Blog #12 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Sunday, August 11, 2019
by: Renée Isherwood
On this last full day in Lima, we celebrated the achievements of Team USA! With nothing to do but pack, take photos, and attend the Closing Ceremonies, Team USA had a well-deserved rest.
We gathered in the early afternoon with the Team bringing all of their medals for photos. It was Kelani’s suggestion that, after the serious medals photos, all Team members would place their faces in the Olympic Rings. Rocky and Rhonda chose instead to bookcase the rings, while Jake, Kelani, and Charlie all took their places. Check out the USA Racquetball website for the photos!
Tonight was the Closing Ceremonies of the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Team USA Racquetball joined approximately 190 other members of Team USA in the celebration, marching in the Parade of Nations.
It was an awesome moment to walk out into a packed stadium of 40,000 and see our faces up on the big screen. To be surrounded by other members of Team USA, all having the honor of representing our country, was a moment we’ll never forget.
After the Parade of Nations, we all made our way into the stands to watch the show. The Closing Ceremonies featured groups of performers from various regions of Peru. All wore brightly colored costumes and danced to some wonderful choreography.
The Closing Ceremonies featured groups of performers from various regions of Peru. All wore brightly colored costumes and danced to some wonderful choreography.
The spectacular event culminated with a fireworks display over the National Stadium and an invitation to the athletes to dance on the stadium floor. Charlie was like a kid in a candy store, dancing around with all the performers. There were several dozen photos taken with the athletes as well.
Monday is another free day until we head to the airport in the evening. Some of us will finally get to explore a bit of Lima, while others will do last-minute packing.
Team USA extends its appreciation and gratitude to so many who have made this experience unforgettable. With too many to mention by name, we thank the professional and accomplished USOPC staff as well as IRF President Osvaldo Maggi, PARC President Marcelo Gomez, and the efficient and friendly IRF staff. Special recognition goes to Lorne Alston of the U.S. State Department for his care and assistance and to PASO's Bruno Semino who managed the racquetball venue in such an excellent fashion.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these Games as much as we have! Thank you for all of your support of Team USA, and we look forward to seeing you at the World Outdoor Championships in Las Vegas and the US Open in Minneapolis!
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #11 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Saturday, August 10, 2019
by: Renée Isherwood
After a grueling 10-day competition schedule, Team USA had a day of rest. Several of the Team slept in, went to the gym, and started packing. This afternoon the Team traveled once more to the Callao Regional Sports Complex to be awarded their Bronze medals in the final racquetball ceremony of these Games.
Rhonda and Kelani earned their second medals of the tournament, this time for their Women's Team performance. The United States tied for Bronze with Bolivia, while Argentina took Silver and Mexico won Gold.
Jake, Rocky, and Charlie received Bronze as well, along with Mexico. Bolivia claimed the Gold, and the Silver went to Colombia. This was the first time in the history of the Pan American Games that two South American countries vied for Team Gold, and we congratulate them both for this accomplishment. It was also the first Gold medal ever won in a Pan American Games, in any sport, for Bolivia, and the President of the Bolivian Olympic Committee presented the medals.
USA Racquetball's Executive Director Mike Wedel addressed Team USA this afternoon, saying, "I am so proud of your achievements and play. Two of you played through injuries and illness. You represented the United States well and everyone sends congratulations from back home."
Today and tonight, several members of Team USA were able to cheer on fellow U.S. athletes competing in Volleyball and Basketball.
To help cap off the event and give some flavor to the most challenging aspect of this trip (transportation), located on the USAR website are various photos of our experiences here including one of the crazy traffic we've experienced. In total, we have spent close to 65 hours on buses in the last 13 days!
Tomorrow is a free morning and the Pan American Games Closing Ceremonies are tomorrow night. This racquetball delegation is looking forward to the thrill of entering the stadium with the rest of Team USA's athletes representing the many sports competed here in Lima.
We are almost finished here in Lima, Peru, and can't wait to be home! To all those still competing, good luck and Go Team USA!
CONGRATULATIONS, TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #10 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Friday, August 10, 2019
by: Renée Isherwood
Today were the semifinals of the Team competition for both Team USA’s Men and Women.
The first match pitted Rocky against Bolivia’s Conrrado Moscoso, and what a match it was! Rocky got frustrated with the way Moscoso could kill the ball in the front left corner all game. The Bolivian took the first game 15-7. “Conrrado hit amazing shots, achieving numerous kills and a little bit of luck with cracks,” Coach Dave said. Rocky’s z-serves cooled Moscoso off a little in the second, keeping him on defense. Rocky made a lot of gets, which he put up to the ceiling. Rocky shared on a timeout, “If this guy is going to get me, he’s going to do it from the back left corner.” Conrrado appeared to tire and began leaving his shots up, leaving Rocky to take shots. Rocky won the second game 15-8 and forced the tiebreaker. The tiebreaker continued the same way, and Rocky edged out Moscoso 11-6.
Kelani started the day for the Women’s team, taking on Paola Longoria of Mexico. While Kelani’s z-serves earned her a few points, Paola dominated the first game, 15-5. In the second game, Paola had amazing serves that caused Kelani to wait too long to return. She lost 0-15.
The Men’s second match featured Charlie and Rocky against Bolivia’s Conrrado Moscoso and Rolland Keller. With their coverage patterns intact, Team USA controlled the first game, winning 15-12. “Team USA continued to dominate in the first half of Game 2, but the Bolivians got a hot hand,” shared Coach Dave. "Various adjustments were made, but nothing helped through the rest of Game 2 (6-15), nor the tiebreaker." Team USA lost 6-11, causing a third Team USA match to have to be played, between Jake and Carlos Keller.
The Team USA Women took on Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas of the Mexico for the third time this tournament. Mexico played consistent, solid ball, making difficult shots look easy. While Team USA had certainly evolved in their chemistry and court coverage, Mexico adapted to the changes well. Team USA brought a different kind of pressure today, but Mexico was ready for anything and executed with confidence and consistency. Team USA lost, 15-5, 15-4, finishing with the Women’s Team Bronze.
Carlos started against Jake with four crack aces and three more points besides to go up 7-0 in the first game. Jake played hard to even out the game but lost 11-15. In the second game, Carlos again jumped to a lead. Jake kicked into high gear and went ahead 13-10, only to sustain an injury to his back. After managing to win the second game, Jake struggled in the tiebreaker. Keller won 11-2, eliminating the Men’s Team from a berth in tomorrow’s finals.
10am Rocky defeated Conrrado Moscoso (Bolivia), 7-15, 15-8, 11-6
11am Kelani lost to Paola Longoria (Mexico), 5-15, 0-15
12pm Rocky/Charlie lost to Conrrado Moscoso/Rolland Keller (Bolivia), 15-12, 6-15, 6-11
1pm Kelani/Rhonda lost to Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico), 5-15, 4-15
2pm Jake lost to Carlos Keller (Bolivia), 11-15, 15-12, 2-11
3pm Rhonda vs. Monserrat Mejia (Mexico) Did Not Play
US TEAM MILESTONES:
Both our Men’s and Women’s Teams will be on the podium tomorrow to collect their bronze medals! Each player gave 100% this tournament, and we couldn’t be prouder of their achievements.
This tournament marks milestones for all of Team USA and everyone earned medals at this event:
- Kelani’s first international medals of any color (2 Bronze)
- Charlie’s first Pan American Games medals (2 Bronze)
- Rhonda’s 7th & 8th Pan American Games medals (2 Bronze)
- Rocky’s 6th and 7th Pan American Games medals (2 Bronze)
- Jake’s 2nd Pan American Games medal (1 Bronze)
FEATURED STAFF MEMBER: Renée Isherwood
For many, the pursuit of the Olympic Dream is to be an athlete and compete; my Olympic Dream is to be behind the scenes, supporting and encouraging those athletes in achieving theirs. Since childhood, the
Olympic Movement has played a role in my life. My first experience was the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
I remember standing on the side of the road in San Diego, California, as a toddler, being able to hold the heavy oak and brass torch as the relay runners made their way to Los Angeles. As a teenager, I again stood on the side of the road in Oregon City, Oregon, for a chance to hold the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Torch. Six years later, in Portland, Oregon, I was fortunate enough to hold my first Winter Olympic Games torch of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.
I have a degree in Sports Public Relations, with a double minor in Japanese and International Relations. I’ve known since I was three that I wanted to work in the Olympic Movement. In 2014, I relocated from Austin, Texas, to Colorado Springs. I had always said that if I could meet the right people, I could talk my way into a job. That’s just what I did!
Three months after arriving in Colorado, I was able to volunteer with USA Judo, and just four months later, I was offered a position with USA Weightlifting, where I became the Membership Manager. In 2016, I was fortunate enough to work the USAW Olympic Trials in Salt Lake City and be a part of naming our Rio Olympic Team. At those Games, for the first time in 16 years, one of our athletes won a medal. When she lifted the bar over her head, her dream came true and my dream came true all at once!
The best part of my job is working with our athletes, at all levels. Seeing our members and catching up at a National Championship is one of the highlights of my job. I was told USA Racquetball was like a family, and it really is. Even though I’m not a racquetball player, you’ve all accepted me, and I’m so grateful. My commentary might not give you the technical play-by-play you’re used to, but I hope my excitement and passion for what I do came through!
In my life outside of work, I am a newlywed, and scheduled my April wedding date around racquetball championships. I have two stepchildren and a whole new family with whom to share my life. This last year has a been at times stressful but wonderful whirlwind all the same.
I owe a HUGE thank you to Cheryl Kirk, who nominated me to travel to Lima with the Team in her place. This has been the most exciting time of my professional career, and I am so grateful to the Team for accepting me, and to her for giving me this opportunity. Her shoes can never be filled, but I hope she is proud of the way I managed things in her absence.
With the end of the Games approaching, the USOPC has taken nominations for the Flag Bearer at the Closing Ceremonies. USA Racquetball nominated Rocky Carson with the following statement.
“USA Racquetball is putting forth Rocky Carson as our nominee. Rocky is a 4x Pan American Games athlete, PAG 2x time Gold Medalist in Men's Singles, and the captain of our Team. He has already won a bronze in the Men's Doubles division at these Games and is still leading the Team towards Gold in the Team competition.
“After winning his 5th Singles World title in 2016, Rocky earned the title of Most Decorated Man in IRF history and continues to expand his resume!
"Carrying the flag in the Closing Ceremonies would be a dream come true. I've represented the United States for over 20 years on the international stage and it's the biggest honor. Hearing my National anthem on podium is the most meaningful experience. It means I've had the opportunity to represent the United States."
Tonight, the USOPC has chosen Rocky as one of the four athletes that can be selected to be the Flag Bearer. Voting ends in 24 hours and we hope to share some awesome news in tomorrow night’s blog! For any Team USA Pan American Games athletes reading this, we hope you will support Rocky with your vote.
CONGRATULATIONS, TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #9 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Thursday, August 8, 2019
by: Renée Isherwood
After having a bye in the first round of the Team competition, Team USA was back in action today! The team competition format is a “best of three,” so if a country wins the first two scheduled matches, the third is not competed.
Rhonda started things off in the Women’s #2 Singles against Adriana Riveros of Colombia. “Rhonda played her game, moving well and setting up shots,” Coach Debbie said. By mixing up her serves, Rhonda was able to keep Adriana on the defense and out of position. “While Rhonda had great matches against Frederique Lambert (Canada) and Monserrat Mejia (Mexico) earlier in the tournament, today she played her best, thus far.
Jake played his good friend Felipe Camacho of Costa Rica in the Men’s Singles #2. “Jake was hitting on all cylinders,” shared Coach Dave. “Jake’s movement is so instinctively sound. Coupled with his mach speed serves, the match was one-sided.” Jake won 15-5, 15-6, with an ace serve to close it out.
The second group in the draws were the Doubles teams, with the women starting first.
Kelani and Rhonda battled Cristina Amaya and Adriana Riveros of Colombia. “The more Kelani and Rhonda play together, the more they click,” explained Coach Debbie. “Kelani’s good coverage allowed Rhonda to shoot.” Coach Debbie’s game plan kept Team Colombia from getting situated. Though Riveros shot well in the second, tying the game at 9-9, Team USA held on to win 15-12. In the second game, Rhonda served an ace to make it 14-11, and Team USA took the match 15-12, 15-11, advancing to the semifinals and guaranteeing themselves another trip to the medal podium.
Charlie and Rocky closed out the day against Felipe Camacho and Andres Acuna of Costa Rica. “Acuna is one of the best players in the tournament and proved it by killing ball after ball in the left corner,” Coach Dave said. Team USA built a big lead (11-0), but the Costa Ricans fought back to cut the lead (14-10). Rocky and Charlie held off seven (!) game point opportunities to take Game 1, 15-14. Despite winning, a strategy adjustment was in order, and Charlie and Rocky won the second 15-7, advancing to the semifinals and securing another medal for Team USA.
Singles #2 Rhonda defeated Adriana Riveros (Colombia), 15-3, 15-9
Singles #2 Jake defeated Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), 15-5, 15-6
Doubles Kelani/Rhonda defeated Amaya/Riveros (Colombia), 15-12, 15-11
Doubles Rocky/ Charlie defeated Andres Acuna/ Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), 15-14, 15-7
Singles #1 Rocky vs. Acuna (Costa Rica) – Did Not Play
Singles #1 Kelani vs. Cristina Amaya (Colombia) – Did Not Play
USOPC IN THE (RACQUETBALL) HOUSE!
Nicole Deal, Vice President and Chief Security Officer for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, visited the venue today. She watched the end of Jake’s singles match, all of Rhonda’s singles match, and the first game of men’s doubles. In her role, Deal oversees all security needs for the USOPC, including at its headquarters building in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Centers in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid, New York. Additionally, she is responsible for the security of the U.S. delegations at USOC-supported functions and Games. It was great to have her support for this afternoon's matches!
We were also so happy for the arrival of Ceci Pratt and Deb Pratt, Charlie’s wife and mother, who joined Ms. Deal and the Team USA athletes and support staff in the stands today.
FEATURED STAFF MEMBER: Assistant Coach Debbie Tisinger-Moore
Debbie Moore was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and raised in Simi Valley, California.
The oldest of seven children (two brothers and four sisters), she is the daughter of Richard and Arlene Torst of Santa Monica, California. She attended CSUN and Moorpark College where she was captain of the volleyball team.
Debbie is Mom to Janel, Avree, & Devyn. She is Grandma to Harlee: "the best thing in the world."
Occupation? Debbie replied, "I’ve been in the racquetball biz for almost 35 years. I’m currently self-employed as an AmPro and USAR-IP Certified Coach/Instructor. Decades ago, I used to work for Simi Valley Hospital as the receptionist in the Emergency Room. I really loved that job, too."
How did you get started playing racquetball? "I played in the USVBA (U.S. Volleyball Association) and played tennis to stay in shape. My dad was an avid handball player then surrendered to racquetball in the late '70’s. I was introduced to the game by my dad & was bitten hard by the “bug." I’m still itching!
How did you get started playing racquetball? "I played in the USVBA (U.S. Volleyball Association) and played tennis to stay in shape. My dad was an avid handball player and then surrendered to racquetball in the late '70’s. I was introduced to the game by my dad and was bitten hard by the 'bug.' I’m still itching!"
How old were you, and who got you started? "I was 21 years old and my first racquet was Leach from Kmart. My dad bought me my first Ektelon racquet. He was a graphic artist at Hughes Aircraft and would draw diagrams of the racquetball court, illustrating shots and strategy; that’s how I see the game today. Jim Carson, former coach and supervisor at Racquetball World, was my biggest influence. He was a great coach and mentor. Other influences were Lynn Adams (my idol), Malia Bailey, my JAWS buddy Rhonda Rajsich, and my wonderful daughter and 2016 World Champion Janel Tisinger."
Other interests/hobbies? "I love flower gardens, working out, and watching my granddaughter. My favorite movie is Jaws (just when you thought it was safe...hahaha). I enjoy the Investigation Discovery Channel, and now I’m a newly resurrected fan of Queen!! AAYYYYOOOOH! I love scary movies and Halloween."
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? "Lots of xxxooo's to my husband, Gary. Love to my Janelli Belli & our racquetball memories. And thanks to the doctors who extended my career (bilateral hip & knee replacements). I'm now bionic!"
Debbie, who was inducted into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame in 2013, describes coaching at the Pan American Games as "a dream come true. It is an honor to assist these talented athletes and bring out the best of Team USA Racquetball.”
FRIDAY’S SEMIFINALS MATCHES:
10am Rocky vs. Conrrado Moscoso (Bolivia)
11am Kelani vs. Paola Longoria (Mexico)
12pm Rocky/Charlie vs. Moscoso/Carlos Keller (Bolivia)
1pm Kelani/Rhonda vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico)
2pm Jake vs. Carlos Keller (Bolivia)
3pm Rhonda vs. Monserrat Mejia (Mexico)
To the Team Behind the Team (that's YOU!), please send lots of good wishes our way and go to the International Racquetball Federation's Facebook page to check featured streaming matches. Fingers crossed Team USA will be on that schedule!
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #8 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Wednesday, August 7th
by: Renée Isherwood
With no matches in the finals of singles and doubles, Team USA took the opportunity to rest this morning in anticipation of the beginning of the Team competition. The guys sat in the steam room, while Rhonda and Kelani slept in. Brent and others from the Sports Medicine team worked on various team members throughout the morning.
USA Racquetball Executive Director Mike Wedel arrived yesterday to cheer on Team USA. Today he had a front row seat for the Men’s and Women’s Singles finals as well as the Men’s and Women’s Doubles finals. “Congratulations to all of the winners for their victories,” Mike said. “I am proud of our team and the way they competed. Team USA represented us well and will come back swinging tomorrow in the Team competition. Keep cheering as they play their hearts out! Go Team USA!!!” Mike will meet with members of the International Racquetball Federation and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee while in Peru.
After the Men’s Doubles Final, individual medals were awarded. Both the Women’s Team of Rhonda and Kelani and the Men’s Team of Rocky and Charlie earned bronze medals.
“I’m so excited to have medaled at my first-ever Pan American Games,” Kelani bubbled with excitement. “I shared the podium with the world’s best, and I hope to stand on it once again for the Team competition. I am always aiming for gold, but it’s pretty awesome to represent my country in the sport I am passionate about with some amazing teammates!”
“I’m very happy to have earned a bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Games,” Charlie shared. “Rocky and I were just a few points away from defeating Mexico in the semifinals, and they were clearly the best team in the draw. It feels like a Silver, and we were close to Gold. I will be proud of this medal knowing we were amongst the best teams in the world. We will prove that in the Team competition. This is our time!”
“It’s always a proud moment to win a medal, representing Team USA,” Rocky said. “This medal is bittersweet, as we didn’t accomplish what we came here for. But the Team competition starts tomorrow for us, and we’re ready; I’ve never been more excited for a Team competition.”
Rhonda echoed Rocky’s sentiments, saying, “This isn’t what I came for, and I’m ready for the Team competition.”
Coach Debbie shared, “I’m so proud of Team USA. It’s been an honor to coach them, and we are all looking forward to the Team competition. I’m really excited!”
After the team members received their medals, Coach Dave remarked, “It’s nice to have byes tonight in both the women’s and men’s draws in order to have extra rest, but now we’re focused on the Team competition. Team USA is hungry, and you can see the determination on everyone’s faces.”
That could not have been more apparent, with Jake exclaiming, “Let’s do this!” after the medals ceremonies.
FEATURED STAFF MEMBER: Brent Huff
Brent Huff, who hails from Illinois and is now living in Phoenix, Arizona, is our US Team Athletic Trainer/Massage Therapist. He holds a Master's degree in Sports Medicine from the US Sports Academy and possesses 19 years’ experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer with the NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association). Brent is also a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (NSCA) and is licensed as a Massage Therapist (AMTA).
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 professional athletes.”
Brent is a Wilson and Rollout Racquetball sponsored player who took up the sport 35+ years ago. He was the recipient of the 2016 USA Racquetball Joe Sobek Outstanding Contribution Award.
"It’s a privilege and an honor to make the trip with the US Team again. It's an opportunity to work with the best racquetball athletes in the USA and to put my professional skills to use in a sport that’s my passion and my hobby as well."
THURSDAY’S MATCH UPS:
So the women’s and men’s team both earned first-round byes and did not play this evening. Team USA’s women’s team will take on Colombia tomorrow, while the men’s team will play Costa Rica. The team competition format is a “best of three,” so if a country wins the first two scheduled matches, the third is not competed.
12 pm Singles #2 Jake vs. Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica)
1 pm Singles #2 Rhonda vs. Adriana Riveros (Colombia)
2 pm Doubles Rocky/ Charlie vs. Andres Acuna/ Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica)
3 pm Doubles Kelani/Rhonda vs. Amaya/Riveros (Colombia)
4 pm Singles #1 Rocky vs. Acuna (Costa Rica)
5 pm Singles #1 Kelani vs. Cristina Amaya (Colombia)
Echoing Jake’s earlier words: Let’s Do This! GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #7 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Tuesday, August 6th
by: Renée Isherwood
Team USA competed today in the men's and women's doubles draws of the main division.
Rhonda and Kelani started the day against Jenny Daza and Angelica Barrios of Colombia. “I thought they played very well together. The coverage was sound, with Rhonda executing shots and Kelani covering well. They served consistently and gelled together,” remarked Coach Debbie. Rhonda and Kelani won 15-9, 15-4, advancing to the semifinals and capturing Team USA’s first racquetball medal of these Games.
Their second match against Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas of Mexico was a rematch from the preliminary round. “Unfortunately, we faced a very experienced team that forced us to be on the defensive,” explained Coach Debbie. “When the opportunities were there, we did not execute.” The United States lost 15-6, 15-1.
Charlie and Rocky had to wait to begin their match vs. Colombia since Mario Mercado was playing in a Singles semifinal match immediately prior to the Doubles match. The IRF rule gives a player an hour’s rest between matches.
Rocky and Charlie had two tough matches. They went to tiebreaker in the first, having lost 5-15 in the first and won 15-7 in the second. “Charlie and Rocky worked well together, often switching sides and formation during the match,” Coach Dave said. The duo won 11-7 in the tiebreaker to advance to the semifinals (and medal) round.
After defeating Colombia, the battle with Mexico’s Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya began. “Mar was shooting lights out,” shared Coach Ellis. “He was just incredible, killing balls from everywhere.” Rocky and Charlie won the first game, 15-11 but fell in the second, 9-15. The tiebreaker went back and forth with serves exchanged but no points scored. Both Rocky and Charlie made diving gets, behind-the-back saves, and between-the-legs returns. Mexico edged out the United States to win 11-8 and will meet Moscoso and Keller of Bolivia in the finals tomorrow.
Kelani/ Rhonda defeated Angelica Barrios/Jenny Daza (BOL) 15-9, 15-4
Rocky/Charlie defeated Sebastian Franco/ Mario Mercado (COL) 5-15, 15-7, 11-7
Kelani/ Rhonda lost to Paola Longoria/ Samantha Salas 15-6, 15-1
Rocky/Charlie lost to Javier Mar/ Rodrigo Montoya 11-15, 15-9, 8-11
WHAT’S ON TAP:
Tomorrow afternoon, both Team USA doubles duos will participate in the awards ceremony where they will receive their Bronze medals! This is Kelani’s first Pan American Games medal and Rhonda’s seventh. She previously won three Silvers in singles, doubles and the team competition in Guadalajara (2011) as well as a Silver in the team competition and two Bronze in singles and doubles in Toronto (2015).
Like Kelani, this is Charlie’s first Pan American Games medal. Rocky has won Gold and Silver in the last two Pan American Games in singles and in the team competitions, respectively. He also won a Bronze medal in the team competition in Santo Domingo in 2003.
The Team competition here in Lima begins tomorrow at 4:30 pm US Central Time. Each country's team will play the best two out of three matches, in both men's and women's divisions, with the order of divisions (Singles #1, Singles #2 and Doubles) rotating. Winning teams will advance in this single elimination format.
For Team USA, Kelani will hold the women’s singles #1 slot, with Rhonda in the #2 slot; together they will play doubles. On the men’s team, Rocky will play in the #1 slot, with Jake in the #2 slot, and Rocky and Charlie will continue competing in doubles.
The team brackets will be announced after the individual phase finals tomorrow afternoon. You can view the draws for both the men’s and women’s team competitions, respectively, below:
CREDIT IS DUE:
It’s my opinion that the toughest position in racquetball is that of the referee! The IRF has brought eighteen referees from seven different countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia and Costa Rica. These referees have been very professional through the entire tournament. Check out their group photo!
FEATURED STAFF: Dave Ellis, Head Coach
again to Kelani, Rhonda, Charlie and Rocky on their Bronze medals!
Blog #6 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Monday, August 5th
by: Renée Isherwood
Today was the first day of the Singles and Doubles elimination rounds. The United States had a bye in the first round of both Women’s and Men’s Doubles. Those matches will be at 1 pm and 2 pm, respectively tomorrow.
Jake led off playing Ramon De Leon of the Dominican Republic. “Jake’s drive serves down the right side are the best I’ve seen in 45 years of racquetball!” Enthused Coach Dave. “Even though Ramon knew they were coming, he couldn’t handle them. Jake won the first game handily, 15-3.” boasted Coach Dave. Ramon was extremely quick and precise when he had a chance to stabilize. He pushed Jake in the second game, but Jake held on to win 15-9.
With the win, Jake moved into the quarterfinals against Mario Mercado of Colombia. Coach Dave was impressed with both players saying, “This match was hard-fought on both sides. Each made bombing serves down the right side that, for me, would have been career shots!” Mario won the first, 15-8, while Jake took the second 15-9. In the end, Mario gained an advantage and closed out the tiebreaker, 11-8 eliminating Jake from the individual Singles competition.
Both Rhonda and Charlie had 11 am matches scheduled. Rhonda's game started first vs. Merynanyelly Delgado of the Dominican Republic. “Delgado is a very athletic player, but Rhonda remained steady as she has all tournament,” Coach Debbie remarked. “When Delgado started swinging at everything, she was able to connect and made some impressive shots, but Rhonda’s determination didn’t waiver.” Rhonda advanced, winning 15-8, 15-14.
Moving into to the quarters, Rhonda played Adriana Riveros of Colombia. Rhonda had a difficult time keeping her feet under her on the wet floor, never quite getting set. Riveros won in two, 15-10, 15-10.
Charlie's match started 45 minutes late. He played Dominican Republic’s Luis Perez, who won the first game 15-13. “Luis is a big guy, with lots of reach, speed and power,” noted Coach Dave. Charlie took the second game 15-10, forcing the tiebreaker. Charlie fell behind but found a serve that gave Luis trouble. This brought USA the win, 11-5.
Moving into the quarters, Charlie faced a well-rested Conrrado Moscoso of Bolivia. With only one hour between to match to recuperate, he struggled against the Bolivian. The match frustrated Charlie, who lost in two games, 7-15, 7-15.
In Kelani’s first match of the main bracket, the U.S. National Champion went head to head with Carla Munoz of Chile. Sticking to her game plan, Kelani took the first game 15-10. In the second, Carla battled back and won 15-11, forcing the tiebreaker. Down in the tiebreaker 3-7, Kelani clawed her way back with z-serves and drive serves to the backhand, forcing weak returns. Kelani won 11-7.
Advancing to the quarterfinals, Kelani played the #1 seed, Maria Jose Vargas of Argentina. In the first game, Kelani jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Maria settled down and took control of the game, winning 15-9. In the second game, Kelani again took a quick lead at 8-0, seemingly stunning Vargas, who quickly called a timeout. Vargas made a big comeback, with 10 unanswered points, blasting low drive serves to the back hand, and forcing weak returns. At 9-12, Kelani served well, setting up weak returns which allowed her to cut off and re-kill Maria’s attempts. This caught Maria off guard, bringing the score to 13-12. Several side outs ensued, with Kelani covering every corner of the court, hitting balls behind her back, keeping them in play. Despite not winning the match (final score 15-13), Kelani’s superb play surprised a lot of people. “The more she plays the better she gets. I don’t think she has reached her potential; she can be phenomenal,” Coach Debbie said.
Jake defeated Ramon De Leon (DOM) 15-3, 15-9
Charlie defeated Luis Perez (DOM) 13-15, 15-10, 11-5
Rhonda defeated Merynanyelly Delgado (DOM) 15-8, 15-14
Kelani defeated Carla Munoz (CHI) 15-10, 11-15, 11-7
Jake lost to Mario Mercado (COL) 8-15, 15-9, 8-11
Rhonda lost to Adriana Riveros (COL) 10-15, 10-15
Charlie lost to Conrrodo Moscoso (BOL) 7-15, 7-15
Kelani lost to Maria Jose Vargas (ARG) 9-15, 14-15
While Team USA was eliminated in the individual Singles competition, both duos play tomorrow in their first matches in the main Doubles draws.
1 pm Kelani/ Rhonda vs. Angelica Barrios/Jenny Daza (BOL)
2 pm Rocky/Charlie vs. Sebastian Franco/ Mario Mercado (COL)
FEATURED ATHLETE: Rocky Carson
Rocky Carson, 40, 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 17 years, and they are parents to daughter Jasmine, 14, and son Christian, 12.
So how did you get started playing racquetball? “My parents, RO and Lauren Carson, 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, California. 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 big 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 Championships 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 gotten hurt. That was my first experience being part of Team USA, and I’ve been a part of it ever since.”
Other hobbies/interests? “Surfing (sometimes with my son and daughter), hanging out with my family, coaching my son’s sports teams, being Jasmine’s biggest fan with her cross country high school team. Both kids play racquetball, too. I also do some training and teaching out of Renaissance ClubSports in Aliso Viejo.”
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? “Racquetball has been a big blessing in my life. I'm grateful to my wife Jenn for giving me the support to pursue my dreams, as well as Jasmine and Christian, my sister Dawn, and of course my parents who have always understood my passion for racquetball. Thanks to my sponsors Head/Penn, RacquetWorld, Rollout Racquetball, CourtGrabbers, and Renaissance ClubSports. Fran Davis has been my coach for half of my professional career and has been such an instrumental part of my success. 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 to be a part of a team in which we are all trying to win the gold, individually and collectively.”
Team USA received lot of compliments on the uniforms when we livestreamed. A big THANK YOU goes out to Jonathan at Rollout, who provided the gear for USA Racquetball. Head over to www.wearrollout.com and get your Team USA gear today!
Speaking of livestream, USA Racquetball’s Facebook Live streaming has concluded for this tournament. Thanks to all who tuned in! You will still be able to view matches from Courts 1 and 2 via the IRF’s Facebook page for the remainder of the Games here in Lima.
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #5 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Sunday, August 4th
by: Renée Isherwood
Today was the final day of singles pool play. The top two players from each pool advanced to the single elimination draws, which begin tomorrow. We’re proud to announce that all four Team USA singles players have advanced!
Kelani played Maricruz Ortiz of Costa Rica in today’s only Women’s Singles match for Team USA. Coach Debbie said, “Kelani started out overanxious, over hitting, and trying to chance balls that should have come off the back wall. Halfway through the first game, we changed the approach, letting them come off the back wall for a better set up.” Kelani came back from a 10-5 deficit to win 15-13. Maricruz found frustration with Kelani’s style and at 10-0 in the second game, she and her coach asked for a new referee. The request was not approved. Kelani took over the game with Z-serves, and shot well from deep court, winning 15-3.
Next, Jake took on Edwin Galicia of Guatemala. Coach Dave noted, “Edwin is a tough player, but Jake’s power, anticipation, quickness and shot making was just too much for him.” Jake won the match 15-12, 15-4.
The third match of the day was scheduled for Charlie Pratt and Shai Manzuri of Argentina. While in the warm up room, the Velcro snapped on some warm up bands, causing the cluster of bands to snap into Manzuri’s face, cutting him and swelling his eye shut. Just 20 minutes before the scheduled start the match, Manzuri had to forfeit. IRF President Osvaldo Maggi shared on the Livestream what a great guy Charlie is, offering to move the match to a later time, but the IRF rules wouldn’t allow it.
In the Women’s Doubles match Kelani and Rhonda played current World Champions Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas of Mexico. The first game was dominated by Samantha’s power and her cross court and wide angle passes, putting Team USA on defense. “Samantha would pinch from the deep court and was able to blast them. Next to the court, you can really hear the power!” explained Coach Debbie. In the second game, our U.S. duo adjusted and was able to keep it close. Kelani’s jam serves and z-serves were effective, as were Rhonda’s serves to Paola’s backhand. Coach Debbie noted, “The ladies had momentum until 9-8 when they had two unforced errors, followed by two good shots by Paola, taking them to match point.” Rhonda and Kelani lost 15-9.
While Coach Dave and Coach Debbie were coaching Rhonda and Kelani, I represented the United States in the coach’s meeting to finalize the seedings for the Men’s and Women’s draws. 14 country representatives and four IRF members piled into a 6-8 room and confirmed the seeding. It was very exciting to be in the room! I stayed for the Doubles draws as well, and gave a cheer when the U.S. Men were seeded #1!
Charlie and Rocky finished the night off, playing Juan Salvatierra and Edwin Galicia of Guatemala. Rocky was literally climbing the walls at the beginning of the match to make shots. Charlie and Rocky read each other well and were able to move in unison with ease. They took the match in two, 15-5, 15-11.
This tournament is so much fun to watch! If you’re catching the USAR livestream on Facebook, I don’t make technical comments; I know my limits! Instead, I cheer for the Team, and keep our viewers informed on what’s happening in the match (scores, time outs, etc.), as well as communicate the day’s results and upcoming schedules. I also endeavor to answer questions and field suggestions to quit moving the camera - four or five matches in, my arms get pretty tired holding the phone above heads! I love sharing Team USA’s matches with everyone back home. It’s an honor to be here, to express your cheers for them to hear!
Kelani defeated Maricruz Ortiz (CRC) 15-13, 15-3.
Jake defeated Edwin Galicia (GUA) 15-12, 15-4.
Charlie won by forfeit over Shai Manzuri (ARG)
Kelani/ Rhonda lost to Paola Longoria/ Samantha Salas (MEX) 5-15, 9-15.
Rocky/Charlie defeated Edwin Galicia/ Juan Salvatierra (GUA) 15-5, 15-11.
Featured Athlete: Rhonda Rajsich
Rhonda Rajsich, of Phoenix, Arizona (born and raised), has played racquetball for most of her life, 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 athlete, lover of life, here to serve.” 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 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 World title, with the second in 2010 in Korea.”
Rhonda thanks her sponsors: Rollout Racquetball, Racquetball Warehouse, Restrung Magazine, and 3WallBall. She wants to recognize her mother Deneen Thurow and her late father Dennis Rajsich for their lifelong support, and she also thanks Coach Jim Winterton, Trainers Travis Stoetzel, Jarrett East and Jim Walter, Brent Huff (US Team Trainer), Jeff Kettering (agent), Jason Bronson, Dr. Michael Leff (chiropractor), Dr. Danielle Lewis (doctor), Dr. David Herzberg (physical therapist), and Toni Delos Santos (mental coach). Rhonda would also like to thank Jennifer and the kids for their unwavering love and support though thick and thin.
Some of Rhonda's other interests/hobbies outside racquetball include basketball, training, playing outside, music/movies/shows, and eating. In answer to a recent question (What is your favorite childhood memory?), Rhonda reminisces, "Going to Disneyland and Huntington Beach with my parents.”
10 am Jake vs. Ramon De Leon (DOM)
11 am Charlie vs. Luis Perez (DOM)
11 am Rhonda vs. Merynanyelly Delgado (DOM)
12 pm Kelani vs. Carla Munoz (CHI)
Should Jake and Charlie win their first match, they will each advance to the second round of singles at 1 pm. If Rhonda and Kelani win their matches, they will play at 2 pm and 3 pm, respectively.
Both the Men and Women have a first-round bye for their Doubles matches. Rhonda and Kelani will play Tuesday at 1 pm vs. Barrios/Daza of Bolivia. Rocky and Charlie earned the #1 seed and will play Tuesday at 2 pm against the winners of a feeder match.
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #4 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Saturday, August 3rd
by: Renée Isherwood
Day 2 of pool play and Team USA goes 6 for 6!
National Champion Jake Bredenbeck led us off at 10 am against Jonathan Luque of Peru. Despite the home country support in the stands, Jake took the match in under 12 quickly 15-6, 15-1. “Jake continued to dominate in Game 2, serving many Zs, nicks and medium speed drives,” shares Coach Dave, noting that, “Jonathan is a very much improved player.” J
Team USA’s second match pitted Pan American Racquetball Championship’s Silver medalist Charlie Pratt against Chile’s National Champion, Francisco Troncoso. “Charlie controlled Game 1, playing Troncoso’s forehand,” explained Coach Dave. “He played an almost identical Game 2 and took the match in two games, 15-7, 15-2. He will play Shai Manzuri of Argentina tomorrow, an important matchup since the winner will move on to the single elimination round.
Rhonda kept the winning streak going, defeating Frederique Lambert of Canada 15-13, 15-5. Coach Debbie praised Rhonda’s steady play. “Rhonda served very well throughout the match, forcing weak returns. At the end of the match, Rhonda finished off the Canadian with drive serves.” While both players asked for wet ball rulings, neither received them. This frustrated Lambert. Rajsich was able to easily convert Lambert’s mistakes to points.
While Coach Debbie was with Rhonda on court 1, Kelani’s singles match vs. Jennifer Saunders of Canada on court 3. Coach Dave kept Kelani on her game plan. “Kelani settled down today and placed the ball well,” he said. “Despite Saunders’ great hands and ability, Kelani was able to keep many balls in play and hit them away from her opponent.” As with the other Team USA singles matches, Kelani won in two games, by scores of 15-7, 15-5.
In the fifth Team USA matchup of the day, Charlie Pratt and Rocky Carson took on Argentina’s Shai Manzuri and Fernando Kurzbard. The guys battled, with the US taking a close Game 1, 15-11. Coach Dave thought, “the guys were a little too relaxed in the first game,” despite winning. The second game saw Argentina turn it around, grabbing a huge lead. Coach Dave continued, “USA made a move at the end, double serving Kurzbard and gaining some momentum moving into the tiebreaker, where Rocky became ‘coach’ on the floor. The shift in strategy brought the desired result. Team USA took the match in three, 15-11, 8-15, 11-4.
The last match of the day featured Kelani and Rhonda against the Munoz sisters of Ecuador. “The sisters came out with the intention of picking on Kelani,” said Coach Dave. “Wow, did that backfire! Kelani tore up the court with her jam serves and kill shots.” She made several down-the-line shots on the right side of the court. USA won big, 15-10, 15-1. Coach Debbie added, “There she is. There’s the Kelani we know.”
Off the court, we had some fun as well:
- Jake cheerfully reported on WhatsApp that he thought he was being kidnapped (just kidding, the bus took a new route).
- Rhonda and I shivered in the stands. If you watch the livestreams on Facebook, you can spot her bundled in a hoodie.
- Kelani made the day of a little Peruvian boy who wanted to meet her.
- Rocky took Milco, the mascot, to school on the court.
- And Charlie… well, Charlie couldn’t get enough of the cold, submerging himself in an ice bath.
Jake defeated Jonathan Luque (Peru) 15-6, 15-1
Charlie defeated Francisco Troncoso (Chile) 15-7, 15-2
Rhonda defeated Frederique Lambert (Canada) 15-13, 15-5
Kelani defeated Jennifer Saunders (Canada) 15-7, 15-5
Rocky and Charlie defeated Shai Manzuri/ Fernando Kurzbard (Argentina) 15-11, 8-15, 11-4
Kelani/Rhonda defeated Maria Jose Munoz/ Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador) 15-10, 15-1
FEATURED ATHLETE: Charlie Pratt, Portland, Oregon
Colorado State University – Pueblo, Psychology
Portland Community College, Small Business Development
Cornell University, Nutrition
Personal Trainer and Nutritionist
Ranking on the IRT: 23rd
Wife Ceci, parents Deb and Charley Pratt, younger sister Katie.
How did you get started playing racquetball?
At age 6, my mom took me to the local club (Sunset Athletic Club in Portland). I saw some people playing doubles. I stood there trying to figure out the rules as a six-year-old. My mom recalls that I pointed to the court and said, “I have to try that." She signed me up for the free Sunday Junior Clinic. We had a great program at Sunset Athletic Club, both juniors and adults. I played my first in-house tournament a few months later, then my first Oregon Junior tournament a few months after that. I fell in love with the sport and have never looked back.
I played my first Junior Nationals at age 8 in Fountain Valley, California, at Los Caballeros. I also played the Junior Worlds that year, same location. I won my first National Championship at age 11 in Baltimore, Maryland. From ages 14-18 I qualified for the Junior USA Team, competing in the Junior World Championships representing Team USA. It was a huge honor. I also played High School Racquetball for Sunset High School. After juniors I played Collegiate Racquetball for Colorado State University – Pueblo. CSU-P is one of the best teams in the country, and I was able to practice with very high-level players. Then I started playing in Professional Tournaments on the IRT, which was really fun! I got to play against some of my role models, like Ruben Gonzales and Rocky Carson. I also got to watch other professionals like Kane, Cliff, Jack, Mannino, etc. which was awesome! In 2009, at age 23, I decided to play full-time as a professional. I did that for 6 years, traveling to about 20 tournaments per year. It was an exciting time in my life. My highest rank was #8. Recently, I have only been playing a handful of IRT tournaments. I still love to compete on the IRT, but now my main focus now is qualifying and competing for Team USA.
Ancient Egypt, Astronomy, Cycling, Golf, Traveling, Road trips, Music, Yoga, Cooking, etc.
Whom would you like to recognize for their support?
My parents. My wife. My coaches: Matt Hanners, Darrin McNally, Cliff Swain, Dave Ellis. My friends all around the racquetball world. So many more...
How does it feel to be competing with USA on your back at the Pan American Games?
I am beyond excited to represent Team USA. International tournaments are the most exciting. They have a different energy. You are playing for more than just yourself. This is a rare opportunity to become part of a team. It brings out another level in me as a player. To represent my country, which has so many great players, is actually pretty unbelievable. I am honored and excited to compete in Peru!
Much gratitude goes to Bruno Semino, the PASO Racquetball Venue Manager, who was able to secure permission for livestreaming Team USA's matches on Facebook! Bruno is a genuine racquetball hero. Look for more tomorrow as Team USA takes to the courts once again in the pool play phase of this Pan American Games competition.
11 am Kelani vs. Maricruz Ortiz (Costa Rica)
12 pm Jake vs. Edwin Galicia (Guatemala)
2 pm Charlie vs. Shai Manzuri (Argentina)
3 pm Kelani/Rhonda vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico)
5 pm Rocky/Charlie vs. Edwin Galicia/Juan Salvatierra (Guatemala)
Note: Rhonda has a bye in this last day of pool play competition.
Once the matches are completed tomorrow, the results will be utilized to establish the main draws beginning on Monday. Only the top two in each pool will continue on to the main draw, so the players from these 14 competing countries will be leaving it all on the courts!
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #3 Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Friday, August 2nd
by: Renée Isherwood
The sun finally broke free of the clouds as competition started today! There had been much debate as to whether we would ever see the sun this trip. Of course, it happened on a day where we were inside the competition venue for 10 hours, but the sun did shine, as did our athletes.
Kelani kicked things off with a tough match against Maria Paz Munoz of Ecuador. Coach Debbie Tisinger-Moore commented that Kelani was so excited for her first match at the Pan American Games that she never quite settled down. No matter what happened in the game, though, she never gave up and continued to fight through.
"Rhonda played steadily, focused, and determined as she took on the 2019 Women Mexican National Singles Champion, Monserrat Mejia," Coach Debbie comments. "Mejia was determined to try to change the momentum of the game, diving after balls Rhonda would place just out of reach. Rhonda’s 'thinking with her feet' was outstanding, as she was able to hesitate in order to put the ball out of reach with many effective pinches and kill shots."
Match three was a slugfest between Jake Bredenbeck and Sebastian Franco of Colombia. Their power was an awesome sight to see! Both left it all out on the court, with Jake winning in two, 15-10, 15-9. Coach Dave Ellis adds, "The first game was a battle with many side outs until Jake scored six in a row at 9-9. Both players brought a lot of skill, power and placement, which treated the crowd to some amazing racquetball. The second game pretty much followed the same pattern with Jake pulling away at 9-9, and again scoring six straight and winning 15-9. It was great to witness excellent sportsmanship from both competitors."
The fourth singles match of the day for Team USA was Charlie Pratt vs. Coby Iwaasa of Canada. This was one of the toughest match-ups of the tournament thus far. The guys battled back and forth, with Charlie prevailing 15-14 in a nail biter. The second game went in a similar fashion, but with a different outcome; Iwaasa won 15-11, sending it to tiebreaker. Charlie gave it all, making some difficult diving gets, but the third game ended with Iwaasa on top, 11-9.
Our fifth and final match of the day featured Rocky and Charlie taking on Canadians Iwaasa and Samuel Murray. Despite having had that tough singles match just an hour before against each other, both Charlie and Iwaasa looked good to start. Coach Dave comments: "What a match! Many long rallies, lots of great gets and a little bit of controversy. Team USA won the first game 15-12. In the second, Canada jumped to a significant lead, causing the US to need to fight back intensely.
Canada took the second 15-10. The tiebreaker was back and forth. At 9-9, Rocky hit two perfect Z serves that resulted in set-ups. Rocky killed the first one and Charlie hit a perfect pass on the second. Our National Champions are meshing and reading each other well––a positive sign for Team USA!"
As a note, these are just the first rounds of the pool play. The top two from each pool in Singles and all Doubles teams will advance to the main draw (single elimination) the first of next week.
Kelani lost to Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador), 5-15, 6-15
Rhonda defeated Monserrat Mejia (Mexico), 15-4, 15-7
Jake defeated Sebastian Franco (Colombia), 15-10, 15-9
Charlie lost to Coby Iwaasa (Canada), 15-14, 11-15, 9-11
Rocky/Charlie beat Coby Iwaasa/Samuel Murray (Canada), 15-12, 10-15, 11-9
Featured Player of the Day – Kelani Lawrence
Kelani Lawrence, 25, resides in Roanoke, Virginia, with her husband, Sam Lawrence, and their bunny named Sadie. Their one-year wedding anniversary is the weekend she returns from this trip (August 18)! She grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and had the influence of racquetball from a young age with both her parents playing. Her mother, Malia Bailey, was inducted into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame the same weekend she won her very first National Singles Championship title this past May. Her father, Jim Bailey, and brother, Warren Bailey, are also cheering her on from home!
Kelani competed her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration - Sport Management at Shenandoah University (Winchester, Virginia) and went on to earn a Master's in Business Administration at Regent University (Virginia Beach, Virginia). She currently works full time as the Membership Director at the Salem Family YMCA in Roanoke.
Kelani got started in racquetball at the age of 10 when she attended a clinic her mom was leading and then played in a few of the tournaments Malia ran. She played her first Junior Nationals at 13 years old. Since then, Kelani has competed on the US Adult and Junior National Teams and served as an Assistant Coach for the US Junior Team in 2016. She has also been active on the Ladies Professional Tour the past few years. She is passionate about the sport of racquetball but also loves field hockey. A four-year starter on her college team, Kelani now volunteers as an assistant coach for Roanoke College.
Other interests/hobbies? “I enjoy working out and being active, going to the beach, playing with my bunny, traveling, and going out with friends. Oh, and playing Pokemon Go. Haha."
“I would like to recognize my husband, family, friends, and coworkers for their love and support. Competing in an individual sport is that much tougher when you don't have a team to motivate you, push you, and keep you focused. These people make up my team. They keep me on track with workouts and practices by constantly asking how they are going. They are understanding if I get busy, and they know when I need room for fun. They are my unofficial therapists, training partners, and nutritionists (my husband is the cook in the house and he keeps things super healthy). They always share my excitement and support me when I go off and compete in tournaments and always welcome me back with love and open arms. Also, a big 'thank you' to my sponsors HEAD Racquetball and Rollout Racquetball.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Team USA at the Pan American Games in both singles and doubles. This will be the first time I have been able to compete on this large of a platform, and I am soaking in the entire experience. In addition to our own sport's competitive events, I have looked forward to experiencing the support for Team USA from all the athletes competing at the Games. I definitely want to cheer on USA Field Hockey at some of their games, and I promised my partner Rhonda I'd get to a USA Basketball game with her. Hopefully we can get some of the other athletes out to our matches as well!"
On the lighter side...
Books that will NEVER be written by Delegates
They’re Only Animals, by Charlie Pratt
My Life in the NBA, by David Leroy Ellis
Fitness is Overrated, by Brent Huff
It’s Too Hot In Here, by Rhonda Rajsich
Touch RACQUETBALL, by Jake Bredenbeck
My Life as an Introvert, by Kelani Lawrence
I Wish I Was a Chick Magnet, by Rocky Carson
Details are Overrated, by Renée Isherwood
Racquetball Sucks, by Debbie Tisinger-Moore
Saturday in Lima!
I had been live streaming the matches (or parts thereof) on Facebook this afternoon, but then I was told I wasn’t allowed to broadcast the matches live. Who knew? So, we had to turn it off with the last three points of the Men’s Doubles match undetermined. Be sure, though, to check out the USA Racquetball Facebook page for videos, and certainly visit http://www.
So tomorrow is the second day of pool play/round robin competition at the Racquetball venue at Callao. Remember, all matches are US Central Time -- please send some great vibes our way!
10 am Jake vs. Jonathan Luque (Peru)
11 am Charlie vs. Francisco Troncoso (Chile)
1 pm Rhonda vs. Frederique Lambert (Canada)
2 pm Kelani vs. Jennifer Saunders (Canada)
3 pm Rocky/Charlie vs. Shai Manzuri/Fernando Kurzbard (Argentina)
5 pm Kelani/Rhonda vs. Maria Jose Munoz/Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador)
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Blog #2 – Pan American Games – Lima, Peru
Thursday, Aug. 1st
After waiting 45 minutes for a bus, the Team headed to the venue this morning for a 9am practice. Being the last day prior to competition, the players went hard for a shorter amount of time. One of our biggest challenges will be transportation. It takes a minimum of one hour to reach the venue, but in high traffic times, that can easily turn into an hour and a half to almost two hours.
While the players were at practice, Assistant Coach Debbie Tisinger-Moore and Team Leader Renee Isherwood represented the United States at the IRF/PASO Technical (aka Coaches) meeting. It was so encouraging to hear Francisco Lee of Pan American Sports Organization say that racquetball is seen as an “emerging sport, a growing sport, with more people following and more practicing. It is growing!” Mr. Lee laid out the need for a developmental program to help carry the sport forward.
Osvaldo Maggi, President of the IRF, boasted that eighteen countries of Western Hemisphere have racquetball teams, with fourteen represented here in Lima. So impressive is the gender equality representation, with 30 female and 30 male athletes competing.
We took Team photos today! We also were able to spend a little time exploring the Village. To see photos, please remember to visit www.usaracquetball.com.
“All of our players are focused and ready for the first matches tomorrow. Our five Team USA players possess so much talent and experience. The players are giving each other confidence simply by being a part of such an auspicious group.
“The transportation issue will be one to watch. Our players have been advised to leave the Village 2 ½ hours prior to their matches. We have been told the forfeiture rule will be strictly enforced. Ok… we’re ready to go with Kelani leading us off at 10 am.”
Match times for tomorrow are as follows (we are on the equivalent of U.S. Central time):
Maria Paz Munoz (ECU)
Monserrat Mejia (MEX)
Sebastian Franco (COL)
Coby Iwaasa (CAN)
Rhonda and Kelani drew a first-round bye and will begin doubles play Saturday.
FEATURED PLAYER OF THE DAY: Jake Bredenbeck (Singles #1)
Jake, 27, grew up in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, and currently resides there. He is ranked #14 on the IRT. Jake travels and plays the tour full-time. He holds an MBA from Colorado State University-Pueblo, and he names dual occupations – carpenter and racquetball player.
His #1 fans are his mom, Karen, his dad, Bill, and his brother Sam. It’s a racquetball family – Sam competed for the US Junior Team in Bolivia in 2013 and in Santo Domingo in 2015.
“My parents both played racquetball and got me into it at a young age, always bringing me to the club when they went. They ran a racquetball club for many years in which I worked at as I got older. I was 4½ when I started playing and have been in love with the sport since.”
Other interests/hobbies? “I love playing almost any sport. Being on a lake. Hanging out with friends and family. Working out.”
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? My parents for their continued support in all that I do, they are the reason I play racquetball and still get to play. My brother for always being there for me no matter what and continuing to help me grow. Thank you to Head for sponsoring me, as well as Donald Williams and Keith Minor for their continued support.”
Jake sums it up: “I am excited to be playing for Team USA again, I missed the opportunity last year at IRF Worlds and am very happy to be back for this trip! It is a great honor for me to be able to do this and wear USA on my back again.”
Follow us tomorrow on social media as I post score updates via Twitter. WiFi permitting, I will also try to provide some video via Facebook live.
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
Remember, if you make a gift of $25 or more during the Pan American Games, you will receive a limited-edition collectors pin from Lima. If you’d like to make a gift to the U.S. National Team, please donation here: https://www.givedirect.org/
Blog #1 -- Pan American Games (PAG), Lima, Peru
July 31, 2019
Greetings from Lima – the capital of Peru and third largest city in South America––where 89% of the US Team Delegation has arrived yesterday. Team members will compete here in singles and doubles against fourteen other countries beginning on Friday, August 2nd.
Travel to Lima
The summer thunderstorms of Texas and the gulf coast played with our Team as several delegates had delayed and cancelled flights to Houston.
Debbie Tisinger-Moore’s flight from Burbank to Denver flight was delayed an hour and a half, which would have caused her to miss her connection through Denver to Houston. She ended up in a taxi from Bob Hope Airport to LAX and caught a direct to Houston. With the driver weaving in and out of Los Angeles rush hour traffic, Debbie arrived feeling like she had gone through a carnival ride.
Rhonda’s original flight cancelled, and she spent 45 minutes in Denver trying to get rerouted through Dallas, only to be put back onto another United flight to Houston that landed around the same time as her original.
The entire delegation made it to Houston, with time to spare, except for interim Team Leader, Renee Isherwood who was delayed and then diverted to San Antonio. For her 43-hour adventure, see the end of the blog.
Hey, meet the Dream Team (aka the US Delegation) for this eight-day event!
Jake Bredenbeck, Minnesota: #1 Singles
Charlie Pratt, Oregon: #2 Singles
Rocky Carson, California/ Charlie Pratt: Doubles
Kelani Bailey Lawrence, Virginia: #1 Singles
Rhonda Rajsich, Arizona: #2 Singles
Kelani Bailey Lawrence/ Rhonda Rajsich: Doubles
Supporting our US Team athletes:
Dave Ellis, California -- Head Coach
Debbie Tisinger-Moore, California -- Assistant Coach
Brent Huff, Illinois/Arizona -- Team Trainer
Renee Isherwood, Colorado -- Team Leader
Coach Dave Reports on Day Two: Practice
Coach Dave Ellis will regale us with comments each evening, and here's his account of the team's first two days in Lima.
“Today the Team ventured to the venue once again. Transportation yesterday was a problem with the schedule yesterday, but today was much better.” Being an hour away from the venue, on a manual bus on bumpy roads is not the most conducive environment for our athletes. Charlie brought two pillows with him for comfort.
“Jake brought his ‘Denver focus’ and played a game against his buddy, Filipe Camacho of Costa Rica.
Kelani and Rhonda played together for the first time, and I am seeing a great doubles team in the making. Both are tremendously athletic and respect each other’s ability.
“Rocky and Charlie gave them excellent competition followed by Rocky and athletic trainer, Brent Huff.
Charlie worked hard on the court, hitting shots and movement drills.” With two courts having much darker floors, the extra practices have helped the Team focus to see the black @Gearbox ball.
The Team elected Rhonda and Rocky as Team Captains. Rhonda, with her superb sense of humor, said, “I think we were grandfathered into the position.” Rocky answered, “Yeah, 10 years ago!”
The last practice resumes tomorrow at 9am, which means a 7:30 bus departure.
Preview of Day Three
So as Dave said, practice for the team will commence at 9:00 am Thursday. On the administrative side of things, the Coaches' Meeting will commence at 12 noon in the Village. The US Team will get together at 2:00 pm for a Team Meeting and official Team photos.
So, welcome to the 2019 Pan American Games blogs. For the next ten days I'll be sending results, news, anecdotes, player profiles, and more, all designed to help you, the reader, feel like you're here with us in Lima. You can follow us on social media, as well, as I’ll post photos and scores as we play. We do wish you were all here...you know how racquetball players love an audience!
GO TEAM USA!!
-- Renée Isherwood
This may not be as regaling as Cheryl’s adventure to Barranquilla, but nonetheless, it was a wearisome travel day.
Team Leader Woes:
Well just like Cheryl Kirk’s trip to Barranquilla, this Team Leader’s flight to Lima was a forty-three-hour adventure! My 7:30am flight from Colorado Springs to Houston was delayed for mechanical reasons that no one could explain.
As I went through TSA, it was quite a sight to behold, as three bins were filled with food for the Team! These were only the items in my carryon! 80 pounds of two checked bags were also sustenance for the Team.
After three postponements, we were told that we’d be leaving at 12:15pm, giving me 17 minutes of wiggle room for my luggage to make the connection to Lima. As we boarded the plane, the flight attendant told us that our plane had right engine failure and was overheating every time they would start it up. So, it took the 4 hours to diagnose and realize they needed a new plane from Denver.
Once we got airborne, things were smooth sailing, until we began circling Houston due to those wonderful summer thunderstorms. As I watched the 17 minutes of wiggle room quickly tick away, I realized that there was no way I was going to make the connection, when we diverted to San Antonio to refuel. The good news was that the flight to Lima was also on a ground stop.
I quickly texted Coach Dave and Debbie all the information they would need on how to get to the shuttles, get their accreditations reprinted (half of them were in my bag!) and how to get keys to the room.
The Team made up most of their delayed time and arrived at 11:15pm. By the time they caught the bus and made it to the Athlete Village and Team USA residence hall, it was 2:30am!
I spent the night in Houston, woke up the next morning and took the same 4:30pm flight out on Tuesday. While I worried about the Team and how they were doing, there wasn’t much I could besides update their whereabouts with the USOPC.
I left the hotel for the airport at 11am. TSA wiped down each piece of food in my bag, making the screening process take even longer. I waited four hours for my flight and this time, there was only a slight delay for weather as we sat on the tarmac. I arrived at 11:30pm and was greeted by Davis Tutt and two other members of the USOPC. They got me to the shuttle and after waiting for @USATableTennis, we made our way to the Athlete Village, arriving around 2:15am.
Once in my room, I quickly got settled so that Debbie could get back to sleep, and I could get some rest.
It’s been a traveling adventure for the Team Leaders of USA Racquetball lately. Let’s hope the next trips run a bit more smoothly!