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21 September 2011 No comments

High Drama at the Bike Polo World Championship.

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High Drama at the Bike Polo World Championship.
Sleep-deprived in Seattle. "Play Hard, Play Hard" is how they roll in polo circles. The World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship has thrown up new titleholders. Five days of tooth-cracking, mallet-wielding, beer-shotgunning mayhem in the city of Seattle, Washington last week saw Canadian combo Crazy Canucks edge out France's very own Call Me Daddy, at the end of a tournament which as a showcase of spirit, skill, athleticism, and organisation has taken this old-but-new sport to the "next level". American and Canadian teams were understandably in the numerical ascendancy, much as Europeans were at the World Championship held last year in Berlin. But marvelously, for devotees unable to make the trip, the final was streamed live on the internet. The event attracted a very healthy number of on-site spectators too. There were some fantastic matches throughout the course of the weekend, with some towering examples of individual brilliance as well as countless displays of brilliantly intuitive teamwork. There were also some questionable umpiring decisions, and perhaps a borderline timekeeping query or two, but those on the receiving end accepted them with good grace. After all, many far more lavishly financed and closely scrutinized sporting events can be equally if not more susceptible to dodgy calls. And our participants can rest easy in the knowledge that any wrongly allowed (or wrongly disallowed) goals, for example, were the result of good-old-fashioned, honest, motiveless human error. The match for the title, though, perhaps best exemplified these and all of the other most thrilling elements that the sport has to offer. Fortunately, we have it here for you to watch. The final, from start to finish, just about. Well worth twenty minutes out of your day. (Spoiler Alert- if you haven't watched it yet, but are planning to, what follows is a brief synopsis of events.) Given the jam-packed game schedule attaching nowadays to a bike polo championship, the Seattle organisers correctly anticipated that both time and daylight might at some point become very precious commodities. On Sunday evening, for example. And who among us would wish to be crowned, or even be witness to a crowning, in the dark? So rather than have the teams play out the final indefinitely until there was a winner (which in bike polo circles generally means until one of the teams has scored five), the organisers had opted in advance to limit normal time in the final to thirty minutes' play. Time limits for play in preliminary stages are the norm, of course. The Canucks took an early two goal lead. One of the brace that Call Me Daddy hit to level things up must rank surely as the finest "lefty" polo goal ever captured on film. Canucks got it to 4-3, and in the final minutes, apart from occasionally half-trying to catch Daddy on the break, seemed intent on closing things out at that. Daddy's perseverance paid off, however, and they managed to thread one through a clogged goalmouth with less than a minute remaining. Tied at four apiece with the sun going down, Call Me Daddy launched a final heroic attack on the rebound, throwing the kitchen sink at it with their No. 66 Greg firing from long range over the Canucks' goal line. Four seconds too late, it quickly transpired, but in all the initial excitement and noise, the full-time whistle initially went unnoticed by both teams, as well as most of the spectators. Talk about your rollercoaster of emotions. Both teams were thus directed to their respective back wall while the ball was placed centre court for a "Golden Goal" or "Sudden Death" decider. Which, admittedly, as critics of the system pointed out, could also in theory have gone on into the depths of night. Canucks were fastest out of the traps and latched on to it first time. A fraction of a second later, and it was over. Congratulations! And commiserations, but formidable joué to William, Greg and, ahem, Polo of Call Me Daddy. Incidentally, the 2011 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship was brought to you by Seattle Bike Polo in association with Everybody's Favourite Leather Cycling Saddle Maker. Over at League of Bike Polo Dot Com you can peruse footage from the earlier rounds. They also have one or two spills, and a couple of very interesting discussion threads on the finer points of the game. It went down to the wire at this year's Brooks WHBPC in Seattle. Our Brooks England was sadly not in use by any of the finalists. It seems there have been newer developments...