NEPAL on top of the polo world
NEPAL on top of the polo world as National Parks win the "The 2009 World Elephant Polo Championships" at Karnali Jungle Lodge, West Nepal.
* 28th WEPA World Cup moves to Karnali Jungle Lodge, Bardia National Park, Nepal for the very first time, with spectacular crowds and the biggest ever turn out!
* 12 teams converge at Karnali in hot contention from across the world,including two new countries (United Arab Emirates and Austria).
* Kristjan Edwards salutes resurgence of Nepal as the local Nepali teams secure 3 out of the 4 top spots in Elephant Polo World Cup (National Parks, Tiger Tops Tuskers, and Tiger Tops Spice Girls).
* Chivas Regal Scotland successful elephant polo run continues as they become WEPA Olympic Champions in 5-4 thriller vs. United Arab Emirates Fosroc Sepoys.
* Tiger Tops Spice Girls share WEPA Bronze Medal and make history with best ever performance by an all ladies team.
The National Parks team, captained by Chandra Tamang, raised the Tiger Tops World Cup Trophy after defeating Anantara Thailand in an epic encounter in the 1st ever WEPA World Cup to be held at Karnali Jungle Lodge in the far West of Nepal. In so doing the National Parks equaled the record of 8 World Cup victories held by Tiger Tops Tuskers since 2003.
A Well Spirited Final
In a well spirited but very hard fought final, the world renowned National Parks team began with a 1 goal deficit on handicap but enjoyed a strong start to the match establishing a 5-3 lead at half time. An early strike in the 2nd chukka by Ram Pritt Yadav saw National Parks pull comfortably clear at 6-3,prompting Anantara Thailand in to a passionate rearguard action which was immediately rewarded with a goal by Jason Friedman to make the score 6-4. More pressure from the Thais ensued but despite a long period of dominant possession and a number of clear opportunities they failed to convert and were ultimately punished by a late breakaway score from the mercurial Chandra Tamang in a hallmark appearance for the world's No'1 player. The National Parks team and the whole nation of Nepal celebrated their 7-4 victory over the weekend as the country wins its first World Cup event as a Republic.
Although disappointed to lose 4-7 Anantara Thailand captain Christopher Stafford was quick to pay tribute to the rising stars of Nepal, commenting on the outstanding spirit in which the match was played and saying that "This was a victory for all the best values in sport as well as for a magnificent Nepalese team" In truth, Thailand were severely handicapped by the unavailability of their strike player Sangjay Choegyal who had to return to Thailand immediately after their semi-final victory over the popular Spice Girls but in his absence Jason Friedman, Rickard Hogberg, Lucy Munro and Chris Stafford all stepped up to the plate with honour.
Tiger Tops Tuskers who fielded four very experienced players, Kristjan Edwards, his brother Tim, Seb Swarbreck and Ricky Smith share WEPA World Cup 3rd place with Tiger Tops Spice Girls. One of the most popular stories of the week was the emergence of the new Tiger Tops Spice Girls all ladies team captained by Stine Edwards and ably supported by Sam Prentice, Sharlyn Stafford and Ravini Perera. They came out of the box in flying form, drawing with host team Tiger Tops Tuskers and then beating the highly fancied Angus Energy Scotland team led by James Manclark before prevailing comfortably over The Frog hunters - a very classy team of colourful bonviveurs from Austria.
This put the Spice Girls in to a 3 way penalty shoot out for a place in the official WEPA semis - which they duly won by scoring all their 3 penalties -the first time any team has ever managed to achieve a 100% conversion rate in an elephant polo penalty shoot-out. They drew the strong Anantara Thailand team in the ensuing WEPA semi-final, which they lost 3-6 despite some beautiful polo from Stine Edwards and Sam Prentice along the way. It was a noble adventure for the Spice Girls in which they firmly established their position as one of the leading teams in the rapidly growing world of elephant polo.
Drawn in the same initial league as the Spice Girls, The Tiger Tops Tuskers also beat Angus Energy and the Frog hunters before ultimately making the WEPA semi-finals where they were beaten by their old rivals The National Parks.
Olympic Gold for Chivas Scotland
Following a series of recent World Cup victories in 2001, 2004 & 2005, Chivas Regal Scotland once again showed great Scottish spirit and enjoyed a successful tournament by winning the WEPA Olympic Quaich in a tremendous battle against the United Arab Emirates Fosroc Sepoys.
Heralded as one of the finest matches of the tournament, Chivas started well with Peter Prentice scoring 4 goals in the 1st chukka for the Scots to lead 5-3 at half time. The Fosroc Sepoys then came back hard in the final chukka, cutting the deficit to a single goal with 4 minutes left to play. Jamie Seward, Nigel Lea, Tristan Forster and Jay Sinclair from the UAE did all they could to get level, but Chivas Scotland hung on in gallant fashion to celebrate their first ever WEPA Olympic Gold Medal victory by 5-4.
Scotland were without their usual captain The 13th Duke of Argyll, but he was delighted with his team's performance saying that "There are not may sports in which Scotland enjoys global leadership and with our recent record, no one can deny that Scotland is now one of the world's true sporting heavyweights".
The Chivas team, consisting of three veterans of the sport - Peter Prentice, Raj Kalaan, Geoffrey Dobbs and two novice players - David Painter and Hughie Holland, started the tournament with two wins against the Centurions Australia team and the New York Blues, but lost to the National Parks by 4-5 in a thrilling final league match before moving into the Olympic Quaich tournament in which they beat the New York Blues in the semi-finals en route to winning the Olympic Gold.
The team from the UAE enjoyed a spectacular debut tournament which resulted in them walking away with the silver medal in the Olympic Quaich. They set the standard for the weeks amazing polo in the opening game by just narrowly losing to the vastly more experienced team from Thailand, 7 goals to 8, making the cheering crowd sit up and take notice from day one. With this encouraging start they went on to beat the Pukka Chukkas from England and the local Karnali Dolphins team to finish their league in second place behind Anantara Thailand and so claim their place in the Olympic Quaich. In the semi finals they beat the Pukka Chukkas 4-2 to move on to the finals where they sadly fell to the very experienced Chivas Regal team.
The English Pukka Chukkas, captained by Jason Wheeler and backed up by Simon Ashton, Simon Race, Greg Scott and Andrew Tan, rallied after their defeat in the semis to claim the bronze place in the Quaich, beating the New York Blues by 3 goals to 1. It was the second WEPA tournament for the American team, a group of part time elephant polo players and full time journalists and PR execs, who sadly were unable to defend their Olympic Quaich title won at WEPA 2008. Maybe their captain Bill Keith will be relooking at his line up of players for the 2010 competition unless team members Brian Adams, Josh Dean, Chip Frazier, Melanie Brandman and Sims Foster manage to get in some serious practice over the next 12 months.
Novice team from Australia claim the Karnali Plate
Another successful novice team was the Centurions from Australia who managed to secure the Karnali Plate in their debut tournament. Martin Rowlatt, Paul Robinson, Creel Price and his brother Michael played a calm and skilful final to beat the Karnali Dolphins 4-0. This was especially challenging for them as they were dressed in their Centurion battle dress only, minus their jodhpurs. This was not pure exhibitionism, as they were all wearing Pants to Poverty underwear, which is an awareness campaign to promote fair trade and ethical treatment of cotton farmers in India. The Dolphins, Carolyn Syangbo, Krystle Wright, Nikki Russell-Smith, Ann Ismer and Katie Quentin, were pleased with their second place finish in the Plate as they were also a new team with very little previous experience.
Rounding out the tournament in joint third place in the Karnali Plate were the Frog hunters from Austria and Angus Energy from Scotland. This was a disappointing result for Angus Energy, as due to their captain’s vast elephant polo experience, they had started the tournament as one of the firm favourites for the WEPA World Cup but things just did not go right this year for the ex World Champion James Manclark and his team, consisting of horse polo players David Wildridge and Jake Scott and novice player William Wildridge.
The Frog hunters – Lutz Franz, Christopher Lavender, Rene Hodel and Clemens Winkler – realized early on in the tournament that their secret weapon were the women on the team, as they are allowed to play with two hands. So by the end of the week they were fielding a team of four women – Griselda Lavender, who scored some beautiful goals, Hedda Franz, Trixi Winkler and Linda Hodel.
Pukka Chukka, Greg Scott, was awarded the Chivas Regal Golden Moment Award for his magnificent goal, hit from well within his own half, straight passed 6 elephants and into the goal, completely wrong footing the defending elephant.
The annual British Gurkha "Best Dressed Award" was presented to the U.A.E. Fosroc Sepoys despite strong competition from the Australian Centurions.
The traditional Dominic Moynihan WEPA OSCAR award for best off-field performance went to Simon Race, a Pukka Chukka from Perth Australia for his inimitable charm & flair throughout the tournament. Other strong performances were posted by Jason Friedman, Seb Swarbreck, Geoffrey Dobbs and Sangjay Choegyal - all of whom were exceptional company at all hours of the day & night.
The Centurions introduced a new sport to the local spectators when they arranged a bicycle polo mini tournament to be held on the final day of play. There were four teams involved and the local crowd went wild as the game is extremely fast, so very exciting to watch and ever so slightly dangerous. The Australians were triumphant but they had the slight advantage of all being very experienced mountain bike riders. After the final match the bicycles were all donated to a local Tharu village, a much appreciated gift as the push bike is the major means of transport in these remote areas of Nepal.
FINAL SCORES & POSITIONS
Tiger Tops World Cup Finals
SF1: Anantara Thailand 6 v Tiger Tops Spice Girls 3
SF2: National Parks Nepal 7 v Tiger Tops Tuskers 5
WEPA Final: National Parks Nepal 7 v Anantara Thailand 4
Chivas WEPA Olympic Quaich Finals
SF1: Chivas Regal Scotland 6 v New York Blue 3
SF2: UAE Fosroc Sepoys 4 v Pukka Chukkas England 2
Final: Chivas Regal Scotland 5 v UAE Fosroc Sepoys 4
Bronze Play-Off: Pukka Chukkas England 3 v New York Blues 1
SF1: Centurions Australia 4 v Angus Energy Scotland 3
SF2: Karnali Dolphins Nepal 4 v Frog hunters Austria 1
Final: Centurions Australia 4 v Karnali Dolphins Nepal 0
Bronze Play-Off: Frog hunters Austria drew with Angus Energy Scotland
Running from the 29th November to the 5th December 2009, The World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) Championships is the ultimate sporting tournament. In its 28th year, it attracted teams from all over the world including host nation Nepal, USA, Thailand, Australia, Scotland, Austria, Scandinavia. Registered as an Olympic sport with the Nepal Olympic Committee, it is not clear if it will be included in the London 2012 Olympics as yet.
As in previous years, through generous donations from the players and several charity events during the tournament, WEPA raised much-needed funds for the ITNC (International Trust for Nature Conservation).
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