Sunday, June 22, 2014 9:20 am ET
by Cheryl Kirk
Wow, what a run…the US Team left it all on the courts over these seven days and came out #1, defending yet again the World Championship title! Only once in the history of the IRF World Championships has the US Team not earned the #1 slot (Canada won in the year 2000).
Coach Dave Ellis had this to say: “Yesterday was memorable with Rocky Carson winning a record-breaking fourth World Singles Championship. Rhonda, Aimee, and Janel ended with silver while Ben, José, and Tom took a bronze. Aubrey got the silver in the Women’s Blue division. The entire US Team contributed to the defense of our World Championship title with each one earning significant points. I am so proud of the unity of this team after having watched them pull together for the last 11 days. There was mutual support throughout our time here in Burlington, and at our traditional team toast after the medals ceremony, all expressed positive feelings toward their teammates. As Coach, I’m grateful to all the players for their 100% effort at all times. My gratitude extends to our outstanding staff of RO Carson, Cheryl Kirk, and Brent Huff. WE DID IT!! The overall championship title still belongs to the United States of America. Every racquetball player in the USA can be proud.”
Finals matches came out like this:
Rhonda Rajsich (USA) vs. Paola Longoria (Mexico), 6-15, 8-15
Aubrey Kirch (USA) vs. Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador), 14-15, 8-15 (Blue division)
Rocky Carson (USA) vs. Conrado Moscoso (Bolivia), 15-3,15-8
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger (USA) vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico), 4-15, 12-15
All four Gold finals matches were streamed live on the IRF Network. It was exciting to hear that President Evo Morales of Bolivia was going to be tuning in to the Men’s Singles final, and in fact, he requested that the match be made available to be broadcast live on Bolivian TV. John Scott and the IRF made it happen. Cool!
Medals Ceremony at the Club
After the Men’s Doubles final was played (Colombia defeated Canada), the LOC and young local people were on hand to assist with the giving of the medals, the bearing of country flags, and the playing of the national anthems of the winning Gold division individuals and countries.
Final standings by country:
Combined Overall Team
A full listing of individual and team results can be found at www.internationalracquetball.com.
The Saturday evening banquet was first class. A (relatively) small marching band and flag squad began the evening. Everyone enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner, presentations of thanks by Racquetball Canada to its staff and volunteers, the bestowing of gifts to the host country by a number of national federations (a tradition at each event), and then the music of a DJ for dancing the night away. The Japanese delegation wore their native kimonos and obis. The US Team and Team Ireland (who particularly hit it off throughout the week) continued their camaraderie and said their goodbyes at the end of the evening (whenever that actually was).
The US Team Delegation wishes to deliver our gratitude to those who made the event so truly memorable:
Jonathan Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being Official Apparel Sponsor for USA Racquetball and the US Team
All the individuals who made contributions large and small...every bit counts! The Team USA Challenge on www.usaracquetball.com provides the opportunity for racquetball players to support the US Team with their participation at international competitions.
The Local Organizing Committee and Racquetball Canada (Adrian Webb & Company, Jack McBride, and Cheryl Adlard) for putting on a fantastic event. The work behind the scenes to pull of a tournament of this magnitude is massive. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was pitching in from staffing the players lounge to driving the shuttles and everything in between.
The tournament staff (Osvaldo Maggi, Francisco Kurzbard, Gary Mazaroff, et al.)
The referees who came in from several countries and all over Canada to provide a top-notch experience to the players, including the happy gift that no player had to ref the next match
John Scott for bringing the semifinals and finals to nearly 10,000 viewers on the IRF Network
The many volunteers and employees who worked tirelessly in support of this event and its players, coaches, and delegates from the 21 countries in attendance
The staff of the Burlington Holiday Inn and Convention Centre who continually served us in the spirit of “Yes! Now, what’s the question?”
The friendly staff of the Cedar Springs Health, Racquet & Sportsclub
Last but not least, Leo Vasquez who stopped whatever else he might have been doing as soon as a blog and photos were ready for posting!
Thanks for tuning in to the blogs. The team sends their heartfelt gratitude for all the support via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages, and telepathy.
Back to the USA!
Everyone departed today for home with the exception of RO, Lauren, Rocky, and Jenn Carson who are staying a few more days to visit Niagara Falls and New York City before returning home at the end of the week.
Those who caught the early shuttle this morning were tired but upbeat. There’s nothing like heading for home with medals, trophies, and knowing the job was extremely well done!
Great Job, Team USA!! Proud of the US Team and proud to be an American.
Until next time…
-- Cheryl Kirk
Friday, June 20, 2014 11:55 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk
Team USA continued to enjoy success today in four out of five matches, including three Gold divisions. Bronze medals will be awarded to José Rojas, Ben Croft, and Tom Fuhrmann on Saturday. By end of day tomorrow, each and every US Team member will be wearing a medal...it’s just that the color of some of those medals has yet to be determined!
Friday’s Semifinal Match Results
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Samantha Salas (Mexico), 15-11, 15-9
Aubrey Kirch vs. Michele Morissette (Canada), 15-0, 15-5
Rocky Carson def. José Rojas, 15-8 and 15-12
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Veronica Sotomayor/Maria Paz Muñoz, 6-15, 15-4, 11-4
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Mike Green/Vincent Gagnon (Canada), 11-15, 2-15
Coach Dave Ellis stated that he was impressed with Rhonda’s play in her win over Samantha Salas of Mexico. “Rhonda was just amazing today. A long-time Team USA player, Rhonda combined her awesome talent with high percentage racquetball. Aubrey’s win in the blue category today gives her an opportunity for revenge over Maria Paz Muñoz for her loss in the seeding round. Rocky and José’s match was a battle that could have gone either way. It’s always tough to see two Team USA players having to play each other. Aimee and Janel started slowly in their second meeting with Ecuador, losing the first game 15-6. Again, Janel found her mojo and the girls coasted for the rest of the match. Aimee, as usual, made a lot of shots. Her nickname is not “Champ” for nothing. Ben and Tom ran into a couple of Canadians that played some exceptional doubles. Green and Gagnon fed our guys a steady diet of jam serves, good gets, and tough wide angles throughout the match. Ben and Tom’s efforts resulted in a couple of bronze medals that will greatly add to our overall total. More medals coming tomorrow. We’re in three gold division finals and one in the women’s blue division.”
I’ve been providing details about the US Team’s Cheerleading Squad (family and friends) who have been arriving and departing over the course of the nine days here. From 2-month-old Hudson Croft to Ben’s 87-year-old grandfather Frank Croft (and other relatives who live in Canada as well) who came to watch Ben play today, the Croft family turned out in full force.
Team Aubrey consisting of Pam, Kerry, Ashley, Brad, and Leanna are fun and LOUD (that’s a very good thing…we almost out-yelled the Canadians this afternoon).
Tom Fuhrmann’s mom and dad John and Bette were back today. A special greeting goes to Mark Fuhrmann, Tom's brother, who is in the Air Force and leaving for deployment in Afghanistan next week. Be safe, Mark, and thank you for your service to our country.
Rocky’s family (RO, Lauren, and wife Jenn) are so upbeat and just delightful.
Eric Rose has been supporting Janel (and the rest of the team) at nearly every match.
When Pat Ellis comes on the trips, she makes such a big difference to all of us.
Felix Ruiz is here in spirit, living and dying by every text update during Aimee and Janel’s matches.
And I can’t forget Kit Lawson who left on Wednesday and wishes he were still here, so much so that he PhotoShopped his head onto the body of a certain world-class athlete on a certain Facebook post.
Yes, this event has been even more special than usual with the support of these folks as well as all of you who are texting, emailing, posting on FB, reading the blogs, watching the live streaming, and keeping Team USA in your thoughts as they strive to bring home the Gold!
Rounding Out the Delegation
Brent Huff, 38, of St. Charles, IL, is our US Team Athletic Trainer
. He holds a Masters degree in Sports Medicine from the US Sports Academy and possesses 14 years’ experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer with NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association). He also holds certification as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and recently earned his tactical strength and conditioning facilitator certification with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). He will be sitting for holistic lifestyle coaching certification in July with the CHEK Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology). An employee of Midwest Orthopaedic Institute in Sycamore, IL, Brent thanks his employer for allowing him the flexibility to take time off to accompany the team to this event.
In his capacity as Team Athletic Trainer, Brent provides everything from prevention to assessment to emergency care. Rehab services for athletes and on-site coverage for athletic events are part of his repertoire as well. His experience encompasses everything from “little kids to the LA Dodgers.”
A Wilson - and Rollout Racquetball-sponsored player who took up the sport 30+ years ago, Brent was the silver medalist in Men’s Elite at USAR Nationals last month.
“Thanks again to those who provided references for my selection,” Brent said, "along with the positive feedback from the players and staff over the past two years. It’s a privilege and an honor to make the trip with the US Team again, an opportunity to work with the best racquetball athletes in the world and help out in a sport that’s my passion and my hobby as well. I would also like to say a very special thanks to my wonderful wife Tamarah for her support of me, my profession, and my love of racquetball."
Team Leader Cheryl Kirk
, 58, grew up in Decatur, IL, and resides in Naperville, IL, with her husband of 17 years, Kit Lawson, dog Hayley and cat KC. She is involved with animal rights issues and recently helped create a not-for-profit organization, Spay Neuter Illinois PetS (SNIPS).
Cheryl began playing and competing in racquetball 37 years ago but didn’t really get heavily into the administrative side of things until after she retired in 2007 after a 27-year career with McDonald’s Corporation (Operations/Training/Olympics activation). Cheryl served as President of USA Racquetball from 2008-2012. She is Vice President of the Illinois State Racquetball Association and Board Member/Press Officer on the Executive Boards of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) and the Pan American Racquetball Confederation (PARC).
Cheryl states, “Being US Team Leader is a pleasure and an honor. I enjoy ensuring things go well, removing extraneous logistical worries or concerns from the athletes’ minds so they can go onto the court and do their best. I couldn’t be prouder of our US Team members and staff for their skill and their heart both on and off the court.”
All Gold division finals matches on Saturday will be streamed live by John Scott and sidekick Gary Mazaroff from the Cedar Springs Health, Racquet & Sportsclub.
Rhonda Rajsich (USA) vs. Paola Longoria (Mexico) at 11:00 am ET
Aubrey Kirch (USA) vs. Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador) at 11:00 am ET (Blue division)
Rocky Carson (USA) vs. Conrado Moscoso (Bolivia) at 12:00 noon ET
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger (USA) vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico) at 1:00 pm ET
The Men’s Doubles final will play at 2:30 pm: Mike Green/Vincent Gagnon (Canada) vs. Alejandro Herrera/Sebastian Franco (Colombia).
Things will move very quickly from there. After the last match of the afternoon, a medals ceremony will be held in the gym at the club. Directly following, the US Team will meet one more time back at the hotel to toast its success. The closing banquet will bring everyone from the 21 countries together to celebrate and bid each other farewell. Then it’s packing and organizing for departure!
But don’t let me get ahead of myself…be sure to catch the matches online tomorrow, and…
GO TEAM USA!
-- Cheryl Kirk
Thursday, June 19, 2014 11:59 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk
Another really excellent day for the US Team, although Lauren Carson, Pat Ellis, and I (likely others, too) would prefer not to tax our hearts in a similar manner for the rest of the tournament. Between Rhonda’s match against a tough Cristina Amaya and the Men’s Doubles marathon battle, the stress was at fever pitch. Rejoice, Team USA fans…the players came through for you big-time today:
José Rojas vs. Alejandro Herrera (Colombia), 15-7, 15-6
Rocky Carson vs. Sebastian Franco (Colombia), 15-10, 15-5
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Cristina Amaya (Colombia), 12-15, 15-14, 11-10
Aubrey Kirch vs. Carla Muñoz (Chile), 15-13, 15-4
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Fernando Rios/Jose Daniel Alvarez (Ecuador), 15-11, 15-13
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Maiko Sato/Naomi Wakimoto (Japan) 15-7, 15-3
Coach Ellis comments, “We are almost completely where we want to be at this point in the tournament. All USA players but one are in the gold division semifinals. Also, Aubrey had a nice victory over Carla Muñoz of Chile to advance to the semis in the Women’s Blue category. Most exciting was Rhonda’s victory over fellow LPRT pro, Colombian Cristina Amaya. Rhonda fought off three match points in the second game and then two more in the tiebreaker. The men’s doubles was simply “ferocious” as Ben and Tom won in two tough games against a solid Ecuador team. Rocky, Jose, and Aimee/Janel “routined” their opponents. As José dropped a match in the round robin competition, he and Rocky will meet in the semis at “high noon” tomorrow. The winner goes to the finals, and the loser gets a bronze medal."
More Cheerleaders Arrive
Yesterday I mentioned that Hudson Croft (Team Baby) would be meeting his paternal grandparents for the first time today. Bob and Beth Croft arrived from Illinois with granddaughter Annabelle, and they all took turns holding and cuddling Hudson throughout the day. Team USA members took advantage of “Hudson time” earlier this week, knowing full well that come Thursday, we wouldn’t get hold of him anymore!
We had the pleasure of meeting Tom’s parents John and Bette Fuhrmann who drove up from Buffalo to catch the doubles match this afternoon. They’ll be back for more tomorrow.
Featured Players of the Day – Rhonda and Rocky!
of Phoenix, AZ (born and raised), has played racquetball for 33 years, having hit the courts under her father and godfather’s influence at the tender age of 2. Her occupation? She says with a smile, “Pro racquetball player, lover of life.” When she’s not playing the LPRT, she conducts racquetball and basketball lessons and clinics.
When asked about her most memorable moment in racquetball, Rhonda, who ended the LPRT season in the #2 position, replied, “Winning the IRF Worlds in Ireland in 2008. I wasn’t supposed to be there and ended up winning the World Championship. That was my first title, with the second in 2010 in Korea.”
Rhonda thanks her sponsors (Ektelon, Rollout Racquetball, Racquetball Warehouse, Restrung Magazine, and 3WallBall). She wants to recognize her father Dennis Rajsich and mother Deneen Thurow for their lifelong support, and she also thanks Coach Jim Winterton, Trainers Jarrett East and Jim Walter, Dr. Michael Leff (Chiropractor), Brent Huff (US Team trainer), and Toni Delos Santos (mental coach).
Some of Rhonda's other interests/hobbies outside racquetball include Apple, basketball, training, movies/shows, and eating.
How does it feel to play for the USA? “It is truly an honor to wear USA on our backs and to compete for our country. So few athletes get the chance, and it is an unforgettable experience to share a single vision and goal with a Team in an “individual” sport. It’s pretty special when you hear the cheers and support from teammates who are usually your opponents for the other 99% of the season. We all bleed Red, White, and Blue together at these special events and give our all to represent the USA.”
has been a California guy all his life. He was born in Newport Beach and currently resides in Ladera Ranch. Rocky and Jenn have been married for 13 years, and they are parents to daughter Jasmine, 10, and son Christian, 8.
So how did you get started playing racquetball? “My parents owned health/racquetball clubs when I was a kid. I was on the racquetball court at 18 months with a ball and racquet. My parents used the court as childcare. They knew I loved it because I cried every time I had to get off the court. When I was six years old, we moved to Santa Maria, CA. Santa Maria is a small town and there was no junior program, so I had to play with the adults. I believe having to play adults gave me an advantage when I did start playing Juniors. My first Juniors tournament was in Dallas, and I was 10 years old. From then on, we were hooked! All of our family vacations revolved around Junior Nationals. At age 19 in 1998, I had qualified as an alternate on Team USA. That year, three days before the World Games started in Bolivia, I got a call from USA Racquetball saying that I needed to grab my passport and get to Bolivia as one of our players had hurt himself. That was my first experience being part of Team USA, and I’ve been a part of it ever since. Racquetball has been a BIG BLESSING in my life. I'd like to thank my wife for giving me the support to pursue my dreams, as well as my kids, my sister Dawn and of course my parents who have always understood my passion for racquetball. Lastly, but most importantly, I'd like to thank God for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity and the gifts he has given me.
“I have always considered it to not only be an honor but also a blessing to play for the US Team. America is the best. It is also nice for me to be a part of a team in which we are all trying to win the gold, individually and collectively.”
Speaking of Carsons…
, Assistant Coach of the US Team, was born in Oklahoma and raised in California. He is a retired health and racquetball club owner. His family includes wife Lauren, daughter Dawn, and son Rocky.
RO was a multiple-time state champion in outdoor racquetball. Around the age of 26, he became hooked on the indoor game. “Racquetball is still my main hobby. Once I hit 60, I pretty much stayed with doubles, and I play in my age division every year at National Doubles.
“My wife is Rocky’s and my biggest fan. We are a very close family, and both Dawn and Lauren have always been there for both Rocky and me."
Among many other events, RO was assistant coach for the World Championship Team at the IRF Worlds in Santo Domingo in 2012.
U.S. Residents Playing for Other Countries
Some of you know these folks from your state and local tournaments in the U.S. Pretty cool that heritage allows for players to represent the countries they and/or their families came from. Players who are US residents and representing other countries (including U.S. state of residence):
Shai Manzuri, Argentina (Texas)
Fernando Javier Rivera, Puerto Rico (Illinois)
Michael Barrett, Puerto Rico (Florida)
Alok Mehta, India (Illinois)
Sumeet Kamat, India (California)
Rajiv Vardrajan, India (Washington)
Pratap Ballalasumudra, India (Texas)
International Racquetball Development...
...helps ensure the future of our sport worldwide. Several well-known Americans are here in Burlington coaching international players/countries:
Fran Davis – Paola Longoria (Mexico)
Cliff Swain – Maria José Vargas (Argentina)
Tom Travers – Team Guatemala
John Scott endured a truly hellish day of travel to arrive around midnight Wednesday night, and thanks to his perseverance, the IRF Network and eNetLive.tv will bring four semifinal matches to you Friday. At 11:00 am ET, Paola Longoria (Mexico) and Maria José Vargas (playing for Argentina) will take to the main court, followed by Rocky Carson and José Rojas at 12:00 noon ET. Women’s and men’s doubles action will take place at 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm respectively with the featured matches to be announced. John Scott and Gary Mazaroff will provide rally-by-rally commentary. Streaming is free…simply go to www.irfnetwork.com and register!
Semifinals Action on Friday
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Samantha Salas (Mexico) – 11:00 am
Aubrey Kirch vs. Michele Morissette (Canada) – 11:00 am
Rocky Carson vs. José Rojas – 12:00 Noon
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Veronica Sotomayor/Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador) – 3:00 pm
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Vincent Gagnon/Mike Green (Canada) – 5:00 pm
The other 50% of the Gold division semifinalists matches tomorrow are:
Conrado Moscoso (BOL) vs. Carlos Keller (BOL)
Maria José Vargas (ARG) vs. Paola Longoria (MEX)
Conrado Moscoso/Mario Mercado (BOL) vs. Sebastian Franco/Alejandro Herrera (COL)
Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (MEX) vs. Carla Muñoz/Angela Grisar (CHI)
We’re down to the wire here, US Team fans! Transmit all your good vibes and social media best wishes, and tune in for live action tomorrow. See you there!
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Cheryl Kirk
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 9:45 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk
In a very tough match to watch (who does one root for??), Rhonda and Aubrey went to a tiebreaker. It was Aubrey in the first game 15-11, Rhonda in the second by the same score, and Aubrey scored four in the ‘breaker. Team Aubrey was on hand, cheering at maximum decibels, and at one point, Rhonda asked the crowd during a timeout, “Can I get a fan? I’ll pay someone to cheer for me!” Indeed people started cheering, and she didn't even have to pay them. Rhonda knows how to work a crowd.
The rest of the day was easier…
Rocky Carson vs. Daeyong Kwon (Korea), 4,1
José Rojas vs. Edwin Galicia (Guatemala), 4,10
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Anna Ventura/Bet Consegal (Catalonia), 0,1
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Michael Barrett/Fernando Rivera (Puerto Rico), WBF
We’re not sure what happened with Puerto Rico, but we were disappointed not to have the chance to watch the guys play this afternoon!
Coach Ellis summarized, “Teammates and roommates Rhonda and Aubrey played well today as they sadly met in the Round of 16 of the Gold category. Rhonda will take on Cristina Amaya of Colombia tomorrow while Aubrey will drop into the Blue division as the #1 seed and continue to earn points for the Team. Rocky and José had routine wins; both will play challenging quarterfinal matches tomorrow. Aimee and Janel were way too much for the ladies from Catalonia, and Ben and Tom received a forfeit win as the Puerto Ricans decided to pass on the match. The gentlemen will have a tough match tomorrow against a solid Ecuadorian team. We’re all hoping for positive outcomes in the quarterfinals.”
Featured Players of the Day…
Hey, I’m running out of “spotlight” here -- just four blogs to go, so let’s step it up a bit!
Aimee was born and raised in Allentown, PA, and resides in Whitehouse Station, NJ with her husband Felix and their three pit bull terrier rescues, Casper, Wendy, and Maggie.
While working full time as Communications & Promotions Manager for Ektelon, Aimee is pursuing a degree in Communications.
When asked how she got started playing racquetball, Aimee replied, “My mom was taking college classes, and she had to take some sort of gym class. She chose Intro to Racquetball. I would go with her and do my homework while she was taking the class. She herself started playing tournaments, got me started playing at age 11, and the rest is history.”
Other interests/hobbies? “I love tennis and golf, and I enjoy baking and reading.”
Aimee expressed gratitude for the tremendous support she receives. “More than anyone, I recognize my husband Felix. Win or lose, he’s proud of me and knows I’m giving it 100% out there. My training facility, Pure Energy Fitness, has been awesome; Christine and Tony have been super-supportive along the way in getting me ready. Last but not least, I thank my sponsor and employer Ektelon for allowing me to travel to these tournaments.”
On competing at this event: “This will be my fifth consecutive World Championships that I’m attending, and each time I compete and wear USA on my back it means even more to me than it did the first time. It’s a huge honor for me and something I never take for granted.”
José has played racquetball since the age of 5!
José, who hails from Stockton, CA, competes here in the #2 singles position for the US Team. He finished the season as #4 on the IRT Tour. When asked to describe his best moment in racquetball, he responded, “It used to be when I made it to any semis, but now I describe my best moment as last September at the pro stop in Kansas City when I beat Kane in the semis and then Rocky in the finals to capture my second IRT pro stop win."
A graduate of the University of the Pacific, José majored in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and Finance. He is currently competing full-time on the IRT Tour.
José is the son of Miguel and Adelina Rojas of Stockton. They, along with brothers Miguel (31), Marco (20), and nephew Francisco (12) are thrilled with José’s achievement of qualifying for the US Team.
"I want to thank my sponsors Ektelon and Play Racquetball. I also want to thank Jesse Serna, my strength and conditioning coach, and of course Jody Nance, Darren McNally, and Dave Ellis for their support over the years."
How do you feel about competing at the Worlds a second consecutive time? “This has been an awesome experience so far, a real honor. I’m eager to show the world what I’m made of while representing my country and my team.”
…and a Staff Member, too...
US Team Head Coach Dave Ellis, 69, has been married to Pat for 43 years.
Stockton, CA, is home to the Ellises. Dave and Pat are the proud parents of son John (married to Jennifer) and grandparents of Julius, 12, and Jordan (aka Chica), 6
Dave holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from the University of the Pacific and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He is particularly proud of his California State bilingual teaching credential. Dave taught Mathematics in both English and Spanish for 38 years, from fundamentals to advanced placement calculus. He retired in 2006 and now devotes his full time and efforts to racquetball
Dave cites his most memorable racquetball moments (besides coaching the National Team to four world championships): his own Super Bowl Open win in 1985; John’s Pan American Games gold medal in 1995; John’s victory over a young Kane in the 2002 Pro Nationals, and José Rojas’ wins over Kane and Rocky in Kansas, 2013.
“I consider it an honor to be representing the USA as National Team Coach. It’s a privilege to be working with our country’s athletes. Our delegation is unified and happy with the play as we work to defend our world championship title. I want to thank our staff members RO Carson, Cheryl Kirk and Brent Huff as well as all the players for their efforts and dedication to our Team. Thanks to the IRF for their positive contributions to racquetball and for their organization of this tournament. Special gratitude goes to the Canadian Local Organizing Committee. And, it was really cool having USA Racquetball Executive Director Steve Czarnecki here with us during Opening Ceremonies.”
When you’re with a group of people for this long, day in and day out, nicknames are bound to emerge. Outdoor racquetball’s got nothin’ on us! On the meanings/reasons, you’ll have to ask them yourselves…
Dave “Bad Dave” Ellis
RO “Hit some Z’s” Carson
Brent “Mr. Fix It” Huff
Cheryl “Chief “ Kirk
Rocky Carson (There’s a trick to this…Rocky is already his nickname; his given name is RO Carson III)
José “Josie” Rojas
Ben “Daddy” Croft
Tom “Super Fan” Fuhrmann
Rhonda “Crunchberry” Rajsich
Aubrey “Pop-Tart ®” Kirch
Aimee “Champ” Ruiz
Janel “NellyPuff” Tisinger
Pat “Team Mom” Ellis
Lauren “Pumpkin” Carson
Sarah “Mommy” Croft
Hudson “Team Baby” Croft
Eric “Security” Rose
Thursday’s Match Schedule
Rocky Carson vs. Sebastian Franco (Colombia) – 11:00 am
José Rojas vs. Alejandro Herrera (Colombia) – 11:00 am
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Cristina Amaya (Colombia) – 1:00 pm
Aubrey Kirch vs. Carla Muñoz (Chile) – 1:00 pm
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Fernando Rios/José Daniel Alvarez (Ecuador) – 4:00 pm
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Maiko Sato/Naomi Wakimoto (Japan) – 6:00 pm
In closing for this evening, tomorrow will be an exciting day for the Croft family – it’s the day that Bob and Beth are meeting their grandson Hudson in person for the very first time! Stay tuned, and…
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Cheryl Kirk
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 11:15 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk
The US Team competed on an abbreviated schedule today (singles only). The results couldn’t have been better!
Coach Ellis remarked that he was happy about the play during the Team’s four singles matches. “Aubrey, Rhonda, Rocky, and José all played solidly against their early-round opponents. The matches will be tougher tomorrow for the men as we move deeper into the draw. We’re lamenting that Aubrey and Rhonda have to meet so early in the women’s draw. The winner will move on in the Gold division and the loser will drop into the Blue division.
“Both doubles teams had the day off today (having received byes in the first round) and will pick up second round play tomorrow. Our US Team is unified and very positive as we enter the final four days of competition.”
Tuesday’s Match Results
Aubrey Kirch vs. Mariana Tobon (Venezuela), 12, 9
José Rojas vs. Ramon De Leon (Dominican Republic), 7, 2
Rocky Carson vs. Michael Barrett (Puerto Rico), 3, 1
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Disney Linares Barreras (Cuba), 7, 3
Team USA Support
US Team family members (aka cheerleaders) who arrived today are Pamela, Kerry, and Ashley O’Brien (Aubrey’s parents and sister) as well as Brad Kirch and Leanna Kirch, her husband and her mother-in-law. We now have a sub-team on the ground – Team Aubrey!
Kit Lawson is heading for home tomorrow morning. Cheryl is a bit sad that both her husband and her car are departing (in that order, of course).
Jonathan Clay, owner of Rollout Racquetball, is here as of this afternoon. Rollout is USA Racquetball’s Official Apparel Sponsor. Thanks, Jonathan, for making the US Team members look so good!
We’d also like to give a shout-out to Julia and Greg Hayenga of Personal Touch Travel. They have been great in making US Team flight arrangements to get us here and back home in the most economical and efficient fashion. Contact: email@example.com. (Greg is himself a racquetball player in the Minneapolis area.)
Featured Player of the Day – Ben Croft
Ben grew up in Lake Bluff, IL, and currently resides in San Luis Obispo, CA, with wife Sarah and 2-month-old son Hudson. He attended Colorado State University-Pueblo and is employed as Business Manager by Racquetballwarehouse.com.
Ranked #6 on the IRT, Ben shared how he got started playing. “My dad ran a fitness center in Lake Forest, IL, for almost 25 years. It started off as a babysitter for me, and the rest is history! I started actual play in 1996 when I was 11 years old. Eighteen years later, here we are, and things have changed a bit since then.”
Ben says he’s pretty low-key. He enjoys watching any Chicago sports and playing any sport. “Most importantly, I’m happy anywhere my wife and son are.”
He continued, “I’d like to recognize Sarah and my parents (Bob and Beth) for their support; they’ve always been there for me no matter what. Racquetball Warehouse has been one of the best blessings of my life. And I can’t forget my Chi-city trainer, Eugene Coyle, who has helped me so much with my fitness over the years.”
On how it feels to compete for his country, Ben commented, “To say it’s an honor to put on the red, white, and blue to represent the United States wouldn’t do it justice. As I get older, I really appreciate the things that I took for granted in my younger years. We are so lucky to live in the USA, and it’s important to remember that the men and women who serve our country is a reason we have the opportunity to play in this event.”
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Aubrey Kirch – 11:30 am
Rocky Carson vs. Daeyong Kwon (Korea) – 1:00 pm
José Rojas vs. Edwin Galicia (Guatemala) – 1:00 pm
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Anna Ventura/Bet Consegal (Catalonia) – 3:30 pm
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Michael Barrett/Fernando Rivera (Puerto Rico) – 4:30 pm
Remember, you can check out the frequently updated draws at www.internationalracquetball.com. Click on the red/orange box in the top right corner, and it’s intuitive from there.
Back with you tomorrow...
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Cheryl Kirk
Monday, June 16, 2014 11:30 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk
Coach Dave Ellis recapped the day: “The matches today were all competitive. We had three solid wins and a tiebreaker victory. There were a couple of losses, however: Aubrey fell to Maria Paz Muñoz of Ecuador, who played arguably the best racquetball of her life, in the tiebreaker. José Rojas was defeated by Ecuador’s Fernando Rios, also in the tiebreaker. The losses were disappointing as they will place José and Aubrey on the same sides of the main draws as Rocky and Rhonda. Even worse, it’s likely that Aubrey will have to play Rhonda in the 16’s on Wednesday. Good news was that Aimee and Janel got it together and defeated Veronica Sotomayor and Maria Paz Muñoz after losing the first game and being down in the second. It was donut time in the tiebreaker as the USA ladies were just too tough. Ben and Tom are really clicking and demolished a good Costa Rica doubles team.”
Review of the day’s results:
Aubrey Kirch vs. Maria Paz Muñoz. (Ecuador), 15-13, 11-15, 2-11
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Melania Sauma Masis (Costa Rica), 15-4, 15-0
José Rojas vs. Fernando Rios (Ecuador), 15-7, 12-15, 8-11
Rocky Carson vs. José Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 15-2, 15-5
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs. Veronica Sotomayor/Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador), 7-15, 15-12, 11-0
Ben Croft/Tom Fuhrmann vs. Joaquin Solera/Pablo Sauma Masis (Costa Rica), 15-6, 15-7
History-Making International Romance!
Readers, here’s a story I think you’ll enjoy…
Peter Rakowski (he alone comprising Team Poland here at the IRF World Championships), along with cooperation from his "former girlfriend" Violeta, has made IRF history off the court. Peter had booked a helicopter flight over Niagara Falls as a birthday present for Violeta. "After that, I was thinking it might be a fine idea to propose marriage this way."
Peter said he had known for over a month that he would propose, but he didn't know exactly when he would do it. Yesterday evening, June 15, 2014, he popped the question. "Even though the helicopter was loud, I'm pretty sure she said yes. She
didn't throw me out of the helicopter."
Peter had the ring already, in fact, they are wearing matching engagement bands to signify their plans to wed. Violeta said she was surprised that he proposed at that time. "I thought maybe someday, but I didn't know it would be yesterday."
Peter and Violeta have known each other over a year. They met while he was visiting family in Vilnius, Lithuania. Peter clarified, "I am Polish, I live in Germany, and my father's parents are Lithuanian."
Since they just got engaged last night, there is no date set yet. Peter said, "I know the date, maybe my birthday, June 19 next year, so I won't ever forget our anniversary." Violeta's reaction to this statement showed it was news to her! There will actually be two weddings - the government wedding in Germany and a church wedding in Lithuania.
Peter, who was born in Poland, began his own company in Germany 8 years ago -- an ambulance/paramedic company. Violeta is a financial analyst in Vilnius. The couple will live in Germany after they are married.
Back to Team USA…
Featured Player of the Day – Janel Tisinger
Janel Tisinger hails from Simi Valley, CA (born and raised). She is ranked #27 on the LPRT. Her parents started her into racquetball at the age of 4 or 5. She comes by her racquetball talent naturally – her mother, Debbie Tisinger-Moore, is a USAR Hall of Famer with scores of titles to her name.
Janel says, “My mom has been a great coach to me. She gave me the talent and drive to play this sport. She guided me in the right direction.”
Some of Janel’s other family members include brother Devyn, sister Avree (both younger), and her uncle Jonathan Dunn who is one of her doubles partners and has assisted in her training. And, let’s not forget her two five-year-old cats Weasley and Spongebob!
Janel’s boyfriend Eric Rose is here in Burlington. “Thank you to Eric for being a big supporter of mine and of my love for the sport!”
A Pro Kennex, Rollout Racquetball, and 3wallball.com sponsored player, Janel is a self-employed massage therapist. She likes to train with weights and work out every day.
Her hobbies include photography and singing. She takes vocal lessons and calls singing “one of my greatest passions.”
When asked how she feels about being here, Janel responded, “I feel very blessed and honored to be here representing the team. I hope I can play my best and represent my country in an honorable way.”
Tuesday’s Match Schedule
Round robin competition is complete as of the end of today, and the tournament staff has released the main draws. As mentioned yesterday, the remainder of this IRF Worlds competition is in Olympic format. Gold division matches kick off tomorrow morning. The US Team singles players compete tomorrow while the doubles teams will begin their divisions on Wednesday.
Aubrey Kirch (#16 seed) vs. Venezuela, 9:45 am Tuesday
José Rojas ((#20 seed) vs. Dominican Republic, 11:30 am Tuesday
Rocky Carson (#1 seed) vs. the winner of the Guatemala/Puerto Rico match, 12:15 pm Tuesday
Rhonda Rajsich (#1 seed) vs. the winner of the Cuba/Catalonia match, 2:00 pm Tuesday
Singles will continue on Wednesday, and for the doubles, we already know…
Aimee/Janel (#2 seed) vs. Catalonia, 3:30 pm Wednesday
Ben/Tom (#1 seed) vs. the winner of Puerto Rico/India, 4:30 pm Wednesday
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Cheryl Kirk
Sunday, June 15, 2014 11:10 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk
News Flash – the entire U.S. Delegation is completely smitten with