Cortina and the polo snow – always full throttle ahead! The 2023 edition of the Italia Polo Challenge starts with remarkable results this time as well.
For the fourth year in a row, the Italia Polo Challenge has kicked off in the Dolomite pearl of Cortina. After the debut in 2020 with demonstration matches, the event then quickly took on the character of a real tournament, played every year – despite all the Covid restrictions. And the 2023 edition closed with numbers that were as impressive as they were great: six teams on the field, players from seven nations and three continents for four intense days of play, with exciting matches in the spotlight and very large crowds.
The polo event in Cortina, which is one of the most eagerly awaited sporting events of the season, hit the mark again this time, also thanks to a post-match programme that fully lived up to the expectations of the purely social part of the event. Once again it was the U.S. Polo Assn. team, title sponsor of the tournament, that entered the winners’ list, this time represented by an all-French polo team. In the final, Sebastien Aguettant, Patrick Paillol and Matthieu Delfosse defeated Natuzzi Polo Team, last year’s winners, represented by Clement Delfosse, Matthieu’s brother, and German players David Deistler and Patrick Maleitzke, by a comfortable margin (9 ½ /5).
Paillol was named the best player of the tournament: “This was my first participation in Cortina after having played many games on snow. I have to say that they really did a wonderful job here, with a perfect field at all times and a full programme for us every day, even before the games. A very enjoyable experience, we were even able to get out on the ski slopes. It was fun to challenge and beat my great friend Clement Delfosse in the final, but with his brother Matthieu on my team.” An award also went to China’s Eclair Chen, who had worked and waited two years for her first appearance in the snow of Ampezzo and then had to retire because of a knee injury, of all things (she was replaced by compatriot Wang Hoaw Chan from Team Blue Ocean Finance). The organisers therefore wanted to cheer her up with a special prize.
Cortina is preparing for the 2026 Winter Olympics and polo dreams of being included in the demonstration sports calendar. “The relationship with Cortina is beautiful and fruitful,” stressed FISE Secretary General Simone Perillo. “Polo is a spectacular and fascinating sport that balances the values of the horse-rider combination with those of a team sport. Two Olympic champions such as former ski racer Kristian Ghedina and or curler Stefania Constantini visited us in the polo village and found wonderful words of appreciation for the horses and our sport during the tournament. This is also an incentive for us to become even better”. Alessandro Giachetti, Director of Zone Europe of the International Polo Federation and Head of the FISE Polo Department, sees it the same way and emphasises: “The success of this year’s tournament in Cortina is the culmination of all the efforts and hard work of the past three years – and this is just the beginning for the development of this event, which has the potential to grow even more in the future.”
Text by Caterina Vagnozzi
Photography by IPC/Diego Bandion