US National Mixed Double Championship – Men and Women Playing Polo Together
One of the concepts I love the most about the game of polo is that a team can be made up of four players in any age group, gender, whether they are professionals or newbies, it all comes down to your handicap and your skill (read more about handicaps here.). This caught my attention right at the beginning of my love for polo, the fact that a family of four, mom, dad, daughter and son could potentially play competitively on a team made me smile.
Friday, April 5th we saw the inaugural U.S. National Mixed Double Championship final, where two teams of two men and two women played together, one team had a father-daughter duo, well not just any father and daughter, but the very best player in the world Adolfo Cambiaso and his 16-year-old daughter Mia Cambiaso, sporting the same helmet, proudly displaying the Argentinian flag.
The teams were:
Valiente from left to right: Adolfo Cambiaso, Mia Cambiaso, Pamela Flanagan and Bob Jornayvaz.
Audi: Marc Ganzi, Negro Novillo Astrada, Nina Clarkin and Milagros Sanchez.
Before the game started I was hanging around the team tents getting pictures and chatting to my friends on the teams. Bob Jornayvaz was excited, as Adolfo was talking team-tactics and they were all listening in, Bob exclaimed: “Oh, this is going to be so much fun!” This tournament was the brainchild of Jornayvaz, he grew up playing mixed doubles tennis and thought this would be a great way to promote women in polo, playing together during the 26-goal World Polo League season.
The game was fast and open, but over too soon in my opinion. It was interesting to see how everyone quickly adapted to their positions and played to their strengths, men are obviously built bigger and stronger than us women, but the girls held their own, and Nina can hit a ball! Goes to show it is just as much about technique (if not more) than muscles.
In the four chukkers they played, the lead changed several times. I was so proud of my friend Pamela, scoring two out of Valiente’s 6 goals. When I talked to her after the game she (as always) had a massive smile on her face as said “Oh my gosh, what a whirlwind, I didn’t even know I was playing this morning. This was so much fun and it’s amazing playing with Cambiaso”
Before Valiente could lift the impressive trophy the Best Playing Ponies were announced: Fausto played by Mia Cambiaso and Agustina played by Pamela Flanagan. They chose two MVP, one male and one female and these were, of course, Nina Clarkin and Adolfo Cambiaso, not of course because of their handicaps, but because these two players are great team players on their respective teams, guiding and assisting their teammates.
The trophy awarded has a very special history, the top piece is a silver polo ball, originally made by Emperor Akhbar and gifted to the museum of polo by the Maharaja of Jaipur. The ball is very unique and has holes carved all over it and a gyroscope in the middle, holding a lit candle that would stay level as the ball rolled. The Emperor and his men used this ball to play polo at night, just for fun. Women at the time were absolutely not allowed to play polo, but in the darkness, they could sneak on and play with the men. This is crazy to think about now, where we can play on the same field and celebrate it more than anything.
Nina and Adolfo both agreed that this is a great way of promoting women in polo and they hope to see a bigger tournament with many more teams in the future, “It would be great to have 8 teams competing and playing 6 chukkers. We can do that, it’s just about getting it organized” Cambiaso said.
It would be great to see more teams out there, more women getting into this level of polo. This tournament has gotten the ball rolling, now let’s keep the momentum and make it big next year!
One great initiative that also was involved in this inaugural U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship is the Women’s International Polo Network (WIPN) a volunteer-run organization made to connect polo playing women across the world. Check it out here.
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