Throw down! Austrian takes world pillow-fighting championship in Williamsburg

Throw down! Austrian takes world pillow-fighting championship in Williamsburg
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Gudrun “The Saint” Grondinger is now the reigning world pillow fight champion!

The pride of Vienna bashed her way to victory in the growing sport’s World Cup last Tuesday at the Warsaw, the first official championship (decades of feathery frolicking at the Playboy Mansion don’t, apparently, count).

To ask Grondinger’s trainer (yes, she has a trainer), “The Saint’s” triumph was never in doubt.

“I was quite confident in her reaching the final and had high hopes for her to win the title,” said Per Eriksson.

Grondinger and her teammates — with their uniforms, sponsorships and intense training regimen — were the favorites in last Tuesday’s match. But that didn’t keep challengers from Sweden, Japan, Bushwick and Greenpoint from swinging and battering in what was called “a world championship tournament of Biblical proportions.”

Greenpoint’s own Kate Russell let the down fly all the way to the championship round. But she was no match for the Austrians’ brute force.

The dark and grungy makeshift boxing ring — perfect for the all-out brawl — was surrounded by hundreds cheering the fighters through the night.

“Maybe they were expecting girls pillow-fighting in their underwear,” said Mark Chroscielewski, managing director for the Warsaw. “But it was a real sports event, in athletic gear, taken very, very seriously.”

A regulation pillow fight works like this: a match consists of two rounds lasting two minutes each. A fighter gains one point for every hit to her opponent’s body or head, and she loses a point each time her hand or pillow touches the floor. When both her knees are on the ground, she’s knocked out. In the event of a tie, the referee and audience decide the winner. Pillows can’t weigh more than 750 grams, and fights have to begin after nightfall.

Some fans were probably expecting the whole thing to be a joke. But where pillow-fighting is concerned, the Austrians have a real German sense of humor.

“There isn’t really any other way to look upon it other than being serious,” Eriksson said. “If we started looking at it like semi-fun and semi-sport, it might drift away toward just being for fun. We intend to keep it like this and we must act accordingly.”

USA! USA! USA! Kate Russell and Jen Tullock brought their weapons of choice — fluffy pillows — to the first ever Pillow Fight World Cup at the Warsaw on Tuesday.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini