EFG Switzerland banks 2011
EFG Switzerland successfully defended their title at the 30th edition of the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal. Captained by the sport's co-founder James Manclark, the EFG quartet beat the home team Tiger Tops Tuskers 9:7 in a thriller on the jungle fringe.
Sibling rivalry was at the fore with Choegyal brothers Rinchen and Sangjay playing for the Tuskers and EFG respectively. For EFG Manclark was ably supported by newcomer to the team Nigel Lea as well as Sangjay and EFG polo stalwart Robert Mehm with patron Keith Gapp managing the squad from the ground.
The Tuskers were the first to open their account with Rinchen Choegyal scoring within the first two minutes of play. Nigel Lea was quick to reply for EFG with a huge end-to-end hit that found its mark. In the second chukka EFG found winning form to storm ahead with Sangjay Choegyal scoring two goals within three minutes to equalise at six all. Brother Rinchen ratcheted up the tension with a goal from the half-way mark and with just four minutes left to play Sangjay wound the tension up further when he levelled proceedings once again.
As the seconds ticked down Manclark made a brave shot for the Tuskers' posts only for the ball to stop just short of the line. Jack Baucher was quick to clear the offending ball from the danger zone for the Tuskers but Sangjay moved EFG ahead again scoring from the hit-in to take the score to 8:7.
A prolonged tussle in the 'D' between Tuskers' captain Tim Edwards and Nigel Lea saw Tim hit the ball free but Sangjay pounced once again to land the decider. Manclark, who celebrates his 72nd birthday the day after the final, yelled in triumph and round-housed his stick as the final bell sealed victory.
The Tiger Tops Tigresses, captained by Stine Edwards and representing Denmark, rode out the most successful ladies team ever by winning four out of five of their matches to land the bronze medal, beaten only in the semi-final by the title-holders. Sam Prentice, the pivot around which the team was built and the Tigresses' top scorer, was awarded the EFG Most Valuable Player, becoming the first lady ever to win the award.
Earlier in the day there was agony for the Pukka Chukkas in the closing seconds of the WEPA Olympic Quaich final when Chinggis Khaan Mongolia pipped them to the post with a 5:4 victory with just 15 seconds remaining on the clock. At half-time the Pukkas, who were playing their first ever final after four years at WEPA, had enjoyed a four-goal lead but the incredible warrior power of Mongol Dovchin Tseveldorj proved overwhelming after the elephant change.
The Equestrio Best Playing Elephant award went to the National Parks-owned centre-playing tusker Narayani Gaj driven by mahout Lal Babu Chaudhary.
The WEPA Oscar for best off-field performance witnessed a large number of nominees including Col' Raj Kalaan, Simon Race, Michael Eaton and both the Choegyal Bros - but was ultimately presented to the crowd-pleasing Melanie Wheeler by WEPA Legend 'The Silver Fox'.
* WEPA World Cup
1st: EFG (Switzerland)
2nd: Tiger Tops Tuskers (Nepal)
3rd: Tiger Tops Tigresses (Denmark)
4th: National Parks (Nepal)
* WEPA Olympic Quaich
1st: Chinggis Khan Polo Club (Mongolia)
2nd: Pukka Chukkas (England)
3rd: WEPA Legends (ROW)
4th: Rusty Khukris (UK)