Silver Medal Finish For Team USA

Silver Medal Finish For Team USA FIP World Polo Championship A Monumental Debut For The USPA’s New National Polo Center

In a successful and monumental debut for the USPA-owned facility, the National Polo Center-Wellington (NPC) took center stage recently, hosting the global XII FIP World Polo Championship.

The competition welcomed eight talented teams from across the world for ultimate international polo glory — Argentina, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Uruguay and the United States. Outfitting the teams with official performance jerseys and equipment as the official apparel partner and presenting sponsor, U.S. Polo Assn. was proud to join forces once again with the FIP World Polo Championship to promote the brand.

Visiting teams arrived by Oct. 26 and drew one of eight evenly matched strings of 22 horses provided by J5 Equestrian, then spent time leading up to the first day of competition riding and practicing them to develop strategies. Bracket play began Oct. 29, and the competition officially started in grand fashion with the Opening Ceremony at NPC, which featured a team parade in classic cars and plenty of sideline spirit from spectators.

Over the course of the week-long event, Team USA (Agustin Arellano, Lucas Escobar, Nico Escobar, Jake Klenter, Hope Arellano, Joaquin Avendaño and Nico Diaz Alberdi) and Spain (Nicolas “Tuki” Ruiz Guiñazu, Luis Domnecq Carrión, Pelayo Berazadi Rózpide and Nicolas Álvarez Cervera) rose to the top of the competition. Both captured a 3-1 record entering the final.

In their opening match, USA triumphed 9-4 over Australia, establishing their position as one of the tournament’s dominant competitors. A slight setback followed, falling to Italy 6-4. Desperate for a win in order to qualify for the semifinal round, USA worked tirelessly in a physically and mentally exhausting battle to edge out Uruguay 7.5-7. In the semifinal match, Hope Arellano entered the playing field substituting for Jake Klentner. Making history, the 19-year-old polo phenom became the first woman to compete for the United States in an FIP World Polo Championship. Her addition to the lineup continued USA’s forward momentum, allowing two sets of siblings — Hope and Agustin Arellano, and Lucas and Nico Escobar — to emerge with an electrifying 9-8 overtime win against the defending champions and competition favorites, Argentina.

USA and Spain met on NPC’s immaculate U.S. Polo Assn. Field One in front of a sold-out grandstand crowd. It was an exciting game, and regulation time ended in a 10-10 deadlock to force overtime. Fierce play on both ends kept the match going through the overtime chukker’s halfway point, but a foul from USA gave Spain a penalty opportunity, which Pelayo Berazadi Rózpide masterfully scored, sending the ball high above the USA defenders to capture Spain’s first FIP World Polo Championship title. For his five-goal performance, golden goal and leadership on the field, Rózpide was named Most Valuable Player. His third and fifth chukker horse, J5 Matilde, was awarded Best Playing Pony honors.

An event that was years in the making, USPA Executive Director of Services Carlucho Arellano expressed how meaningful the success of the competition was, especially after meticulous planning efforts. “One thing that I promised when the U.S. was still bidding to be the host of the world championship was that we would give the world the very best of the USPA — the very best horses we could find, the very best venue and the very best service,” he said. “I think all of that planning really translates into good polo.”

FIP Tournament Coordinator Felipe Del Sel also described his pride in being a part of the team to bring the FIP World Polo Championship to the United States. “I think that the event went smoothly and exceeded all expectations,” he said. “FIP and the teams were really impressed with all the attention to detail and the level of fields, horses and accommodation. It was the perfect event to present the National Polo Center-Wellington to the world.”