SportsEvents Readers’ Choice Award Winners: Best Live or Virtual Sports Event of 2020

1st – 2020 Camping World Maui Invitational

The 2020 Camping World Maui Invitational was held at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, North Carolina, from November 30 to December 2. More than 250 participants, including teams, coaches, and staff were in attendance that was held without spectators.

“The 2020 Camping World Maui Invitational found itself over 4,500 miles from its home on Maui at the Lahaina Civic Center due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tom Valdiserri, executive vice president of KemperLesnik. “Fan less and relocated to the mountains of North Carolina, the Maui Invitational was the only multi-team college basketball event to host its original field with zero fallout due to COVID-19 and zero positive cases throughout the event. The tournament successfully implemented a bubble in Asheville protecting all eight schools and providing a safe environment for them to do what they do best.”

The 2020 Camping World Maui Invitational Champions were the Texas Longhorns, who defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels under Head Coach Shaka Smart to earn their first Maui Invitational Title in program history.

2nd – 136th USA Archery Target Nationals and 2020 U.S. Open 

The 136th USA Archery Target Nationals & U.S. Open was held August 12-15. It featured 258 participants in an open event for adult senior and master archers in the recurve, compound, and barebow divisions. Participants include Olympians, Paralympians, and world champions competing alongside youth athletes and archers building event experience.

“In a year of unprecedented challenges, the 136th USA Archery Target Nationals & U.S. Open was the first event USA Archery was safely able to host in 2020,” said Sarah Boyd, media and communications specialist with USA Archery. “We implemented safety protocols that enable us to have a successful tournament. Thanks to our event hosts from Henrico County and Richmond Region Tourism (Virginia), we welcomed world-class athletes to Dorey Park, a beautiful venue that catered well to our needs. Several national and world records were broken in a weekend of great competition.”

3rd – Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN

The 2020 Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN Florida triathlon and 2020 Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast triathlon was held November 7, 2020 using Russell-Fields Pier and also at Pier Park in Panama City Beach, Florida.

More than 1,600 total registered athletes competed in the two events and race week activities that were held between Wednesday Nov. 4 through Saturday for the IRONMAN Village, which was held at Aaron Bessant Park. Both races took place on Saturday, Nov. 7, beginning beachside along the pier.

“The 2020 Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN Florida triathlon was the first and only full-distance IRONMAN event to take place in the United States in 2020. The event coincided with the 2020 Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast triathlon rescheduled from its original date in May,” said Ben H. Rausa Jr., race director for IRONMAN Florida and IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast. “For these events, IRONMAN implemented a series of comprehensive safe return to racing operating principles prepared under industry standards for open-air participation sporting events.”

During the events, Chris Nikic, a 21-year-old Special Olympics Florida Athlete from Maitland, Fla., made history and broke barriers. Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a full-distance IRONMAN triathlon. In recognition of his accomplishment, Nikic was certified as a record holder in the Guinness World Records with a time of 16:46:09.

Honorable Mentions:

47th Annual AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships – Orlando, Florida

54th Annual AAU Junior Olympic Games – Brevard County, Florida

State Games of America Virtual Games – Grand Rapids, Michigan

Liquid Moly ProWatercross – Panama City Beach, Florida

2020 SPORTYs: Greater Orlando’s Night of Champions (virtual) – Orlando, Florida