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Alligator

Gainesville bike polo club hosts first invitational tournament

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Posted: Monday, April 9, 2012 1:00 am | Updated: 3:51 am, Tue Apr 10, 2012.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. In Monday’s edition of the Alligator, an editorial error caused it to be incorrectly reported that the Gainesville Hardcourt Bike Polo club hosted a tournament on Sunday at Veterans Park. The tournament was played at Veterans Park on Saturday, but on Sunday it was in the parking garage behind :08 Seconds.]

Seconds remained on the clock. The score was tied. Jimmy Gunderson left his goal and went on the attack.

The 30-year-old Tallahassee resident got the ball and smashed it from behind midfield. The shot careened through his opposition and rolled into the goal.

A triumphant Gunderson jumped off his bike and threw up his arms.

His team, Denim Venom, defeated its opponent at the first Canadian Tuxedo Invitational, a hardcourt bike polo tournament hosted Sunday in the parking garage behind :08 Seconds by the Gainesville Hardcourt Bike Polo club.

Hardcourt Bike Polo is a variation of traditional bicycle polo, which was invented in Ireland in 1891, according to the League of Bike Polo website. There are three players on each team in the hardcourt version of the game, and Florida matches are usually 10 minutes per game.

Hardcourt Bike Polo has expanded quickly since its creation in the early 21st century.

This year, the sport’s fourth-annual world championship will be hosted in London. Twenty-two teams competed in 2011 in the All Florida Bike Polo Championship 4.

“Right now, there’s a tournament about every two weeks in Florida,” said Danny Wood, 34, a Southeast League of Bike Polo regional representative.

Websites dedicated to the sport are helping Hardcourt Bicycle Polo grow by connecting members of its community across the globe.

LeagueofBikePolo.com provides players with forums, tournament dates and club listings.

For a player like Justin Pogge, the bicycle can be a mixture of innovation and victory spoils.

The 31-year-old Tallahassee resident welded the steel frame of his bike, modified the gear-shifting system so he could control both brakes with one hand, and put on 48-spoke wheels to keep his bike from being damaged.

He won his bike’s hot-pink handlebars, pedals and wheel covers from various tournaments in the Southeast.

He said the bike cost him less than $150.

His polo mallet is made of a ski pole and a recycled plastic pipe.

Players can compare bicycles and other equipment, which some players say fit well with the sport’s do-it-yourself mentality.

“Whatever you come up with in your garage thinking, ‘This may work in a polo game,’ could be the next big thing everyone’s doing,” said Alix Nelson, a 28-year-old physical therapist and bike polo player from Orlando.

Travis Mitchell, a Gainesville Hardcourt Bike Polo Club member said bike polo is the easiest and cheapest bike sport to get involved with.

Mitchell used to play with his commuting bicycle.

His third bike, which he purchased in fall of 2011, only cost him $60.

Mitchell said he expects the bike polo club to grow as the sport gains popularity, especially in urban areas where many people own bicycles.

“It’s not going to stay small,” Gunderson said. “We just need to guide it and make sure it doesn’t turn into anything we don’t want it to.”

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