Friday, August 8, 2008

World Championships - They're excited!

Dateline - July 31, 2008

The International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships begin this Friday, August 1 in Kingscourt, Ireland, and the players are excited.

"Everyone gears up for Worlds," said Kris Odegard, who's playing doubles for Canada in Ireland. "It's more challenging and generally more intense than even other international competitions, like the Pan American Championships."

"There's also extra prestige, because we were chosen for Worlds," said Odegard.

Unlike most racquetball tournaments - even professional or National championships, there's a limit to how many players can represent each country at the World Championships (2 slots for singles and 2 for doubles for both men and women; some countries have the same players play singles and doubles), so several countries have a qualification process to select their team for Worlds.

Odegard also said "Worlds is about national pride, not individual pride, so it's different from playing on the pro tour."

One aspect that emphasizes that difference for Odegard is the opening ceremonies including the Athlete's Oath, which is a pledge for fair play and sportsmanship read during the opening ceremonies by a player representing all the athletes. 

Playing for one's country can also lead to a greater achievement than if one is just playing for oneself. Odegard's seen both the positive and negative side of that.

In his first competition for Canada, Odegard won gold at the 2006 Pan American Championships. But a few months later at the 2006 World Championships, he was upset in the Round of 16 by Simon Perdomo of the Dominican Republic, who was playing in his home country.

In fact, Perdomo came within two points of the semi-finals when he lost 11-9 in a tie-breaker to Abraham Pena of Mexico.

American Jack Huczek's comments in an interview at Worlds two years ago in Santo Domingo echo Odegard's feelings.

"I'm at Worlds, because it's a tremendous honor to play for the USA. The IRT is great, but it's not the same," said Huczek. "I love the opportunity to play for the US, and it's opened doors internationally. I've met people that I wouldn't have otherwise. I can't imagine not playing in these events."

(note: picture is Aimee Ruiz at the 2006 World Championships, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)

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