Saturday 20 August 2016
The 21st edition of the Hublot Polo Gold Cup opened its gates on Thursday 18th August, as crowds from across the globe descended upon the Gstaad-Saanen airfield to witness what is promised to be a thrilling weekend of Polo.
This year welcome’s not only new teams, but also an enhanced VIP experience. The new lay-out includes extended decking, increased space in the fine dining area and the VIP car park which allows guests to park just metres away from the tent along with the Ferrari car park dedicated for the Ferrari car owners. The exhibition village walk way has also been extended so that all guests are able to walk undercover should the rain make an appearance.
DAY ONE: TEAM POLO FRIENDS SET THE BAR HIGH IN THE QUALIFIERS
Team Polo Friends, new to the tournament this year, showed they are a force to be reckoned in the opening game, securing a mammoth 11-4 victory over Team Banque Eric Sturdza. Juan Jose Storni dazzled on the pitch with his intricate skills, scoring a hat-trick to put his team into an unbeatable position. Team Banque Eric Sturdza fought valiantly but were unable to catch up with the opposition and had to settle for a loss.
The second match of the day was a much closer battle as home favourites, Team Gstaad Palace, took on Team Hublot, the first-ever Chinese Team to compete at the tournament, and narrowly claimed a win with a score of 6-4 ½. Despite some outstanding defence from Marcos di Paola, the formidable pairing of Patrizio Cieza and Juan Pepa were unstoppable, showing off their aesthetic skills to keep Team Gstaad Palace ahead throughout the duration game.
DAY TWO: PARADE DAZZLES STREETS OF GSTAAD
The Hublot Polo Gold Cup, would not be complete without the traditional parade through the picturesque village of Gstaad, held on Friday. Surrounded by the theme of red and gold flooding the cobbled streets to welcome the new Chinese Team, spectators enjoyed the glorious sun that beamed down as they waited for the parade to begin.
The deep tones of the traditional Swiss Cow Bells marked the start of the proceedings, followed by the echoes of the rhythm drums and the roaring of the Ferrari engines, paving the way for the players. Team Hublot, led by the Captain Shilai Liu, owner of the Tang Polo Club in Beijing, were first to appear on their, dressed in kit from head to toe. The Chinese flags were waving amongst the onlookers to welcome him and his team to the tournament for the first time. As the rest of the teams followed, along with the flawless marching band, sweets and biscuits were thrown to the public, much to the enjoyment of the kids who scrambled to claim their prize.
DAY THREE: DRAMATIC SEMI-FINALS DAY SEES TEAM HUBLOT AND TEAM BANQUE ERIC STURDZA THROUGH TO TOMORROW’S FINAL FOLLOWING STUNNING VICTORIES
The rain only made a brief appearance as record crowds from across the globe arrived for the penultimate day of the tournament. The Ferrari engines thundered onto the pitch, as Pierre Genecand, President of the event, presented the match ball in true glamourous style to mark the start of the first semi-final.
Team Gstaad Palace, winners in 2013, emerged on the pitch first to take on Team Banque Eric Sturdza. With the rivalries clear for all to see, the opening chukka was played in a fierce and fast fashion. It was Team Banque Eric Sturdza’s, Olavo Novaes, who engineered his side into an early lead with a spectacular aerial shot in front of the posts. The Argentinian pairing of Llorente and Cieza combined superbly and a long pass from Cieza enabled Llorente to flick the ball across the line and level the score to 1-1 heading into the second half of the match. The battle was on.
Despite Team Gstaad Palace’s best efforts, Team Banque Eric Sturdza dominated the final two chukkas and could not be caught claiming their spot in the final with a final score 7-4.
Team Hublot came out in full-force to take on Team Polo Friends in the second semi-final of the day. The game was adrenaline fuelled from the outset but it was Team Hublot that raced ahead in the first chukka with Antonino Menard scoring from an acute angle to give them a 2-0 lead. Thursday’s star player, Juan Jose Storni, once again showed off his trickery and intricate skills and was rewarded with a goal to close the gap on their rivals.
Spectators were treated to a dramatic final chukka as Team Polo Friends looked as though they were on the verge of an epic come back with the unrivalled pairing of Guerra and Labat adding two goals to their tally to take the score to 6-5. At full time scores were level at 7-7 resulting in a nail biting fifth sudden death chukka to be played. In just three seconds the hero was Marcos di Paola as he fired the ball up the pitch and volleyed it through the posts to clinch Team Hublot’s place in tomorrow’s final.
Tomorrow’s highly anticipated final between Team Banque Eric Sturdza and Team Hublot begins at 15:00, with the subsidiary final between Team Gstaad Palace and Team Polo Friends starting at 13:30. Entry is free and doors open at 11am.
Team Banque Eric Sturdza, Cedric Schweri: “Into the final for the first time in four years, we are delighted. The team is gelling so well, we didn’t expect to win today, especially with a completely new team but it has paid off.”
Team Hublot, Shilai Liu: “That was a tough game, the Team Polo Friends played very well. The game was tight, but we were lucky to score the golden goal fast, giving us the chance to play the final. Will try our best tomorrow to win.”