First win for Hong Kong at the 26th World Elephant Polo Championships
First win for Hong Kong at the 26th World Elephant Polo Championships
Chopard, in their second appearance, claimed the title at the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal, which took place between 18 and 24 November - a first title win for Hong Kong.
As the defending Champions, Angus Estates Scotland, were absent the field was open for new comers and Chopard grabbed this opportunity beating Chivas Regal Scotland in a thrilling final 7-4.
Representing Chopard, was an international team captained by Dave Garcia, an American Businessman based in Hong Kong, Irishman Donal Galvin of RaboBank, Australian Vic McLaglen, Roland Buser from Switzerland and Marc Van Eijck from Holland.
In a spectacular final played in front of a 2000 strong crowd the scores began 5-2 to Chopard according to the handicapping system. Chopard, with the crowd behind them, started well with Buser notching up two goals in the first half, taking the score to 7-2. Chivas, suddenly realizing they were leaving it dangerously late, upped the tempo and managed to get one back but failed to break through some furious defence by Buser and Van Eijck.
The second half saw Chivas try to reduce the deficit with a slight elephant advantage having swapped at half time. Led by Peter Prentice, the Chivas team of Raj Kalaan (India), Geoffrey Dobbs (Sri Lanka), Chris Stafford (Swedish/ America) and Ricky Smith (USA) showed touches of brilliance. Prentice scored a quick goal 30 seconds into the second chukka but with 3 minutes remaining on the clock the Chivas players started to show the effects of a tough week of polo (on and off the field) and could not find a way to dominate the match. Buser played an exceptional game, capping an amazing week for the Swiss player, earning him the Play of the Tournament Award.
Chopard reached the finals by beating the Indian Tigers team 4 to 2 in an exciting semi final which saw Buser battling against Swede Bjorn Richardson, who unfortunately failed to capitalize on his earlier brilliant partnership with Sam Prentice. The Tigers played a strong tournament to eventually finish in third place with Bjorn and Sam, American Jason Friedman and Mark Heather and Carolyn Syangbo from England ably led by their captain Tia Rongsen from Nagaland India.
Chivas Regal Scotland played the game of their lives in the second semi final against old rivals National Parks, captained by Ram Pritt Yadev. With scores tied, 9-9, at full time they entered a golden goal situation but with little time wasted, Prentice scored in the first minute with a spectacular shot that sailed through the goal approx 20 ft above the ground. National Parks Nepal finished in fourth place behind the Indian Tigers on goal difference.
To complete the line up, Capital Pachyderms USA were in fifth place; Andrew Martin UK in sixth, British Gurkhas Nepal in 7th and Tickle and the Ivories, Singapore in 8th.
Amateur Triumph for host team
The host team Tiger Tops Tuskers won the 1st Chopard Olympic Cup, for Amateur teams who do not qualify for the World Championship playoffs. The Tuskers consisted of Captain Kristjan Edwards, CEO of the Tiger Mountain Group and his wife Stine who are considered experienced “professionals”, and therefore, under the rules for amateur qualification, dropped out of the team and left it to four rookie players - Kristjan’s younger brother Jack Edwards, Britt Shaw, Sarah Knight and James Batting. In the amateur final they beat the Australian Elephant Polo team 5-4 in an incredibly close game with Jack Edwards scoring in the dying minutes to seal the victory for the Tuskers. The Australian’s, sponsored by Hungry Jack’s, displayed superior teamwork with their Captain Michael Loughman pushing his rookie team – Jack Cowin, David Harris, Paul Cowper, Jamie Boyd, Rob Thomas and Cameron Williams of Cannel 9 Today Show - so close to victory.
The battle for bronze position in the Chopard Olympic Cup was won by the Caledonian Cavaliers team from Scotland who beat the Airey and Wheeler team from the Bahamas 3-2. The Cavaliers - Michael Lightbody (captain), Crawford Currie, Dave Gillon, Iain Davidson, Jeremy Hart Jamie Lonsdale, Mickey Courtney, George Asher, Andy Dunlop and Sandy Milne - battled hard against an agile Airey and Wheeler team consisting of Christopher Johnson (captain), Marcus Cronan, Peter Caplowe, Janek Gazecki, John Brunner and Karta Singh Healey.
The All Nepal Challenge is played entirely by mahouts – experienced elephant men of both Tiger Tops and National Park. The players, who both control their elephants, at the same time as wielding their polo sticks, generated the anticipated fast and colourful display of elephant polo. The game was watched by an excited and knowledgeable crowd on prize giving day. Tiger Tops used their teamwork and positional play to good effect but unfortunately could not make a clean break away and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The tournament was officiated by Jim Edwards, Joint Founder and Chairman of the World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) and also Chairman of Tiger Mountain Group (www.tigermountain.com) which includes Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge located within the Chitwan National Park in Nepal, where the world championship has been held since 1982.
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Note to Editors:
- The event, registered in Nepal, is organised by Tiger Tops on the edge of Chitwan National Park. The World Elephant Polo Championships raises money for local regional charities and supports schools, medical clinics and conservation efforts in the area.
Notes on Elephant Polo: Log onto www.elephantpolo.com
- The World Elephant Polo Association was founded 26 years ago in Nepal by two Brits, James Manclark and Jim Edwards
- It has now become a series of world-class events embodying superb skill and daring, undertaken in a spirit of fun and goodwill, and at the same time contributing to charity
- Over the years the event has drawn many well know faces including; HH Princess Jyotsna of Nepal, The Duke and Duchess of Argyll, Billy Connelly, Steven Seagal and Stephanie Powers
- Tournaments are held in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal each year
- Under the auspices of the World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA), the format is similar to horse polo and uses the same size ball and longer sticks
- In Nepal, the teams consist of four elephants and compete over two 10-minute chukkas of playing time, on a pitch one-third that of a horse polo about the size of a football pitch.
- In Thailand and Sri Lanka similar rules apply with the use of three elephants per side
- ‘Mahouts’ or drivers control elephants, whilst the players concentrate on wielding extra long polo sticks
- Horse polo players and seasoned elephant polo players are handicapped.
- Other rules include:
- Elephants are swapped at half time to even out any advantage
- No elephants may lie down in front of the goalmouth
- An elephant may not pick up the ball with its trunk during play