Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Argentine Sports Update

Argentines have made their mark in sports - everybody knows about soccer, where they’ve won two World Cups and Diego Maradona may have been the greatest player ever. More recently Argentines have also made their mark in basketball (winning the Olympics in 2004), tennis, and other sports. Most recently, for different reasons, polo and golf have made the headlines.

Polo aficionados revere Argentina at least as much as soccer fans do, and Adolfo Cambiaso is the sport’s Maradona or Willie Mays. The Campeonato Abierto de Polo (pictured here), which takes place in Buenos Aires in November and December, is one of the world’s signature polo events. Last week, though, polo drew unfortunate publicity when 21 polo ponies from the Lechuza Caracas team - owned by Venezuelan multi-millionaire Víctor Vargas - died from apparent vitamin poisoning before the U.S Open in Wellington, Florida.

Most of Vargas’s players, though, are Argentines, and Argentine player Juan Martín Nero told a Buenos Aires newspaper that the five surviving horses did not take the vitamin mixture Biodyl, used to help the horses recover between matches. Biodyl may be illegal in the United States; in any event, this has raised the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, which in this case may have even been improperly mixed.

On a more positive note, just last week, Angel Cabrera became the first Argentine to win the Masters tournament, one of golf’s most prestigious competitions, in Augusta, Georgia. Cabrera, who rose from a humble upbringing in Córdoba province (where Ernesto “Che” Guevara also learned the sport) was the lowest-ranked golfer (69th) ever to win the Masters. He was also the first Argentine ever to win the U.S. Open (in 2007) and quite possibly the first Argentine ever to be caricatured in the satirical newspaper The Onion.

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