May 04, 2023 4:00 AM
A first of its kind, next week, history will be made with the inaugural Federation of International Polo (FIP) Arena World Polo Championship at La Carona Polo Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Reflecting the same style and format as the FIP World Polo Championship, the event will bring together several talented teams from countries around the world to battle in elite international arena competition. In the competition’s first edition, six teams will compete representing Argentina, Austria, France, Morocco, the United States and Uruguay. Played at the 10- to 12-goal level, the event will begin on Monday, May 1 and will conclude Saturday, May 6.
A team of four has been selected by the USPA International Committee to represent the red, white and blue. The collective includes Jared Sheldon (5), Miguel Torres (5), Jack McLean (2) and alternate and coach Jorge Vásquez (3). Each boasting an impressive career in the sport and all having a connection to Intercollegiate/Interscholastic polo, together, the group hopes to bring home the inaugural trophy for USA.
“I grew up playing arena polo and started playing with adults when I was seven,” shared 5-goaler Sheldon. He was brought up in the sport by his family, with famed grandfather Russell Sheldon and Poway Polo Club (Poway, California) founder and father Billy Sheldon. Sheldon went on to compete in interscholastic polo for Poway, creating a successful career for himself at an early age. “I started playing interscholastic polo with my cousins Shane and Danika Rice at Poway Polo when I was in sixth grade. We won four Western regional tournaments and two Open National Interscholastic Championships during that time. The only two games we lost over the four years were the finals of nationals. Once they graduated, I continued to play my next three years with Poway and won two more regional tournaments and went to two more national tournaments.” Sheldon was also awarded the Interscholastic Player of the Year Award in 2005.
Also hailing from California, 5-goaler Torres started playing at just 5 years old at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California. “I grew up in Southern California with a lot of other polo friends where we played foot mallet polo all day before we even started riding, which I think was such a great start,” he commented. “Eldorado was fun with all the leagues they offered, and it got me going with pro pool games all the way to 14 goal. Then being in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez for the spring and summer, I was able to be around and play in medium to high goal, which made for a great yearly schedule.”
Growing up, Torres played interscholastic polo with Eldorado, winning the 2005 National Open Interscholastic Championship. In college, he played for Texas A&M winning the 2010 Men’s National Intercollegiate Championship.
22-year-old 2-goaler McLean, the youngest player on the team, has also had a fruitful arena career. McLean began riding at the age of 6 and began playing polo when he was 12. McLean won back-to-back National Open Interscholastic Championship titles with Maryland Polo in 2017 and 2018. Most recently, in 2022, McLean capped off his I/I career with a Division I Men’s National Intercollegiate Championship with the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia). He was also awarded the Intercollegiate Player of the Year Award in 2022.
Rounding out the group, 3-goaler and USPA Midstates Circuit Governor Jorge Vásquez joins the competition as an alternate and coach for USA. Though never a direct I/I participant, 3-goaler Vasquez has found joy in coaching interscholastic and intercollegiate polo for the past two decades. He remarked, “I coached the University of Kentucky to the 2010 Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship. I've always been with I/I polo, and I love it.” His home club is Commonwealth Polo Club in Paris, Kentucky.
An arena polo enthusiast, Vásquez appreciates the opportunity that this competition offers to create prestige in arena polo. “I'm really looking forward to giving arena polo more exposure because I do love arena. I love polo in general, but I love arena. It's a very good way to get everyone involved in the game and make them be part of the game quicker than outdoor would do. Obviously, it’s more economical, therefore making it more accessible to more people.”
Though the group has not played together before as a team, many of the players are familiar with one another. Torres explained, “I was around Jared growing up and we have been friends for a while. We have never played together in outdoor polo, but many times against each other. We have also never played together in the arena, but I know he is a great player and even better teammate. When you talk about U.S. arena polo, I know many people think of him, his father and his grandfather, so playing with him is something I’m looking forward to very much.” A true force to be reckoned with in the arena, Sheldon has triumphed twice in the U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship and once in the Townsend Cup.
Torres continued, “I have never had the chance to play with Jack, but I think he’s a great player from all the games I’ve seen. I’m excited to play with him and looking forward to having a new teammate. I enjoy playing with new people, especially when they’re as skilled as he is and coming from a great program like UVA.”
A well-rounded, talented and experienced collective, the group is prepared to represent the USA. Looking forward to the chance to meet teams from around the world and compete against them, Torres commented, “I think the FIP is a great organization and I have always liked the idea of the world of polo coming together and competing against each other.
Meeting and playing against different players is ultimately what it’s all about to further enjoy our sport together.”
More information on the tournament schedule will be available soon.
*Jared Sheldon is Team USPA alumnus. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More