The mantelpiece of Adolfo Cambiaso
By Victoria Elsbury-Legg
The man who truly seems to have the unstoppable polo Midas touch must also need a mantelpiece the full length of the boards he so often gallops parallel too as he seemly effortlessly carries the ball from the goal posts at either end of the pitch. For if one was to take every award, trophy and cup that Adolfo Cambiaso has won, in every year he has been swinging his stick across the polo pitch since 1988, it would indeed be a truly legendary sight.
From my personal research whilst working at Guards Polo Club and writing a piece about the history of the Queen’s Cup, one name that stood out amongst the silver banded tiers over the years (albeit underneath and alongside different teams and teammates) was ‘A Cambiaso’. Earlier this year in August under the Sotogrande sun Adolfo Cambiaso achieved an unbelievable record 150th win, this time with team Valiente (Robert Jornayvaz, Santiago Laborde and Santiago Torres) who together lifted the Bronze Cup in the first High Goal Final of 2014 at the 43rd Land Rover International Polo Tournament at Santa Maria Polo Club. This victory was to precede him and team Valiente doing the ‘triple’ in Spain by then winning the Silver and Gold Cups as well.
As everyone in the polo world knows, one triple win was followed by another a few months later in Argentine in recent weeks where La Dolfina also historically ‘did the double’ as Triple Crown champions two years in succession, something which has not happened since Cambiaso was eight months old, thirty-nine years ago in 1975 when the defending champions Coronel Suárez won the final of the AAP’s Campeonato Argentino Abierto for two consecutive years in 1974 and 1975.
Last week at an awards ceremony, which this time did not have a polo pitch in sight, he once again ‘did the double’ when he was presented with the most important prize and title in Argentine sport, the ‘Olimpia de Oro’ award for being the Argentine sportsman of 2014, at the 60th awards ceremony of the Circle of Sports Journalists in La Rural Palermo. Cambiaso has won the Silver Olimpia award for being the ‘Best Polo Player of the Year’ a total of ten times (he won it again this year) but only once before has a polo player been honoured with the title of ‘Argentine sportsman of the Year’ and that was in 1976, when the legendary Juan Carlos Harriot as part of team Coronel Suárez also lifted the award.
An ecstatic Cambiaso (who despite injuries has just continued to win this season) spoke after being presented with his awards thanking ‘absolutely everybody: my wife, Maria, who was a big support and helped me keep going; my trainer, who helped me recover from my injuries. Not to mention my three team mates – Juanma, Pelón and Pablo. I want to thank all of them for their support and for having chosen to play with me and La Dolfina.’ Then it was the turn of the team coach Milo Fernández Araujo (nicknamed ‘Mourinho’) ‘I want to dedicate this award to Milo. When we won the first Triple Crown he told me – the only thing I can say to motivate you is that if we go for a second Triple Crown, you will win the Golden Olimpia Award’.
Summing up what his win means for the sport he said: ‘I still can’t believe this… this award means so much for polo. This is something that everybody will see; it’s a contribution to make polo a bigger sport and to include more people… I have made a huge effort to make polo a more popular sport.’
Unquestionable Cambiaso has succeeded. When he next appears on an English polo pitch he will have turned 40, given that he was the youngest player to reach 10 goals after he won the Triple Crown in Argentina with Ellerstina in 1994 (putting even more perspective on it, Facundo Pieres was then 8 years old) twenty years on he is still top of his game. At 12 years old he held a 1 goal handicap, which by age 15 had increased to 6, from 19 years old, with 10 goals punctuating his surname, the rest as they say is history.