were shocked to see Momo suffering from injuries again and later merging with Primary. We celebrated the Maniacs’ silver medal in Ice Hockey, and all of us carried a big smile seeing Herbotamia representation on the podium. We moved to Knikkegen for the final event after a long wait, due to the collapse of the Arctic Circle. And we were so pumped to witness the monumental comeback the Wisps pulled off, we couldn’t be happier to see them winning it all! We missed qualification, but it was still an amazing experience to be so close to the emotions of that season.”

Soon after the closing ceremony, the teams that failed to qualify were contacted by JMR to take part in the Marble League 2018 Consolation Race. The Golden Orbs sent Orby to the event, which was run alongside the Marble Rally 2018 Qualifiers. “Yeah, it was cool to see these racers out there, especially Phoenix. I cheered the win of somebody who has a connection to Herbotamia and our history.” Orby had a solid run, holding a top-five position during most of the race, but dropped down to eighth after hitting a bump on the track while chasing Hop.

Glorby on the inferior side of the starting gate for the 100 Meter Water Race.

About a month later, Glorby took part in the 100 Meter Water Race, another friendly race that featured all teams, except the Chocolatiers. Starting from the far right side of the second lane, they struggled off the line, establishing themselves in the back of the pack. “Early on, I fought too much against the environment. Looking at it again, seventeenth down that water stream isn’t that bad.” Goldby added on: “Yeah, I know from experience that a racer needs to understand the conditions, control their impulsiveness and play smart with what appears on the way.”

The Hubelino Tournament was set to return for its second season.

Later in May, exciting news arrived: thanks to popular demand, Jelle began planning the second season of the Hubelino Tournament. They organized a meeting with all teams to confirm their interest and set a target date of August 2018. Team Phoenix, focused on Phoenix’s campaign in that year’s Marble Rally, turned down the offer and their spot was taken by the Bumblebees.

A few days before, the Orbs also had their private meeting to take care of details regarding the transition back to Hubelino. The original roster denied a comeback due to other commitments, as explained by Willo: “Spirit and I were doing fine with the jewelers. Fairy and Pixie had also established their regular lives, so we didn’t feel like returning to competition. But we gave full support to the new team to go there and defend our colors.” Orby complemented: “We would stay off the Marble League path for a while, but at the time, we felt a step back would give us experience and make us stronger for the future. Also, it simply wouldn’t feel right to say no to the marbles who gave us the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Alongside the Minty Maniacs and the Black Jacks, the Golden Orbs agreed to withdraw from the Marble League competition and turn their attention to the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, justifying their absence from the Amazing Maze Marble Race, ironically, a Hubelino-based short series. Both the original four marbles and the current squad worked together during the next few months until the draw for the opening event which eventually took place on 03 October 2018.

Two days later, the season kicked off with the Swing Wave. The Orbs dominated Group B, winning all matches and achieving a tournament record of 39 points against the Valiant Violets. “We were really going all out, looking for the maximum score”, said Glorby. The risks of this strategy proved to be too much in the knockout stages, losing to the Black Jacks in the semifinal and missing out on the bronze medal against the Bluefastics by just one point.

The Orbs’ 39 points run, the record of the event.

The following event was the Catwalk. It had the same format of a group stage and knockout rounds. Just like Event 1, the Orbs qualified from their group, lost in the semifinal, and again finished fourth place, falling down to more solid opponents in the Minty Maniacs and the Ruby Rollers.

“I have enough reasons to believe that our real weak link was the individual events”. This is the view of Gorby, who didn’t have many chances to run until the Funnel Race, in which they finished seventh. “It could have been a different story if I had managed to survive the battle in funnel three.” These individual battles were also Glorby’s demise in the Halfpipes. Another seventh-place finish and the Orbs sat in sixth overall halfway through.

After a tie for another fourth in Block Bumping, the Orbs had to come up with a breakout performance as soon as possible, which finally came in the Relay Race. Orby, on the more technical last leg, pulled out a spectacular recovery in the heat against the Bluefastics. This win signaled an outlook change for the team, elevating their confidence for the remainder of the event. 

The stunning finish that gave the first-round win over the Bluefastics.

According to Orby, the fans mention that overtake as one of the greatest Hubelino Tournament moments ever. Moving on to the semifinals, the enchantment almost turned against them this time, as the Bumblebees almost caught up in the last leg. The Orbs managed to stay ahead by one-tenth of a second and advanced to the final. The Minty Maniacs proved to be too good to overcome in the gold medal match, but the silver was a huge relief and incentive going forward. 

The Orbs’ only medal in that season, silver in the Relay Race.

“Yeah, we pushed hard to get this result; we needed to recover our confidence with a podium. I can’t say we were flawless, we could’ve won with a better final transition. Regardless of that, we demanded a lot from ourselves for that silver. Tired and proud, that’s how we felt”, were Goldby’s thoughts about that day, backed by all their teammates.

Goldby was also the chosen one to build on the momentum in the Maze but was caught by misfortune, stalling on the fifth round. Glordby, who didn’t take part in the tournament due to the limit of four athletes, watched the events alongside the 2016 squad and described the reaction of another podium near miss: “I recall Willo shouting ‘oh, not again!’ when Goldby stopped and Swax avoided touching them.” 

The Orbs were left disappointed, as Goldby got stuck in the maze.

The Golden Orbs were officially out of contention for the overall podium going into the closing event, the Big Tower. It was up to Orby to bow out in the best way possible, but they couldn’t pull it off in the highly competitive Group B, finishing behind the Bluefastics and the Bumblebees. 

The Golden Orbs finished sixth in the overall standings, with only a silver medal and 38 points. Willo didn’t miss the opportunity to clear something up about their performance: “This result doesn’t show the biggest improvement these youngsters have shown over our first season: their consistency.” Pixie complemented: “Consistency on the short side of the stick, unfortunately. They weren’t bad, they fought for their best moments. But why couldn’t they podium more often after being in a position to achieve it so many times? What was missing for them, who are full-time athletes, unlike us, who played mostly for fun? Neither of us can explain this.”

The closing ceremony of the 2018 Hubelino Tournament.

The general consensus in the team was of unexplored potential to chase wins and titles. After taking the rest of 2018 as a vacation, the Golden Orbs restarted training, aiming for another Hubelino Tournament season. According to Glorby, they wanted to invest more time to get fully prepared, also dismissing a possible Marble League 2019 Qualifiers spot after the retirement of Team Plasma. “We really wanted to bring home this title, but then, it simply didn’t happen.” Low viewership numbers and teams interrupting their activities, among other factors, meant it was no longer viable to keep the Hubelino Tournament up and running. 

In February 2019, the Marble League Showdown was announced, and the top two of the Hubelino Tournament were invited to join. Fairy messaged Minty Flav about the news: “You earned this shot, go grab it and do your best to continue our legacy.” Unfortunately, a similar opportunity didn’t appear for the Orbs, and without a championship to participate in, they were forced into a hiatus.

The Golden Orbs reflect upon an uncertain future.
(Photo Credit: Casen)

“Usually, the general public only cares about the big shows. In this world, big is what really catches the marbles’ attention. Honestly, it leaves a bit of a bitter taste to see the charm of the small things we used to do and our achievements getting drowned out by external factors. However, looking on the positive side, the relationships we created, the effort we put out to make things happen, the opportunities we had and we were able to offer, all of this made for a fun ride I won’t ever forget. It was an experience that really transformed our lives.” – Spirit’s overview of nearly a decade of involvement with marble sports.

Spirit, Willo, Fairy, and Pixie stepped down from sporting activities after their time overseeing the team from backstage. “It was completely understandable since it all came to a sudden stop and they had other commitments to take care of. However, they granted us full permission to carry the Golden Orbs’ name wherever we went. It’s the best gift we could ever get, after representing them in a Marble League,” a normally silent Gorby added to their thoughts.

“But we are pros, we couldn’t lose hope and let ourselves go a full year doing nothing”, Orby continued. Unable to find a series to run an entire 2019 season, the team members made sporadic appearances in local “turf tournaments” and the Herbotamia Rally. Fortunately, the Herbotamia Sports and Recreational Club noticed the Orbs’ difficulties and opened its facilities to bring all five talents they had trained back home.

Not much was heard of them until September 2020, when all former Hubelino teams decided to come back together for a private friendly tournament, the Herbotamia Reunion. Pixie explains how it came to fruition: “It got to that point when we were missing the thrill, the action. We did talk about this possibility with our former rivals for a while, so when the Minties came back from Polaria with an awesome third place, we agreed that this was the ideal moment to make it happen.” Both of the Golden Orbs rosters were present in the competition. Apart from a small number of invited spectators, specific details of the competition such as the results were kept secret. Spirit explained the reasoning behind the NDAs: “In the end, the goal was to throw back to our origins and replicate the atmosphere of the early days. No pressure, no stakes, just a day to reunite friends and have fun. It was a success, everybody who was there headed back home with a big smile.”

To not create expectations, certain details and results never left Pepper Field that day. However, fan support grew over these years of inactivity. “It’s fun to know of a few loud fans on social media, especially now from outside,” Orby mentioned about the reaction.

Over the course of 2021, the positive response to events such as the Herbotamia Invitational incentivized local businesses to sponsor a new regional tournament, the Herbotamia Marble Sports Cup. Goldby didn’t hide their excitement: “It’s the greatest news we have had in a while, we had a full season for the first time since 2018!” The Golden Orbs didn’t disappoint and won the inaugural season over the Firefighters of Spiceno and the Cyber Charge. Orby, now officially the captain of the team, was the most valuable marble of the tournament. “We didn’t touch on it that much, but the idea of returning to a Marble League stuck in our minds. We know we have to work hard for that to happen, even when the future seems empty for us. This is why we never stopped training, we kept looking for an opportunity like that. The new tournament and the title were the push we needed to prove we are still worthy.”

An opportunity to shine showed up for the Golden Orbs.
(Photo Credit: Casen)

Spirit, inspired by the Orbs’ regional championship, hasn’t ruled out returning to take a managerial position. “Their effort to get to this recent achievement convinced me to make myself available for whatever they need. If necessary, Willo has already been a co-manager of the jewelers for a while and I know they can do a great job alone. One thing is for sure, all of us will root for them, wherever they are.” 

The team is currently looking forward to the second edition of the Herbotamia Marble Sports Cup, with their eyes set on a repeat title that may bring them closer to their ultimate dream, a return to the Marble League.

In RetRollSpective, the Golden Orbs are a team that blends in with the history of the Hubelino Tournament but also looks to shine beyond that. Best of luck to the Golden Orbs in the near future, keep on rolling!

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