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Germany’s Forklift Obstacle Course Championship Needs to Be an Olympic Sport

The Stapler Cup tests the skills of forklift operators with a series of challenging courses and tasks.

You can make a championship sport out of nearly anything these days, but one I never expected to see is called the Stapler Cup. It’s a competition for European—mostly German—forklift operators. It all goes down like a televised game show, with various competitions, prizes, the works. When I think about it, it makes sense that there is such a championship. Who doesn’t like to see absolute masters of their craft doing what they do best?

The Stapler Cup has recently been all over social media, but it’s been around since 1992. It really started picking up steam in 2005, though, and it’s been held every year since its inception except in 2020.

It’s meant not only to showcase impressive feats of forklifting, but also to remind the general public of how vital forklift operators are. As the pandemic quickly demonstrated, essential workers are exactly that, and society can’t really function smoothly without them. The Stapler Cup is intended to call attention to the indispensable nature of their trade.

The challenges are diverse, but most involve moving various loads—some of them fragile—into various positions while navigating obstacles. Often, getting the objects where they need to go isn’t straightforward, and involves a high degree of precision.

In one challenge, the operator has to drive over a heavy-duty seesaw while carrying a very precariously stacked load. It’s seriously impressive to see it done right, and a lot of operators can’t get it right. The suspenseful music leading up to the task’s completion, as well as the much-deserved ovation that follows, culminates in a scene of sporting triumph. To add to the pressure of the moment, the driver has to park his vehicle and sprint up a ramp to slam a big red button to finish his run. This isn’t just entertainment; it’s genius.

Each year, a champion is crowned after the competition festivities end. Many of the winners hail from Bavaria, where a lot of German heavy industry is. Curious about the lack of Americans? Well, there is an international portion of the event, however it seems like nobody from the United States has ever clinched the title. Who will be the first from this side of the pond to make history, then?

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