Bike polo: “I became addicted to this sport”
Could the Irishman Richard J. Mecredy have foreseen that? In 1891, so say the history books, he started hitting balls into a goal using mallets for a laugh. Nowadays, bike polo is an international, upcoming urban sport which is played by thousands of enthusiasts worldwide.
Minimal equipment is needed to play: It requires a basic bike, a mallet, which can be easily made at home, and a small ball. The most important thing: Enthusiastic players. It is no longer a problem to find these. Bike polo arrived in Europe ten years ago and is more popular than ever. Tournaments regularly take place in various European cities in which people from around the globe take part.
What is bike polo?
Bike polo is a team sport. A team consists of three players on bikes who try to hit the ball into the opposing team’s goal using a mallet. They are not allowed to touch the floor with their feet – if this happens they cannot intervene in the game until they have hit the designated area with their mallet. The game ends either after ten minutes or when a team has scored five goals.
Janku: “A few minutes changed my life”
“One-handed cycling was completely new to me”, explains Jirka Janku, a Czech bike polo player from Prague, when looking back at his first (bicycle) test rides. “Holding a mallet at the same time seemed impossible. However, after a brief familiarisation period, I found it much easier and the game became more fun by the minute.” Today, Janku is a multiple tournament champion and even reached fifth place at the world championships in New Zealand in February 2016. “A few minutes at the beginning of my bike polo career changed my life dramatically. I became addicted to this sport.”
However, it is not just the sport which fascinates players worldwide. It has developed into a scene in which friendships are made. “Everyone knows everyone”, says Johannes Leitich and Marco Wenegger from Graz. Both belong to the “Bikepolo Graz” club which has already participated in international tournaments and was even state champion in 2015. “At tournaments the clubs are desperate to qualify because everyone knows each other and it is about more than just the sport”, says Leitich. The participants provide sleeping accommodation for other teams at events, go out together after the games and remain in close contact.
Lots of friends, one passion
Bike polo is anything but a male-dominated sport. Mixed teams often feature at international competitions and there are even several women’s tournaments. Gitti la Mar from Berlin loves the sport like no other – and she also enjoys the “side effects” that come with a bike polo fascination. “I have got to know lots of great people who are united by their passion for this sport, even though we are all very different”, she explains.
For her, bike polo is the most demanding sport that she has ever practised. “It is very challenging physically. It is a mixture of acrobatics, speed, power, team sport and coordination. It combines many things”, says Gitti. And she would know: The Berliner has been awarded “Most valuable player” several times at “Hell’s Belles” – the largest international women’s tournament.