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Fri 26th Jan 2024

First day of skilled action

The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz 2024

For every polo player there are some events that are on their ‘to do’ list. The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz is one of these elite group of tournaments. The birthplace of snow polo sees not only the best players in the world, but also the world’s press and most glamorous spectators in the world, converge on the ultra-chic resort to experience some of the best play, ponies and the unique atmosphere of St. Moritz.
 
Glitz? Oh, absolutely. Glamour? Without a doubt. But the pièce de résistance is the world-class polo played by the true virtuosos of the sport. Whether you're a seasoned spectator or a polo novice, mark this event as a must-attend spectacle.
 
The location of the tournament on the frozen lake of St. Moritz sees an incredible 220 tonnes of infrastructure installed on the ice with typically precise Swiss efficiency; elevating the tournament to an unparalleled level of sophistication. Attend and you will be indulged by the epitome of VIP treatment, where rivers of Perrier-Jouët Champagne flow endlessly, a fleet of Maseratis chauffeur VIPs to the lake and the food and hospitality really does have to be seen to be believed. Orchestrating this amazing event is none other than the ‘Godfather of snow polo’, Reto Gaudenzi, the visionary founder and five-time champion of the tournament.
 
This year, despite a sustained period of low temperatures, the über chic resort has been bathed in unseasonably warm sunshine for the last couple of days, meaning that despite a positive outcome for sunbathers, the playing surface of the polo ground has been difficult to control.
 
With an international line up of the world’s best players bringing their international top ‘strings’ of ponies with them, the playing surface is important for the skill of the players and pones to shine. This is an elite sporting event, where every detail has to be perfect, and as commentator Jan-Erik Frank so aptly put it, “The welfare of both the four-legged and two-legged athletes is paramount”. With this being so important, for today Reto has made the astute decision to play a series of highly-skilled, nerve-tingling penalty shoot outs in place of the traditional four chukka play, in order to protect the playing surface for future matches.
 
So, to the delight of the spectators snuggled under rugs and sipping Champagne, each team member takes centre stage, testing their prowess with undefended penalty shots which tests even the most experienced players – once from 30 yards, then again from the even more challenging distance of 50 yards. To succeed, the players must have deadly accuracy, the perfect amount of power in their strike and nerves of steel as the action takes place right in front of the spectators, and the watchful eyes of no less than four professional umpires.
 
The first competition of the day saw Perrier-Jouët take on first timers Mackage.
The pink-clad Perrier-Jouët team, have an impressive 11 victories to their name in past years of the tournament, with five-time winning British players Nacho Gonzales and crowd pleasing ‘Mad Max’ Charlton bringing a huge amount of experience, alongside Pakistan-born Hissam Ali Hyder who won in 2014. However, today was not their day as Mackage’s Isidro Strada scored the decisive goal which propelled his team to victory, securing a 3-2 penalty advantage and clinching the coveted first Semi-Final spot.
 
St. Moritz – Top Of The World and Flexjet, were next up to test their accuracy right in front of packed grandstands. St. Moritz have a strong team with Swiss player Tito Gaudenzi demonstrating the skill which has meant he has won the tournament for the last two years running. Nobody has managed a straight hat trick, so all eyes were on Tito, as he calmly slotted through his two penalties with apparent ease. Teamed with David ‘Pelon’ Stirling – the highest rated player in the tournament, it was edge of the seat stuff which saw St. Moritz – Top Of The World, emerge victorious with a 5-4 lead, despite the best efforts of Marc Ganzi and his team.
 
The third and final match up took place between World Polo League and The Kusnacht Practice. Melissa Ganzi, ‘The Queen of Snow Polo’ fresh from her win in the deserts of AlUla last weekend, and playing alongside her 2019 Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz winning teammate, Alejandro Novillo Astrada looked impressive. But the Kusnacht Practice were strong, with young Brit Hugo Taylor and twice winner of the tournament Nico San Roman successfully scoring twice. Their cool heads, combined with solid performances from Gonzalo Ferrari and Eduardo Greghi meant The Kusnacht Practice secured a place in the Semi Final with a 3-5 score.
 
With the best players in the world demonstrating the difficulty of the penalty shootout it shows this is a real test of skill worthy of such a prestigious tournament. It may look easy, but scoring is harder than it looks.
 
With the weather turning colder and the playing surface set to improve, tomorrow will see the Semi Finals taking place.
 
The 2024 Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz Teams:
World Polo League (16): Melissa Ganzi (0), Adrian Laplacette Jr. (6), Alejandro Novillo Astrada (7) & James Mann (3)
St. Moritz - Top Of The World (15): Jonathan Tidswell-Pretorius (0), Tito Gaudenzi (2), David 'Pelon' Stirling (8) & Pelayo Berazadi (5)
Mackage (16): Lidia Gauss (0), Jack Hyde (5), Isidro Strada (7) & Ryan Pemble (4)
Perrier-Jouët (16): Philipp Mueller (0), Nacho Gonzalez (4), Hissam Hyder (4) & Max Charlton (6)
The Kusnacht Practice (15): Eduardo Greghi (0), Hugo Taylor (4), Gonzalo Ferrari (7) & Nico San Roman (4)
Flexjet (16): Santos Bollini (2), Marc Ganzi (1), Martin Jauregui (6) & Nic Roldan (7)

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