Monday, January 2, 2012

Top 10 Racquetball Stories of 2011

It's that traditional looking back at the past time of year, as we cast an eye back to the year that was, and highlight what caught our eye over the last twelve months. There were arrivals, departures, returns and continuities in 2011.

Here's The Racquetball Blog Top 10 Racquetball Stories of 2011:

10) Ruben Gonzalez. A legend of racquetball, former #1 on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and 4 time US National champion (once in singles, thrice in doubles), Gonzalez signed a contract with Ektelon to do a farewell season on the IRT with the goal of making the top 10 by his 60th birthday in 2012. Early results suggest he won't make that goal, but it's nice way to mark the end of a remarkable career.

9) Samantha Salas. Salas finished ranked 3rd at the end of the 2010-11 Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) season, which was a career high and aided by her first tour win. This season, Salas was a finalist and semi-finalist twice, and also won two gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games (in doubles and the team event). It was a great year for Salas, but it didn't end well, as she missed the last WPRO event due to a shoulder injury. Hopefully, Salas can recover and continue her fine play.

8) Retirements. The IRT lost two other significant players this year but with much less ceremony than Gonzalez is receiving. Mitch Williams chose retirement after suffering a serious injury at the 2010 US Open. Less expected and even less ceremoniously, former #1 Jack Huczek walked away from the IRT prior to the end of last season as he took a job outside of racquetball.

7) Rhonda Rajsich. Rajisch finished the 2010-11 season #1 after two seasons as #2. Rajsich won four WPRO events including the US Open for a record 4th time.

6) Gigi Rock becomes WPRO Commissioner. Shannon Feaster left the WPRO at the end of last season, and it was uncertain who the replacement would be. Along came Gigi Rock, a racquetball outsider and marketer by profession, who took the reins and is endeavoring to make more connections between the WPRO and other women's sporting groups, including the introduction of a new website.

5) Rocky Carson. Carson continued his excellent play in 2011, finishing 2nd on the IRT by winning one tournament, and reaching the final of every event except for one. He then represented the USA at the Pan Am Games, and won the gold medal in singles and helped Team USA earn silver in the team event.

4) International wins at Junior Worlds. The USA Junior Team won only one gold medal at Junior Worlds this year, which may be an all time low. Consider that they won 5 in 2010, 6 in 2009, 8 in 2008, and you can see what a drop off this was. The timing of the 2011 Junior Worlds coming as it did shortly after the US Junior Nationals in July may have had something to do with it. But certainly players from other countries are getting better. Mexico won multiple gold in 2011. Bolivia won gold for the fourth consecutive year, and Canada also won gold in 2011. Projecting this forward, it means it will only get more difficult for Americans to get on the international podium at both junior and senior events.

3) Racquetball returns to Pan Am Games. Speaking of international podiums, racquetball returned to the Pan American Games in 2011 with the event in Guadalajara, Mexico. All reports indicate it was a spectacular event, and the home nation cleaned up winning 7 medals overall, including 5 gold. The Pan Am Games are the largest sporting event short of the Summer Olympic Games, so racquetball's inclusion in the games is a great thing. The 2015 Pan Am Games will in Toronto, and racquetball should again be on the program.

2) Kane Waselenchuk. He plays. He wins. It's that simple. Truly remarkable. Next week, Waselenchuk will play in the California Open, which is the last tournament where he was defeated on court, and that was 3 years ago. He'll lose again, eventually, but don't ask us to bet on it happening any time soon, because we won't.

1) Paola Longoria. Waselenchuk was our top story the first three years we've done this, but this year we're giving the top story to Longoria. Longoria was Mexico's sportswoman of the year; a racquetball player signified as the best athlete in a nation! That's a tremendous honor. Then on arguably the largest stage for a racquetball event and in her home country, Longoria followed that honor up with three gold medals (singles, doubles & team event) at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara. Oh, and two weeks before Pan Ams, Longoria won her second US Open title. Quite a year. She's put herself back in the #1 spot on the WPRO, and we expect her to be there for awhile.

There are The Racquetball Blog's top 10 racquetball stories of 2010. If you think we missed something, please leave a comment.

We look forward to another year of following the bouncing ball.

Happy New Year everyone!

Follow the bouncing ball....


Mark Frohman said...

Thanks for this awesome racquetball blog. Most informative info on the sport in the world. Keep up the great work.

Mark Frohman said...

The Racquetball Blog is the gold standard for reporting on the sport. Thank you for all of your efforts. It truly is appreciated.

Mark Frohman

The Racquetball Blog said...

Thank you, Mr Frohman, for the kind words. Please keep following the blog and tell your racquetball friends about it. Best wishes, TRB