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  • Mexico, Cuba Battle for Lima Basque Pelota Crown


    (ATR) It is a fast-paced sport now 700 years old. Basque pelota is played inside a big hard court, surrounded by a net on one side. The goal of Basque pelota is to hit the ball against the wall, using all three walls and only one bounce.
    Fronton leather ball is one of the Basque pelota disciplines (Lima 2019)

    There are 15 variants, each one with a different name and some variables in the rules. For Lima the one called Peruvian fronton is the choice as it is the style of play in this country.

    In Saturday’s final day of competition in Basque pelota, 10 gold medals will be contested at the Pan Am Games.

    “We (the three brothers) started playing because our family used to play. We started as a hobby and now all of us compete on the different cups,” explained Santiago Andreasen from Argentina.

    “Back at home we only have one pro court in San Luis, but the sport, with its different variants, is really strong. Every week we have competitions, but if you want to turn pro, you have to travel to Europe.”

    The sport was first played in the 13th century and was known as jeu de paume or juego de palma, as it started in France and Spain. It was well known among the nobility and the clergy. And then was extended to the rest of society. With the essence from those times, the sport split into its varied styles but its basic rules always continued.

    “Our Basque pelota tradition is not that big. We don’t have a huge history on this, in fact, everyone who plays is because part of its family has Spanish traditions,” said Manuel Domínguez from Chile. “I started because of my grandparent who’s from Spain. We want to develop the sport, but football is still too strong.”

    Mexico leads the Basque pelota medal count in the Pan Am Games. (Lima 2019)
    Basque pelota became a Pan Am sport in 1995 at Mar del Plata and was played in Santo Domingo 2003 and Guadalajara 2011. Lima marks its Pan Am return.

    The Olympic history for Basque pelota begins at Paris in 1900 and 1924, Mexico City 1968 and Barcelona 1992, always a demonstration event. For the near future, there is no intention of including the sport in the Olympics again.

    Mexico is the leader in Pan Am Games competition history with 26 medals (14 gold, eight silver, and four bronze). The second place is held by Argentina with 19 medals (10 gold, three silver, and six bronze). Then Cuba, Uruguay, and Venezuela follow them with 22, seven and six.

    At the Barcelona Olympics, Spain won six gold medals, Mexico three and Argentina two.

    “We are Mexico and know the tradition and the responsibility Basque pelota means to us," explained Laura Puentes Villalobos. “Our country is full of free courts and lots of kids and tournaments are played there. The pelota level of competition is really excellent and that makes it interesting.”

    Reported in Lima by Olivia Diaz Ugalde. For general comments or questions, click here.
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