Que Bonita Bandera!

(Sept. 3) The CIJB opening ceremonies were celebrated in the town of Franeker, Holland.

As countries were introduced, an iridescent colored display of flag twirlers and gymnansts summersaulted into the air with 600 spectators in attendence at the Unive Verzekeringen Sporting Complex. The grand marshall of the inauguration opened the games by serving a “Skybounce” ball against a green drape that unveiled the  wall size Kaatsen 2012 mural.  The tournament had 11 countries from Europe and South America participating in 4 events:Llarges , International, one-wall handball, and Frisnian over 6 days of competition.

The men’s event for one-wall unfolded with four pools of countries that played a round robin format.  Puerto Rico opened up with Edgar “Macho” Diaz (Cpt.) and Jessica Lopez who stepped in for teamate Wally Amaro who was on a delayed flight. In Round 1, the mixed duo wasted no time killing shots to take a comanding lead against the brut strength of Uruaguay ( 8-1).  The crowd swarmed court 3 to watch Puerto Rico drive and dig shots past Uruaguay’s Jose Airala and Fabian Hernedez in two sets of 11-4 and 11-5.

Round two, Ecuador forfeited leaving Diaz/Lopez to faced-off against France’s Gregory Fontaine and Andy Couteau in round 3. The crowds swelled to watch Diaz/Lopez steal the first game (11-4), but fell short the second game( 8-11) which took the battle to a  nail bitting tie breaker of  only 7 points.  As Puerto Rico came to a close to being elliminated, Diaz accidently hit his oppenent  in the eye resulting in a medical time-out.  Despite having one point left to win, France was gaining momentum at a close (6-4) and were up to serve.   Coach David Aubursin from France called for a substitution, which was the same moment Wally Amaro arrived with luggage in hand to the sporting complex, and both teams opted to reload with new players. France’s enthusiasm plummeted with the swap, and Puerto Rico secured the win(7-5)!  Next Puerto Rico toppled The Nederlands’ Michel van der Veen and Hans Wassenaar (11-6, 11-5), and Spain’s Alvaro Lopez and Victor Bueno won their bracket to duele with Diaz/Amaro Jr. who went on to win the quarter finals in straight sets (11-9,11-1).

The stands filled as the national anthem of Mexico and Puerto Rico played.  Diaz/Amaro went on to be dubbed with the title as the cijb’s best one-wall team in the world, but it wasn’t without difficulty.  In the tumultuous final they got swept by the reigning  pelota basque champs Alejandro Martin Lopez Garces and Juan Medina Espinosa who are accustomed to playing on a 90 foot long court! The men did battle only to find Mexico was consistent and possibly more powerful at the long line.  They seemed impenatrable, but during the break Puerto Rico changed tactics by becoming offensive in a two-on-one style which seemed foreign to the opponent.  As Diaz/Amaro took the lead, Mexico waned.  Their positioning was too far back from the service line and placed them at a disadvantage.  Puerto rico persistent attacks off the fly, lead to flattening of the next 8 plays and leading a crowd pleasing victory (2-11,11-2,7-2).


Pool A                        Pool B                   Pool C              Pool D

Puerto Rico 1st        Mexico 2nd         Paraguay        England

Uruaguay                  Venezuela          Columbia        Peru

Ecuador                     Nederland         Ireland             Argentina

France                        Italy                    Spain 4th         Belgium 3rd