The second edition of the Women’s Open Championship—a tournament which is unique in that teams play six chukka matches with no handicap limit—will come to an end on Saturday at Palermo. This tournament recruits only the best female players. Women’s polo has gradually evolved to become what it is today: a discipline that is growing day by day. It took time to establish not only this championship, but also a competitive calendar of women’s polo; now we are here and the sky is the limit for female players.
Firstly, women’s polo on an international level is no longer composed of a conglomeration of isolated tournaments. Rather, several competitions in their respective countries have come together to form the basis of a season. England, for example, hosted a circuit of six 18-goal tournaments for a second year in a row; each tournament also offered a lower level category. This year, ten teams played the Ladies British Open in Cowdray Park.
This Women’s Open final will arguably see the top eight female players in the world. The most dominant in the female polo circuit are Nina Clarkin (the only player rated 10-goal), Hazel Jackson and Lía Salvo. A quick look at the winners of the most important tournaments played in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, England, France, Italy, USA, or Argentina will show the name of at least one of these three players. The fourth place in the world ranking—the girl most likely to rival these three in the future— goes to Candelaria Fernández Araujo, Milo’s daughter, who at just seventeen has shown innate talent and great skill on the field.
It is worth highlighting that, unlike in men’s polo, Argentina does not dominate the female polo circuit. England has developed an important professional structure, including the aforementioned circuit of six tournaments, and is the most important season in the world when it comes to women’s polo. Next on the list, mainly due to resources, is the United States. However, a closer look at the matter is sure to show that Argentina is also up to par in terms of young and upcoming players.
The recent growth in the sport has encouraged more patrons to support women’s polo. Many women have begun to build a professional structure, investing time in planning their annual calendar, training for the season, and forming an organisation. Also, the quantity of tournaments now allows players and patrons to plan their year in a way that is beneficial both economically and logistically.
The advancement of women’s polo today is largely due to several female pioneers, who began playing polo in spite of a lack of possibilities and certain discrimination. Women like Myriam Heguy, Claire Tomlinson, Sunny Hale (considered the best of all times), Mumi Bellande, Paola Martínez, Caroline Anier and Marianela Castagnola.
The Women’s Open has grown thanks to all the women who worked day in and day out to make it a possibility, but also due to the support from two of the most important names in polo: Adolfo Cambiaso and Milo Fernández Araujo. Saturday’s final will showcase the highest level of female polo in the world, not only because of the quality of players, but also due to the level of horses, the organisations, and the coaches supporting both teams. La Dolfina Brava will have Milo Fernández Araujo in their corner as coach, while El Overo Z7 UAE boasts both Lucas Monteverde and Horacio Heguy. This will be a star-studded match, no doubt about it!
Lastly, an official women’s ranking was formed this year: The Women’s World Polo Tour. The circuit is set to grow in 2019, making it more competitive than ever.
On Saturday, at 1pm, on Palermo’s number two ground, history will be made. The 2017 final, which went to extra chukka, was unforgettable, but both teams have grown a lot over this past year. Get ready—this is one final you don’t want to miss!
WOMEN’S ARGENTINE OPEN FINAL: LA DOLFINA BRAVA VS EL OVERO Z7 UAE
LA DOLFINA BRAVA: Mia Cambiaso, Milagros Fernández Araujo, Candelaria Fernández Araujo, Nina Clarkin.
EL OVERO Z7 UAE: Clara Cassino, Sarah Wiseman, Lia Salvo, Hazel Jackson.