Rhonda Rajsich rocks Paola Longoria in thrilling women’s final
By TIMOTHY BAGHURST – Squash Mad Racquetball Correspondent
San José Indoor Club, Costa Rica, was the host venue for the 2017 Pan Am Championship, and what a Championship it turned out to be! Following an opening ceremony that included the presence of the Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, athletes competed in three days of round robin pool play before entering the single elimination bracket.
The outcome of each match contributed to each country’s points toward men’s, women’s, and a combined team title.
The Pan Am Championships are held every year, and the outcomes of these events are used to determine which teams qualify for the Pan Am Games, and how many players can be sent. The next Pan Am Games are scheduled for 2019 in Lima, Peru.
In 2016, Mexico claimed all four gold medals at the Pan Am Championship thanks to Paola Longoria (singles and doubles), Samantha Salas (doubles), Daniel De La Rosa (singles), and the duo of Javier Moreno and Alejandro Landa (doubles). This year, they took one less gold, but remained the team to beat in Pan America.
Fast forward to 2017 and the team remained the same for the women, with Longoria and Salas both playing singles and doubles. In the men’s division, Landa was selected to play both singles and doubles, but on this occasion he was joined by singles national champion Javier Mar and fellow doubles national champion Polo Gutierrez. Landa won the singles gold by beating Charlie Pratt of Team USA 15-10, 15-11 in the final.
Perhaps the match of the tournament was the women’s singles final, where American Rhonda Rajsich overcame three-time World Champion Longoria in a nail-biting 11-9 tiebreaker to claim gold.
It was a terrific match, and in front of a standing-room-only crowd, the atmosphere was electric. Rajsich lost the opening game 15-7 and battled her way through the second to win it 15-13, setting up a thrilling decider.
Mexico defended their title with three gold medals and a silver for 904 points, and USA followed with one gold and two silvers accruing 668 points. Although Bolivia were in no finals, collectively they captured third with 324 points.
Guatemala and Ecuador each had 310 points. Players from the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica also finished with bronze medals.
The next IRF tournament will be the Senior World Championships held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States beginning August 29. The tournament is open to all players over the age of 35.
More information about the IRF can be found at www.internationalracquetball.com or on Facebook.
Matches streamed at the Pan Am Championship will be available on the IRF YouTube Channel
Pictures courtesy of IRF