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First Worlds10 years after the 1st World Championships, canoe polo has come a long way to this years's 6th Worlds in Miyoshi Japan. Inside is a nostalgic look back at the first worlds as featured in the September 1994 issue of Canoeist Magazine.



The first world polo championships were held at Ponds Forge in the pool built in 1991 for the world student games in Sheffield. They followed on from last year's European championships in this pool and repeated some of the innovations from that event. These included a ball holder for the charge starts rather than having to rely on the sometimes indifferent throwing abilities of referees. The information paperwork on teams was also of a much higher standard than previously. The whole event was relaxed and efficient but ran smoothly, due not least to a lot of hard work behind the scenes by Sheffield and Pennine canoe clubs who provided much of the manpower for the Polo Committee officials.

Hiroshi Takeshige demonstrates that the Japanese mean business The major difficulty occurred with the scrutineering of equipment. Over half the equipment checked in this first world championships had to be modified to comply with the published dimensions and this is a matter which will need to be given adequate consideration before other major polo tournaments. There was also discussion of the Japanese off the shoulder buoyancy aids in fetching pink.

Other aspects marked this event out from world championships in other disciplines. Only in polo do team captains exchange pennants before the start of each game. Only in polo are there ritual chants by many of the teams, including a Maori greeting chant by the full New Zealand squad before each of their games or French ladies dancing to the combined operatic talents of an Italian male voice choir in the restaurant.

18 countries attended with a full spectrum of abilities ranging from the world's crack teams to others who did not know that tackling was allowed. Nations did not hold back because of lack of experience. South Africa brought most of their players and Canada brought all of theirs, never having been able to play five a side before their visit to Britain because there are only seven polo players in North America.

Others lacked experience but learned quickly from this tournament. Such a team were Chinese Taipei who lost 12 - 0 to the Netherlands in their first game. In their second game they were losing 4 - 0 to Ireland but suddenly found their feet and pulled 2 goals back. They then went on to beat Japan, Canada and South Africa before being narrowly defeated by the experienced New Zealand team and drawing with Italy.

Massimo Desiali of Brazil searches in vain for someone to receive his passA team to become favourites with the spectators were Brazil who were beaten 20-0 by Australia, 17 - 0 by Belgium and 12 - 0 by New Zealand before beating Canada 2-1 and getting more respectable results against Austria and Japan. They were one of the teams for whom their liaison officers provided coaching and some impressive increases in standard resulted during the tournament. Indeed, the Brazilians were trying to tempt their liaison officer to come back to Brazil as a permanent coach with promises of girls and sunny beaches.

Britain had anticipated their opening men's game against Italy to be an easy tie but were shocked to be held to a 2 - 0 win. Clearly, the Italians had made dramatic improvements in their performance. On the other hand, the 9 - 0 British win against Finland would have been higher but for excellent goalkeeping by Seppala.

In their tie with Britain, France had possession for much of the game but there was no score. The breakthrough came 3 minutes from the final hooter when Harrison sank a penalty and Smale put away a second 7 seconds before time. It was a game which Britain were keen to win. As leader of their group they would then play Ireland in the quarter final, rather than having to face the Netherlands. It was to be an easy tie which Britain won 7 - 0.

Amongst the other group games, the match between Australia and Belgium was unexpectedly exciting, the Belgians holding the score to 3-2 and including a very stylish upward hook into the goal from Daloze.

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