Canada Takes Gold at Fifth International Championships

Team Canada Gold Medalists
The Canadian Bicycle Polo Team, winners of the Fifth  International Bicycle Polo Championships, held June 25-29 at Les Lilas, France:
  Dennis Mullen, Bill Matheson, Geoff Nielsen, Peter Furmedge, and Harvey Barton
    A last-minute goal by team captain Harvey Barton gained Redline Canada a 10-10 tie with India A and earned the team the gold medal in the Fifth International Bicycle Polo Championship, held June 25-29 in Paris, France. Canada and France A finished tied at 16 points with four wins and two ties each, but Canada took the gold on the basis of a +68 goal differential, compared to +45 for France A. (Goal differential was based on goals for and goals against, with Canada scoring 96 and allowing 28, and France A scoring 69 and allowing 24.) India A, winner of the first four International Bicycle Polo Championships, finished third with 15 points on four wins, one loss (to France A), and one tie (with Canada).
     Seven teams entered the event, two each from India, France,  and England, and one from Canada. Play began on Tuesday, June 25, with Canada  defeating India B 10-5 and India A downing France B 17-1. France A began  play the following day with an 11-1 win over France B, and India A followed  with a 17-5 win over India B. India B actually led 3-1 after the first period  in the later game, but were outscored 16-2 after both teams made substitutions  for the second chukker. Canada ran their record to 2-0 with a 16-0 win over  England A, and France A followed with a 20-0 win over England B. India B rebounded from their earlier loss to notch an 18-0 over England A, ending play for the day.
    Thursday’s matches began with India B evening their record at 2-2 with a 15-4 win over France B, after which Canada and France A took the field for one of the event’s most anticipated games. Canada managed to build a 7-4 lead after three periods, but France A came back to tie the score in the fourth. Barton had the ball in front of France A’s goal as the horn sounded, and he backed it through the goal soon thereafter. The International Bicycle Polo Federation’s rules state that the fourth chukker ends at the first horn if the score is not tied, but that play continues if the score is tied. The organizers had decided to count ties in the standings, but many assumed that would mean games tied after the fourth period had ended in accordance with the rules. After much debate, the game went in the books as a 7-7 tie, with Barton’s clutch goal not being counted.
    Play resumed with India A routing England B 29-0, after which Canada returned to the field to defeat France B 13-6. The final game of the day saw England A down England B 10-0 for their first victory.
    Friday’s play began with another key game, as France A shocked India A with a convincing 11-4 victory. This marked the first time in the five International Championships that India’s top team had been defeated, with their only prior close call having been an 8-7 victory in last year’s final against Canada. India A’s captain, Shiva Kumar, left the game with a broken finger, and would not play again in the tournament.
    India B then took the field to defeat England B 31-2, after which France B defeated England A 9-1 for their first win after four losses. Canada was up next against England B, and they realized that they needed to increase their goal differential after their game against France A was ruled a tie. With that in mind, they left their starters in for the entire game, running up a 40-0 final score. By contrast, France A then rested their captain, Jean-Mickael Languille, in their game against England A, and came out with a 12-4 win. Canada had thus defeated the two English teams by a combined score of 56-0, while France A had outscored their cross-channel neighbors 32-4 in their two matches.
    The final day’s competition began with India A defeating England A 27-3, rebounding strongly from their loss to France A and setting up a crucial game against Canada later that day. France B then downed England B 19-0 for their second straight win, clinching fifth place overall. The final two games featured the event’s top four teams, with France A taking on India B in the penultimate match. India B had lost to Canada 10-5 and been routed 17-5 by India A, but they played a strong game against France A, who had to come back in the last chukker to salvage an 8-8 tie. France A missed a number of penalty shots in the match, but India B’s inspired play was the main reason for the unexpected outcome.
     Canada and India A took to the field with a lot on the line, to say the least. France A’s tie with India B meant that Canada could take the gold with either a win or a tie; but if India A won, France A would  take the gold, India A the silver, and Canada the bronze. With Shiva Kumar on the sidelines, Canada’s players were cautiously optimistic, but India A came out strongly to build a 3-1 lead in the first chukker. Canada converted a penalty just before the end of the period to cut the deficit to one, and won the second chukker 4-2 for a 6-5 lead at the half.
    Canada widened their lead to 8-6 by the end of the third period, giving many a sense of déjà vu since they led last year’s final by two goals with one chukker to play. History looked like it was repeating itself as India A quickly tied the score at 8-8, with the tying goal coming on a brilliant back shot from at least 40 yards at a difficult angle. Canada regained the lead out of the following bowl-in, but India tied it again immediately thereafter and then took their first lead since the second chukker at 10-9. It looked like time would run out for Canada, but Geoff Nielsen carried a ball into the corner and centered it to Barton, who coolly poked it between the posts with less than a minute to play. The horn sounded with neither team having scored again, and Canada had finally taken the gold after two straight years of silver.
    The oldest team in the tournament, with three players over 40, had gotten through six games in five days and managed to lose none of them. After the controversial tie with France A, the Canadian players found it a bit ironic that a tie with India A had won them the gold, but even if the goal against France A had been allowed to stand, a loss to India A would have cost Canada the top spot. Canada’s victory in the tournament was all the more remarkable in that the French and Indian teams had been selected from dozens, if not hundreds, of available players, while the Canadian squad had brought the same four players to each of the last three tournaments, adding Dennis Mullen as an alternate only after the American team failed to materialize this year.
    The Canadian team had come together through a fortunate accident in 2000, as Bill Matheson had sought to join the American team for the Third International in India that year. Dennis McQuerry, the captain of the American team who had organized the First International in 1996, told Matheson that he would have to move to Washington State for three months to work out with the team if he wanted to make the squad. As an alternative, McQuerry suggested that Matheson contact the Canadian players in Vancouver, only three of whom were willing and able to make the trip to India. After several e-mails, Matheson got together with the Canadians for two weekend matches with the U.S. team in Washington State, and they went on to defeat the Americans 4-2 in India to earn a spot in the final.
    Matheson, who started playing bike polo in 1971 and won the Cartier Challenge Cup a year later, announced his retirement from open play. He plans to concentrate on organizing next year’s tournament, and hopes to create a senior division for those getting a bit long in the tooth. His teammates are looking for some younger, fresher legs to help them defend their title next year.


1.Canada (4 wins, 2 ties; 16 points, + 68 goal differential)

2.France A (4 wins, 2 ties; 16 points, + 45)

3.India A (4 wins, 1 loss, 1 tie; 15 points, + 74)

4.India B (3 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie; 13 points, + 41)

5.France B (2 wins, 4 losses; 10 points, - 17)

6. England A (1 win, 5 losses; 8 points, - 64)

7.England B (6 losses; 6 points, - 147)

(Win: 3 pts. Tie: 2 pts. Loss: 1 pt. Forfeit: 0 pt.)


Canada 10     India B 5
  India A 17     France B 1
France A  11     France B 1
11h India A 17     India B 5
Canada 16     England A 0
France A 20     England B 0
India B 18     England A 0
India B 15     France B 4
France A 7     Canada 7
India A 29     England B 0
Canada 13     France B 6
England A 10     England A 0
France A 11     India A 4
India B 31     England B 2
France B 9     England A 1
Canada 40     England B 0
France A 12     England A 4
India A 27     England A 3
France B 19     England B 0
India B 8     France A 8
India A 10     Canada 10

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