Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Acuña & Longoria win gold at The World Games 2022

Mexican Paola Longoria successfully continued her string of gold medals at The World Games, as she defeated Guatemalan Gabriela Martinez in the final of The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, 15-2, 9-15, 15-8, 15-9, on Wednesday. Longoria first won gold at The World Games 2009 and then again in 2013, which were the last two times racquetball has been in The World Games.

In contrast, Andres Acuña became the first Costa Rican to win racquetball gold at The World Games, as he defeated Mexican Rodrigo Montoya, 15-12, 15-13, 15-14, in the men's final. It’s Acuña’s first international gold medal.

But what’s most amazing about Longoria's feat is that she accomplished it after suffering an ankle injury late in game of the match. Indeed, when she gingerly limped off the court, it wasn’t clear that she was going to be able to continue. However, with the medical attention that was on hand for The World Games, she had her ankle taped up and took some pain killers and was able to get back on court.

Asked afterwards how much it hurt on a scale of 1-10, Longoria said “6” in that post match moment with the medicine in her, but at the time of the injury “12.”

Longoria started the match almost flawlessly, steamrolling through game one, when Martinez only served twice. However, in game two Martinez never trailed, and led most of the game. When the injury happened, she was up 9-8.

Longoria took over 11 min of injury time before play continued, and she was clearly not 100% when it did. Martinez was able to close out game two without difficulty, 15-9.

However, in the third game Longoria was able to keep it close early, and then as is her signature move, she pulled away in the mid game, taking the score from 5-5 to 9-5 with three winners and an error by Martinez.

The Guatemalan maintained the same strategy against Longoria after the injury as before, which did work for the first half of game two. Yet, given that the Mexican’s movement was clearly impaired a change in strategy seemed appropriate. But none was forthcoming from Martinez.

Asked afterwards if she was surprised that Martinez didn’t change her strategy after the injury, Longoria said “yes, but I like it.”

Thus, Longoria was able to stand and shoot, as Martinez’s shots and serves were generally straight in and straight out, rather coming at an angle to her opponent. Also, Martinez was often trying to end rallies early rather than extending play, which would have stressed Longoria’s injury more than going to winners with every shot.

Longoria went on to win game three, 15-8, without Martinez getting closer than two points. Game four was more of the same, as Longoria never trailed, and was only tied at 3-3. It made for a relatively comfortable 15-9 win, and a remarkable gold medal performance.

Acuña got off to a great start in the men’s final, as he jumped out to a 7-1 lead on Montoya. But the Mexican battled back, and if he had any sluggishness at the start, it was gone by the end of game one. But that didn’t prevent Acuña from taking the first game, 15-12.

Game two was similar in that Acuña got a big lead at 10-6 and then 14-8. Montoya fought off five game points closing to within one at 14-13. It looked like Acuña won the game on a spectacular shot he hit facing the back wall that went for a pinch roll out. But Montoya showed that the ball was broken, so the rally was replayed. Acuña won game two when Montoya finally made an error, skipping a backhand shot.

Game three was close all the way, and it was Montoya who got to 14 first, as Acuña skipped a backhand shot. But he then denied Montoya the game point with a great backhand pinch serve return that he took out of the air just past the dashed line.

The rally at 14-14 was a slugfest, with balls being hit back and forth. It only ended when Acuña hit a forehand kill shot that rolled out, and was impossible for Montoya to return.

In the men’s bronze medal matches, Andree Parrilla of Mexico defeated Mario Mercado of Colombia, 15-13, 15-10, 15-11, so Mexican men won two medals at The World Games this year just as they did in 2013, the last time racquetball was in The World Games.

The women’s bronze medal was won by Bolivian Angelica Barrios, who defeated Mexican Samantha Salas, 15-4, 15-12, 9-15, 15-12. Barrios’s medal is the first for a Bolivian at The World Games.

The World Games 2022 - Birmingham, Alabama

Men’s Singles - Gold medal final - Wednesday July 13

2) Andres Acuña (Costa Rica) d. 8) Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico), 15-12, 15-13, 15-14

Men’s Singles - Bronze medal final - Wednesday July 13

5) Andree Parrilla (Mexico) d. 3) Mario Mercado (Colombia), 15-13, 15-10, 15-11

Women’s Singles - Gold medal final - Wednesday July 13

1) Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. 6) Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala), 15-2, 9-15, 15-8, 15-9

Women’s Singles - Bronze medal final - Wednesday July 13

5) Angelica Barrios (Bolivia) d. 7) Samantha Salas (Mexico), 15-4, 15-12, 9-15, 15-12

 Follow the bouncing ball….

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