December 6, 2013
Polo on two wheels
LONDON — They play polo on bicycles, on elephants and not very successfully in cars... and mostly on horses, but the latest version is on the two-wheeled electric Segway — two wheels, a platform to stand on and a handlebar. They may be banned on British roads, but that has not stopped a London-based entrepreneur, Nick Magliocchetti, from assembling a team of enthusiasts to take on the world in the growing sport of Segway polo.
Segway polo was launched a decade ago in California and popularized by Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, after whom the annual Woz Challenge Cup was named. New Zealand, Germany and Lebanon are among the countries which send teams, but so far none from Britain. The last winners were Sweden who beat Barbados in the final. Magliocchetti hopes that Britain will be able to challenge for the cup in a couple of years if enough people can be found with a sense of balance.
Segway polo is similar to the sport on horses, with players trying to strike the ball with a mallet into a goal, but it is played on a field two-thirds the size of an ordinary polo field. Teams are composed of five players instead of four. The machines, which reach top speeds is around 16km, are certainly cheaper than a polo pony and can be bought second hand at around 4,000 dollars.
Skilled players, who include Wozniak, are able to manoeuvre with real agility, but accidents and injuries are frequent as it is quite a violent sport. Ramming is illegal, but it happens as Segways are not so easy to manoeuvre. Off the field, they were in the news when former US President George W. Bush fell off one in 2003 and when Jim Heselden, owner of the company that makes them, died after losing control and driving off a cliff in 2010.
Sweden recently built the first Segway polo training arena in the world, while in Britain they do not yet even have a field of their own to use. Magliocchetti said: “We’ve got everything against us, but it is a fantastic sport and I thought I would see if we can make it work here.”
CAMBIASO’S CLONES. I hear that leading Argentine polo player Adolfo Cambiaso has cloned about a hundred horses from his favourite mount, Aiken Cura (which has since had to be put down) and hopes that some of them may be playing polo this year. In fact, with the extent of cloning, it is quite possible that an entire team could soon be playing with cloned horses. But more about this later.