IRF 11th World Championships
San Juan, Puerto Rico: August 2-11, 2002

preview | releases | rosters | drawsheets: individual & team | finals & finishers
other websites:  Racquetball Canada [.pdf draws] | Team USA Update

saturday: 08/10 Team USA brings home the World Cup! With a 4-2 match record, the U.S. has re-captured the overall world title with a sweep by its women's squad. See "finals & finishers" for the results ... 
Position Draw
#1-4 East
#5-8 Northeast
#9-12  North
#13-16 Northwest
#17-20 West
#21-24 Southwest
#25-28 South

Legend: National teams are all playing off in final rounds today -- for immediate bragging rights and future positioning at international competitions. The men's teams will place #1 through 28 and the women's teams between #1 and 17. The overall team "World Cup" will go home with either Canada or the U.S. In referencing the online draws (in compass format) the finishes will be shown by "direction" [see chart at right].

Been there ... done that ... Although the Canadian and U.S. teams have faced off before -- just days ago, in fact -- some of the pairings in today's title rounds will be a bit different. In more traditional seeding, the top singles players switched out to play #1-to-#2 earlier in the week (Huzcek def. Waselenchuk & Thoerner def. Istace; Gudinas def. Grand'Maitre & Saunders def. Fenton) and will now go head-to-head by roster position. This means that, while the doubles matches will be the same, it will be new (and often tougher) match ups for the singles players. You can bet that they'll be sharing trade secrets on opponent weaknesses, as Team Canada prepares to defend the World Cup. 

Lucky 13s? Both of Canada's top roster players -- Brian Istace and Jennifer Saunders -- share a No.13 ranking position on their respective pro tours, at the close of the 2001-2002 season. Each will face a U.S. national champion in today's singles round, Istace against IRT No.5 Jack Huczek, and Saunders against LPRA No.1 Cheryl Gudinas. 

medal rounds
Position MEN: #1 Canada vs. #2 USA WOMEN: #1 USA vs. #2 Canada
#1 Singles 15:00 hrs Brian Istace vs. Jack Huczek  12:00 noon Cheryl Gudinas vs. Jennifer Saunders
#2 Singles 14:00 hrs Kane Waselenchuk vs. Jason Thoerner 13:00 hrs Laura Fenton vs. Josee Grand'Maitre 
Doubles 17:00 hrs Mike Ceresia & Michael Green vs. Ruben Gonzalez & Mike Guidry 16:00 hrs Jackie Rice & Kim Russell vs. Amanda McDonald & Karina Odegard
friday: 08/09 New Team Drawsheets: A second, more detailed form of team drawsheet is now available, citing individual match scores within each team "advance." Remember that each team's #1 singles player goes up against the other team's #1 -- the same for the #2s and doubles teams (if necessary). Once two matches have been won by a country, they are able to advance without playing the third (in most cases, it is shown as a "doubles forfeit" but scheduling determines which match is the tiebreaker). A "no-show" for the third match still allows the country to advance with a 2-1 win-loss record.

Men's Team Semifinals
Canada def. Japan 2-1: #1 15-14, 15-12; #2 15-4, 15-4; Doubles forfeit
USA def. Mexico 2-1: #1 15-9, 15-8; #2 15-11, 15-10; Doubles forfeit

Women's Team Semifinals
USA def. Mexico 3-0: #1 15-4, 15-8; #2 15-1, 15-7; Dbls 15-7, 7-15, 11-8
Canada Bolivia 2-1: #1 15-6, 15-5; #2 15-3, 15-6; Doubles forfeit

Men's Team Quarterfinals
Canada def. Argentina 2-1: #1 [8-15, 15-10, 11-7]; #2 forfeit; Doubles 14-15, 15-8, 11-3
Japan def. Venezuela 2-1: #1 15-5, 15-5; #2 15-9, 15-8; Doubles forfeit
Mexico def. Bolivia 2-1: #1 15-6, 15-3; #2 15-7, 15-9; Doubles forfeit
USA def. India 2-1: #1 15-2, 15-1; #2 15-10, 15-7; Doubles forfeit

Women's Team Quarterfinals
USA def. Puerto Rico 2-1: #1 15-5, 15-2; #2 15-0, 15-1; Doubles forfeit
Mexico def. Chile 2-1: #1 15-5, 15-4; #2 forfeit; Doubles 15-6, 15-1
Bolivia def. Japan 2-1: #1 11-15, 15-10, 11-5; #2 15-11, 15-13; Doubles forfeit
Canada def. Korea 2-1: #1 15-7, 12-15, 11-5; #2 15-4, 15-0; Doubles forfeit

ROUND OF SIXTEEN [Played Thursday]
Men's Team Round of 16
Canada def. Costa Rica 2-1: #1 15-8, 15-3; #2 15-3, 15-2; Doubles forfeit
Argentina def. Australia 2-1: #1 15-7, 15-11; #2 15-2, 15-6; Doubles forfeit
Japan def. Guatemala 2-1: #1 15-4, 15-7; #2 15-10, 15-7; Doubles forfeit
Venezuela def Korea 2-1: #1 13-15, 15-14, 11-9; #2 15-8, 15-3; Doubles forfeit
Mexico def. Netherlands 2-1: #1 15-9, 15-6; #2 15-12, 2-15, 11-4; Doubles forfeit
Bolivia def. Chile 2-1: #1 15-2, 15-8; #2 10-15, 15-9, 11-1; Doubles forfeit
India def. Ecuador 2-1: #1 15-13, 15-9; #2 [15-14, 12-15, 5-11]; Doubles 15-9, 15-7
USA def. Honduras 3-0: #1 15-4, 15-0; #2 15-8, 15-7; Doubles 15-5, 15-7

Women's Team Round of 16
USA def. Vietnam 3-0: #1 15-3, 15-1; #2 15-2, 15-0; Doubles 15-1, 15-5
Puerto Rico def. India 3-0: #1 15-2, 15-2; #2 15-7, 15-7; Doubles forfeit
Mexico def. Ireland 2-1: #1 15-6, 15-7; #2 15-1, 15-3; Doubles forfeit
Chile def. Germany 2-1: #1 15-2, 15-1; #2 15-11, 15-9; Doubles forfeit
Japan def. Jamaica 2-1: #1 forfeit; #2 15-1, 15-2; Doubles 15-5, 15-6
Bolivia def. Venezuela 2-1: #1 forfeit; #2 15-5, 15-2; Doubles 15-6, 15-1
Korea def. Guatemala 3-0: #1 15-14, 15-7; #2 15-9, 15-1; Doubles 15-6, 15-2
Canada def. Costa Rica 2-1: #1 15-0, 15-0; #2 forfeit; Doubles 15-5, 15-2

thursday: 08/08 Racquetball Canada Exclusive! A Word from a Former World Champion
Interview with Christie Van Hees: August 7, 2002

Courtesy Cheryl McKeeman, Racquetball Canada 
The 1998-2000 World Racquetball Champion in Women's Singles is Canada's Christie Van Hees. We contacted Christie at her home in Kelowna, British Columbia. She has been avidly watching the results of the 2002 World Championships on the internet. Here are some of her thoughts on competing.

Q: The individual part of the competition is over and several matches were lost by just one or two points. How do elite players deal with the losses -- does a close loss affect them differently than a blow-out?

CVH: In theory a close loss should be more tolerable than a blow-out in this type of two-part competition. A blow-out can cause considerable anger, embarrassment, and questions of "what the heck just happened out there," and "I thought someone was supposed to wake me up this morning". Most significantly though a blow-out means that your confidence level will drop to an all time low, especially if you just lost to someone you usually pummel. This means that it takes more time getting comfortable in your next round of matches, and therefore a greater chance of a loss. A close loss may still cause considerable anger, but leaves room for blaming the ref, your stubbed toe, or in some cases your partner who's spent the summer swatting flies rather than rolling balls. In this case, your confidence level is still in the recovery zone, and you are more apt to go out and reap revenge on whomever stole your gold medal from you. [Read the rest of the interview ... ]

World Congress To cap the free day, the International Racquetball Federation held its bi-annual World Congress on Wednesday at the Diamond Palace Hotel in San Juan, with representation by nearly all of the assembled national federations from across the globe. IRF President Keith Calkins convened the meeting, which included presentations by officers Usher Barnoff (Canada), Oswaldo Maggi (Argentina), Erik Meyer (Belgium), Luke St.Onge (Secretary General), Mike Mesecke (Germany), Angela Grisar (Chile) and Rosy Torres (Mexico). Technical Director Jim Hiser also presented rule change proposals and the competition schedule was set through 2006. 

Seoul, Korea has been chosen to host the 2004 World Championships (in August of that year), followed by the Dominican Republic in 2006. Other regional trials were also named to host sites, including the annual Tournament of the Americas championships, the Central American/Caribbean Games, and the Pan American Games in 2003. For more information on these, and other international events, please email Luke St. Onge, or see the IRF website for updates.

Going the Distance Using the new format (head-to-head, country by country), few advances in early rounds have gone the distance with a third match tiebreaker. One such playoff in the first round of the men's team round was between Great Britain and Australia. In the lead-off match between them, Australia's No.1, Darren Strengers, defeated counterpart Gary Shaw of Great Britain in straight games of 15-4, 15-5. An hour later, in the No.2 singles match, Mark Nolan (GRB) replied with a narrower 15-14, 15-9 defeat over Paul Feeney (AUS), to force a playoff in doubles. There, Feeney & Strengers advanced "Team Australia" with a 15-5, 15-9 win over Shaw and third teammate Andy Oswald. For the win, the Australians will go up against the two-man Argentinian team of Daniel Maggi and Shai Manzuri later on Thursday evening. 

Anti-Doping ... The level of international competition (and racquetball's own hope to become an Olympic sport) puts each and every world champion contender (team and individual) in the "big leagues" in regard to anti-doping controls. Racquetball's world championships are no exception, and random drug-testing will be performed at the San Juan event. And the list of banned substances grows every day, so it's important for athletes to keep themselves informed of changes in what is acceptable, and what is not. For more information on both U.S. and World anti-doping controls, see websites, at: WADA and USADA.

Return to Competition  It's a whole new day, and Thursday marks the return to competition for all of the national teams that 1) played in the first segment, and 2) are able to field a full squad of men's or women's #1, #2 and Doubles divisions. Many teams with two players per squad (men or women) will re-enter the second phase of competition with hopes of gaining team points that will both recognize them for outright performances, plus position them strategically for future events. Seeding policies are based on average finishes over the past three World championships.

Over the next three days, country rosters will play off in a format that pits entire squads (male or female) against counterparts. For example, "Team Guam" will compete against "Team Netherlands" in the first round of men's team play -- the No.1 singles player from Guam will play against the No.1 singles player from the Netherlands; the No.2 singles players from each roster will also face off. If any two matches are "split" (one Guam win, one Netherlands win), then the third scheduled match will take place as a "tiebreaker". A straight-match win by any one country over another (2-0 win-loss) will result in an "advance" by that country in the single-elimination draw. A tiebreaker win (2-1 win-loss) will mean that the third match results were a factor in the advance. In many cases, the two singles players on a roster will re-team to form the doubles pairing, so a lot of extra duty is required when the tiebreaker becomes necessary; on the other hand, many countries will opt to play the third match just for added experience at this level. 

So, in viewing the "new" drawsheets for the second phase of competition, you'll see a 3-0, 2-0, or a 2-1 "match score" recorded. A 3-0 means that a third match was played (even though it was optional); 2-0 means that two matches were played with the third either lost or forfeited; and a 2-1 score means that one loss was recorded for the team that advanced, forcing a third match playoff.

Special Update by Usher Barnoff & Cheryl McKeeman
Putting the disappointments of the last four days of individual competition behind them, eight of Canada’s national racquetball team are preparing to defend Canada’s World Championship title at the 2002 Racquetball World Championships in Puerto Rico.

Wednesday was a day of rest for the players and coaches and support staff. One of those support staff is Cal Smith of Burnaby, B.C., who is attending his seventh World Championships as the official referee for Canada. “My job is to referee whenever a Canadian player loses a match,” explained Smith. “And unfortunately I had to do a lot of refereeing on Tuesday.” Canadians were in the finals in three events on Tuesday, and lost all three, settling for silver medals in the men’s doubles, women’s doubles and women’s singles events.

“The toughest part about this tournament is the heat,” said Smith. “The courts are air conditioned but the referees, spectators and coaches are all outside in 35 [celsius, 85/F] degree sunny, windless humidity. It’s extremely draining.”

The other thing that has been frustrating for Canada is the number of games lost by a single point. “This is a recurring nightmare for Canada – we’ve had several instances where the Canadian has been awarded the match point, then the opponent has appealed and won the appeal, then the opponent has gone on to win the match.” The most famous time this happened previously was in the Winnipeg Pan Am Games when Canada’s Christie Van Hees lost the Women’s Singles on a bad call.

Christie Van Hees (Kelowna, BC) was the 1998 World Champion in Women’s Singles, and a member of the 2000 World Championship Team. Heading in to the three days of Team play “is where the coaches and your teammates help you focus on what is important,” said Van Hees from her home in Kelowna, “to remind the athletes of their inspiration to win, and of what it feels like to dominate.”

The format of the World Championships is individual competition on the first four days, then a rest day, then three days of team competition. “Having last night off was a good release for everyone,” said Smith. “On Thursday, Team Canada will face Team Costa Rica.” In the Team competition, the men’s singles players play the men’s singles players from the other team; if the teams split the games then the doubles teams play to break the tie. Ditto for the women’s teams.

Each team will play until they lose. Team Canada will face up to four countries, with the finals scheduled for Saturday.

tuesday: 08/06
  • #2 Jack Huczek (USA) def. #4 Jason Thoerner (USA) 15-7, 15-3 
  • #1 Cheryl Gudinas (USA) def.  #2 Jennifer Saunders (CAN) 15-13, 15-13
  • #3 Polo Gutierrez & Gil Mejia (MEX)  def. #1 Mike Ceresia & Michael Green (CAN) 12-15, 15-7, 11-10 
  • #1 Jackie Rice & Kim Russell (USA) def. #2 Amanda McDonald & Karina Odegard (CAN) 15-10, 15-8
  • For expanded results (top-eight, all divisions, including compass draws), go to finals & finishers.
Individual world titles in singles and doubles were awarded to champions on Tuesday evening, following relatively uneventful straight game wins for the women, compared to their male counterparts. The day began with a successful defense of her 2000 world title by Kim Russell, with partner Jackie Paraiso Rice. But the win wasn't new for Rice, who makes this her fifth world doubles title, after winning it with three other partners (including twin sister Joy Paraiso MacKenzie), in 1990, '94, '95, and '98. The "new" pairing of Rice & Russell were expected to do well, and didn't disappoint the U.S. team coaching staff in the lead off match of the day.

Cheryl Gudinas earned her second consecutive world singles title with another straight game win over a Canadian challenger, to share back-to-back honors with only two other women in IRF history: Heather Stupp and former nemesis Michelle Gould. Gudinas tops the recordbook with the most recent set of wins, and has only one more to go to match Gould's 3x mark. In her title defense, Gudinas was pressed by recently motivated Jen Saunders, who has clearly re-dedicated herself to training for competition at the international level. She kept their games close, reaching 13 in each of the two, and Gudinas admitted that it's not getting any easier to win. Referring to an earlier match, she commented "Those scores don't really say anything -- she was tough!" 

In the only all-U.S. final of the afternoon, current national champ Jack Huczek remained focused in securing his first world singles title -- even after accidentally injuring teammate Jason Thoerner in the first few minutes of their opening game. He lost his footing on a backhand, and in flailing around to regain his balance, solidly connected his racquet frame with one of Jason's front teeth. The messy injury left Jason with a large portion of tooth missing and clearly shaken. In a later timeout, the gangly six-footer ducked too late to miss the corner of the metal event scoreboard, and took another glancing blow to the head. "He's been lucky all week," commented a fan, "but I guess it just ran out ..." 

Although he'd come out with a 4-0 lead, Thoerner remained skittish in close play and more than once appealed to the ref to call hinders early. He ducked and weaved as best he could, but couldn't recover his focus enough to give Jack more of a challenge. "It's really too bad that I didn't get a fair shot" he admitted about the collision, "I really wanted to play better than that."

In a controversial closing match in the men's doubles division, the Canadian team of Mike Ceresia and Mike Green celebrated just a moment too early, when they thought they'd won the match at 10-8 against Mexican challengers Polo Gutierrez and Gil Mejia. Serving for the match, the Canadians jumped for joy when they thought that the final shot of the rally had skipped -- and the ref agreed -- but the call was overturned on appeal and the Mexicans regained service. Three points later (one unforced error by Green, and winners from each of the Mexican players) and the title celebration turned around for Team Mexico, marking the second consecutive world title in doubles for Mexico.

Medal Ceremonies ... will follow the final matches of the day, when individual world champions and finishers will be crowned in the gold, world-title divisions, and compass draw finishers in blue, red and white divisions will also be recognized. The final match of the day is scheduled for 15:00 hrs (3:00 pm) at Parque Central, where all the athletes will gather for competition, prime seats, and celebration -- all day long.

In compass rounds, players are able to find their own levels of play, since the sport has wide global appeal, with an accompanying breadth in ability between countries. The north and south America's are notably dominant, followed by strong contingents from the Asian and European continents. In the "color guard" of divisions (blue, red and white), players will have competed in at least three rounds to level the playing field, then advanced in a straight, single elimination format for final honors. Lastly, positions in all divisions are used to set seeding for the second round of competition, which is played head-to-head, team-by-team.

Red = loss/gold ... win/place Gold = undefeated to win or place
White = loss/gold, loss/red ... win/place Blue = win/gold, loss/gold ... win/place

Compass Legend:
GOLD = advanced undefeated, to win or place in division [world champions]
BLUE = win 1x, lose 1x, then win/place in division [for points & seeding]
RED = lose 1x, then win/place in division [for points & seeding]
WHITE = lose 2x, then win/place in division [for points & seeding]

monday: 08/05 Match 1 Upset In this afternoon's lead-off match, Mexico drew first blood on the U.S. team with an upset win by No.3 seeded Polo Gutierrez and Gil Mejia over No.2 seeded Ruben Gonzalez and Mike Guidry. The Mexican pair had served notice earlier in the year, at the Tournament of the Americas in Bolivia, by taking the U.S. tandem to an 11-10 tiebreaker -- and today went one better with a straight game win.

Halfway ... with four down and four to go, Jason Thoerner ended the first half of today's semi-final lineup with a marathon tiebreaker upset over Canada's top singles player, Brian Istace. Earlier, Canada had earned a finals position in women's doubles, and USA's national champion Cheryl Gudinas had ousted Canadian opponent, Josee Grand'Maitre, in straight games. 

  • #3 Polo Gutierrez & Gil Mejia (MEX) def. #2 Ruben Gonzalez & Mike Guidry (USA) 15-12, 15-5
  • #2 Amanda McDonald & Karina Odegard (CAN) def. #3 Itsuyo Hasimodo & Etsuko Noda (JPN) 15-6, 15-7
  • #1 Cheryl Gudinas (USA) def. #4 Josee Grand'Maitre (CAN) 15-7, 15-6
  • #4 Jason Thoerner (USA) def. #1 Brian Istace (CAN) 15-6, 14-15, 11-8
  •  #2 Jennifer Saunders (CAN) def. #3 Laura Fenton (USA) 15-6, 7-15, 11-3
  •  #2 Jack Huczek (USA) def. #3 Kane Waselenchuk (CAN) 15-2, 15-14
  •  #1 Mike Ceresia & Michael Green (CAN) def. #4 Jorge Hirsekorn & Ralf Reinhardt (VEN) 15-1, 15-4
  • #1 Jackie Rice & Kim Russell (USA) def. #5 Susana Acosta & Rosy Torres (MEX) 15-3, 15-4

National Champs face-off early... well, they're not current national champs, but they've both earned the title: Jack Huczek in 2001 and Canada's Kane Waselenchuk in 1999 and 2000 ... and the two will play off in the bottom half of the men's open singles bracket in today's semifinal, at 5:00 pm. On the IRT pro tour, Waselenchuk holds a slight edge in the rankings, with a #4 spot, over Huczek's #5 (in his rookie season). Huczek was featured on the cover of RACQUETBALL [Sept./Oct. 2001] and Waselenchuk appears on the cover of the current issue [July/Aug. 2002] for his performance in the recent IRT pro nationals, where he placed second. Huczek finished second to teammate Mike Guidry in the recent U.S. national singles, and Waselenchuk did not compete in his national singles event this year, due to an injury. In the other half of the draw, Canadian singles runner-up Brian Istace will face U.S. bronze medalist Jason Thoerner at 3:00.

For the women, six-time U.S. champ Cheryl Gudinas will go up against Josee Grand'Maitre ('96 and '99 Canadian title-holder) in the top half of their singles bracket, at 2:00 pm. Canadian national titlist Jennifer Saunders will be challenged by U.S. singles runner-up Laura Fenton at 4:00 pm.

Press Center: For the rest of the week, the Press Center will be open for players, coaches and delegates who need internet access. Feel free to use the desktop units to retrieve email -- but if traffic gets heavy -- there may be a time limit on usage. There are three units available, with satellite hookup (please don't try to use any laptops), and the press center is on the second floor of the administration building behind courts 1&2 at Parque Central, next to the stadium tennis court. 

sunday: 08/04 Fast rising Canadian Jennifer Saunders attended the 2000 World Championships in San Luis Potosi, with many of the same teammates who have returned to San Juan this year. But two years ago, Saunders was serving in the capacity of an official referee for Team Canada -- not a player. Now she's back, as her country's national champion, and the top female on Team Canada's roster. She's trained hard for this, and attended a number of women's pro stops to prepare herself to face many of the same athletes who represent their countries -- including LPRA #1 Cheryl Gudinas and #10 Laura Fenton from the U.S. As early as Monday (barring upsets), Saunders could meet up with Laura Fenton in the semifinal, and with an advance there, could go up against defending world champ Gudinas in the finals.

The 25-year old from Winnipeg has been enjoying a winning streak, with claims to the national singles crown and a bronze medal doubles finish (with Lori-Jane Powell) for Canada, and ended the 2001-2002 season on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Association tour in the #13 spot.

Tale of the Tape: Average height of the Canadian men's team is just under 5'11"; age = 28.5 years. For the women, it's just over 5'7" and 27.25 years. For more bio information about Team Canada, visit the Racquetball Canada website! [Find similar U.S. Team stats].

team canada stats 
Athletes Hometown Born Age Height Position
Mike Ceresia Mississauga, Ontario Sarnia, Ontario 39 5'8" Doubles
Michael Green Hamilton, Ontario Hamilton, Ontario 28 6'0" Doubles
Brian Istace Calgary, Alberta Calgary, Alberta 22 6'0" #2 Singles
Kane Waselenchuk Edmonton, Alberta Edmonton, Alberta 21 5'11" #1 Singles
Josee Grand'Maitre Longeuil, Quebec Montreal 41 5'5" #2 Singles
Amanda MacDonald Prince Albert, Sask. Prince Albert, Sask. 24 5'5" Doubles
Karina Odegard  Saskatoon, Sask. Saskatoon, Sask. 19 6'0" Doubles
Jennifer Saunders Winnipeg, Manitoba Thompson, Manitoba 25 5'7" #1 Singles

Crossover! In addition to the formal squad, two other Canadians are competing -- but for other countries. Ottawa’s Gary Shaw is representing Great Britain, and Winnipeg’s Gus Tsouras is part of the Greek contingent. Both of these men are avid racquetball enthusiasts in their home town. Shaw runs leagues and is helping to coordinate racquetball’s resurgence in Ottawa, and Tsouras is a long-time sponsor of the sport in Winnipeg. [Source: Usher Barnoff, Team Canada] 

Canadian Wrap-Up [by Usher Barnoff]: The day started with at 9 a.m. with Canada’s 2001 national champion Josee Grand’Maitre on the court against a tough Korean player. After her first-round match, Grand’Maitre had commented “I felt comfortable on the court, but the heat really affects my legs off the court.” After losing the first game, Grand’Maitre settled down and took the next two games decisively. Four hours later, Grand’Maitre was on the court again, this time against Bolivia’s #2 player. “It was just like this morning where I started so slow and finally worked my way into the match. She rolled everything from the start and I never got going in that first game. I’ll have to start better in my next match.”

Canada’s current National Champion, Jennifer Saunders, has also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 15-14 win over Japan’s #2 player. Canada’s national women’s Doubles champions, Amanda MacDonald and Karina Odegard, continued their domination of the doubles draw with a solid win over the Korean team. They will now face the Japanese team who scored a surprise upset over the Bolivians. The Bolivian team played amazing racquetball a few months ago at the Pan Am Trials in Bolivia, but playing at sea-level may be affecting their game.

Top-seeded Brian Istace is in fine form with three wins under his belt so far. He used his first rounds to “practise my drive serves. They worked pretty well so I started to work on my lobs after that.” Representing Canada as the #2 men’s singles player, Kane Waselenchuk has also advanced with four wins to his credit. Both men will face Americans in the semi finals Monday afternoon. Waselenchuk will face Jack Huczek, who is the other “kid” on the men’s pro tour. Waselenchuk finished the pro season ranked #4 on that tour, with Huczek breathing down his neck at #5.

saturday: 08/03 Homecoming: It's been 30 years of racquetball for Ruben Gonzalez and his teeny-tiny mom Carmen, a lifetime resident of San Juan -- has never seen him play. And she just can't wait. Carmen Gonzalez attended the opening ceremonies in old San Juan on Friday evening, along with a dozen other far-flung relatives, and will be in the stands on Sunday at 4:00 pm when her baby-boy (who just turned 50) takes to the court for his first doubles match of the event with partner Mike Guidry.

In 1986, Ruben led the Puerto Rican roster at the III World Championships in Orlando, Florida, and helped the men's squad finish in third place. In 1988, he followed up with another term of service with Puerto Rico in the 1988 Worlds, and then -- at the age of 36 -- began "phase two" of a long and successful career (begun in 1982) on the men's pro tour, marked with record-setting performances for a man his age. That year, he earned the season-ending top ranking on the RMA Pro Tour, and in 1993 he became the oldest athlete to win a pro stop. In 1996 he was awarded the IRT's "Comeback Player of the Year" award (following a serious Achilles tendon injury, rehab and recovery). 

All but retired from the pro tour, Gonzalez then decided to seek a U.S. team spot, and won the national singles title in 1996, and has consistently qualified -- in both singles and doubles -- ever since. He and Guidry hold two national doubles titles ('99 and 2001), and were the silver medalists at Worlds in 2000. And he's still teaching lessons to pro tour hopefuls half his age, even reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. OPEN championships as recently as 1999.

Opening Rounds: With two singles rounds scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday, players are pacing themselves at Parque Central and the YMCA of San Juan -- where courts are air conditioned on the inside, while spectators view the action from outdoor bleachers, complete with ocean breezes. On the third day of competition (Monday), all matches will be played at Parque Central, though the conclusion of the first half of the championship and the naming of individual world champions at ceremonies on Tuesday.

Top seeds have all advanced in early rounds, without incident, but each successive round will become more taxing. The weather is expected to cooperate throughout the week (with no threat of showers that would boost the humidity and dampen administrators) but tropical temperatures may take their toll on athletes who aren't careful about drinking lots of fluids.

On Tour: Making her debut appearance at a World Championship, southpaw Sue Linn (of Colorado Springs, Colorado, representing Taiwan) pushed women's pro tour regular Ramona Vonondarza to an 11-10 tiebreaker, in their first round match this morning. Vonondarza, who is currently ranked #22 on the tour, plays in the No.2 singles position for Germany, and has advanced to face Angela Grisar of Chile in the round of 32. Linn is a club level player who was recruited to compete at this year's event by IRF Secretary General Luke St. Onge.

Team Greece also has a pro tour connection ... the squad is coached by IRT men's pro tour Commissioner Dave Negrete of Chicago, Illinois. Heading into a new tour season which begins next month, Negrete took some time off to accompany a four-man team to Puerto Rico. He's also able to "network" with his players -- many of the current top seeds from Canada, Mexico and the USA are also highly ranked on the IRT circuit. Canadian Kane Waselenchuk holds the #4 position on tour, followed by Jack Huczek (USA) in #5, Alvaro Beltran (Mexico, #6),  Brian Istace (Canada, #13), Javier Moreno (Mexico, #16), and Jason Thoerner (USA, #30).

Double Duty: Last minute roster adjustments called delegate Mike Mesecke into service for Germany to replace Arne Schmitz in doubles. Mesecke is also Vice-President/European Commissioner for the International Racquetball Federation. IRF Treasurer Oswaldo Maggi, is also on hand to coach his son, Daniel, in his matches representing Team Argentina. 

Top Seeds: According to IRF rules, seeding is based on average squad finishes over the past three World Championships -- regardless of which players are actually positioned on individual national team rosters. By the same narrow margin that earned the 2000 World Cup for Canada, the Canadian men's squad earned the top seed positions (#1 & #3) in men's competition, and the U.S. women's team held onto top seeds for their unbroken three-event winning streak.  

Men's Singles Women's Singles
#1 Brian Istace (Canada)
#2 Jack Huczek (USA)
#3 Kane Waselenchuk (Canada)
#4 Jason Thoerner (USA)
#5 Alvaro Beltran (Mexico)
#6 Cesar Castro (Venezuela)
#7 Javier Moreno (Mexico)
#8 Marcelo Lapera (Venezuela)
#1 Cheryl Gudinas (USA)
#2 Jennifer Saunders (Canada)
#3 Laura Fenton (USA)
#4 Josee Grand'Maitre (Canada)
#5 Hiromi Miyamoto (Japan)
#6 Angela Grisar (Chile)
#7 Toshiko Sakamoto (Japan)
#8 Carmen Luz Pizarro (Chile)
Men's Doubles Women's Doubles
#1 Green/Ceresia (Canada)
#2 Gonzalez/Guidry (USA)
#3 Meija/Gutierrez (Mexico)
#4 Hirsekorn/Reinhardt (Venezuela)
#5 Onio/Tanahara (Japan)
#6 (Bolivia)
#7 Klippel/Mesecke (Germany)
#8 Strengers/Feeney (Australia)
#1 Rice/Russell (USA)
#2 MacDonald/Odegard (Canada)
#3 Hasimoto/Noda (Japan)
#4 Grisar/Pizarro (Chile)
#5 Acosta/Torres (Mexico)
#6 (Bolivia)
#7 Kim/Hwang (Korea)
#8 Carellas/Venegas (Puerto Rico)
friday: 08/02 Opening Ceremonies: A final count of 145 athletes, representing 36 countries, took part in opening ceremonies at the Olympic House in old San Juan on Friday evening. Dressed in partial parade uniforms (temperatures were too high for full warm up suits), the assembled national squads were presented to the city, and were "sworn in" by Puerto Rican team captain Curtis Winter, who read the athlete's oath, and IRF Technical Director Jim Hiser, who read the corresponding official's pledge. After welcoming remarks by the mayor's office, local organizers and Pan American Games official Hector Duvall, IRF President Keith Calkins officially opened the XI World Championships for competition. Entertainment and a reception for the athletes and delegates followed.

Competition & Administrative Schedule --
Individual title competition: Saturday, 08/03 through Tuesday, 08/06
Day Off: Wednesday, 08/07
World Congress: Wednesday, 08/07 -- 19:00, Diamond Hotel Penthouse (19th Floor)
"World Cup" team competition: Thursday, 08/08 through Saturday, 08/10

behind the scenes ... pre-event Just under forty countries have confirmed their attendance at the International Racquetball Federation's 11th World Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with rosters still pending for Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, and Vietnam. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for Friday evening at the Olympic House in Old San Juan, at 7:00 pm. [Athletes must be in full uniform, and ready to depart from the host hotel at 5:30 pm.] 

Defending World Cup champions - Team Canada - have arrived and checked in with a slightly revised line-up from the last go-round (in Mexico in 2000). Coming from a career high, second-place finish at the recent IRT Pro Nationals, Kane Waselenchuk claims the No.2 spot, after sitting out the Canadian National Championships in May with a hand injury and dropping in the roster. The top spot went to Brian Istace, while current national singles champ Mike Green will team with long-time international competitor Mike Ceresia in doubles. The pair made the break in the final match of the 2000 World Championships, with a narrow 11-10 victory over U.S. champs Ruben Gonzalez and Mike Guidry, for Canada's historic first world team title. 

For the women, first-time national champ Jennifer Saunders tops the singles list, followed by perennial challenger Josee Grand'maitre, and the returning doubles team of Amanda McDonald and Karina Odegard. Saunders is the team rookie, but still claims plenty of international experience from recent performances on the women's pro tour.

What Women Want ... U.S. Team Leader Dave Ellis took his responsibilities seriously from early on in the trip to Puerto Rico -- seeking "sponsorship" and support for the men's and women's squads. Remarkably, he found the women easier to predict and ended up following the lead of actor Mel Gibson, in the film "What Women Want." Preparing for the first team meeting, Ellis stocked a vanity in team headquarters (Winterton's hotel room) with a full selection of toiletries, perfumes, flowers, sundries and chocolates for the ladies -- topped with a glamour shot of Gibson, and instructions to help themselves as needed. For the men? Stars-and-stripes sun visors, take-out menus, and the remote control ...

No kidding around ... Where refereeing is concerned, tournament officials in San Juan will "motivate" teams by raiding their coffers. Any time a team members loses, that player (or another squad member) must follow-up with referee duty ... or the team will be fined a whopping $50.00. If someone ducks out, the fine must be paid before the team's next match will be assigned to a court. Of course, there are some who don't mind spending the cash, and will simply drop the $50 off with the TD, and head for the showers!

U.S. team roster announced
Finishes as U.S. National Singles cause shake-up
The United States Racquetball Association has released its U.S. National Team roster for the upcoming International Racquetball Federation [IRF] 11th World Championships to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 2-11. The U.S. will try to regain the championship that it lost for the first time, after winning the previous nine, to Canada in 2000.

The U.S. had two members of it’s team “double-qualify” for the event leaving Head Coach Jim Winterton to decide on who would travel to Puerto Rico. Mike Guidry and Cheryl Gudinas “double-qualified” in both singles and doubles and were forced to decide which they would rather play at the world championships.

Guidry elected to play doubles with longtime partner Ruben Gonzalez making Winterton’s decision on the men’s team much easier. He could simply continue down the singles list of finishers to complete the roster. With Guidry and Gonzalez positioned as the U.S. doubles team (which took home silver medals at the last world championships) Jack Huczek and rookie team member Jason Thoerner were chosen to play in the men’s #1 and #2 singles positions, respectively.

Gudinas elected to defend her world singles title at the event, which left Winterton to decide who would suit up with Kim Russell to complete the doubles team. After careful consideration Winterton chose four-time world doubles champion Jackie Rice to pair with Russell. Laura Fenton will play in the women’s #2 singles spot after finishing second to Gudinas at the U.S. National Singles Championships.

Winterton, who recently was reappointed as U.S. Head Coach after a brief stint with Mexico, believes that although “for the first time that I can remember we are going into the worlds, on paper, as the underdogs,” the U.S. chances to regain the world championship “are excellent.” The U.S. will have to travel a tough road to earn their 10th world championship but Winterton feels that the team’s veteran leadership is its greatest asset.

“We have world champions on our team,” Winterton explained via phone interview. “Our whole entire women’s team has won world titles and our men’ s doubles team has come close. Even though Jack (Huczek) and Jason (Thoerner) are young, they have won as kids and are ready to step on the big stage.” Both Huczek and Thoerner will be making their world championship debuts in Puerto Rico.

United States Men Women
#1 singles: Jack Huczek (Rochester Hills, Mich.) Cheryl Gudinas (Chicago, Ill.)
#2 singles: Jason Thoerner (Atlanta, Ga.) Laura Fenton (Overland Park, Kan.)
Doubles: Ruben Gonzalez (Staten Island, N.Y.) Jackie Paraiso Rice (El Cajon, Calif.)
Mike Guidry (Carrolton, Texas) Kim Russell (Austin, Texas)
Team Canada roster announced[From Press Release, Racquetball Canada]

For further information, please contact RBC Communications Director Cheryl McKeeman

June 19, 2002: Winnipeg, Manitoba
A talented and determined Canadian team is preparing to defend its title at the eleventh World Championships

Head Coach Ron Brown (Winnipeg) has announced the team that will represent Canada at the 2002 Racquetball World Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico from August 2-9. The players are: Men's Singles: Kane Waselenchuk (Edmonton), Brian Istace (Calgary) Men's Doubles: Michael Green (Burlington), Mike Ceresia (Burlington) Women's Singles: Jennifer Saunders (Winnipeg), Josee Grand'Maitre (Longueuil) Women's Doubles: Amanda MacDonald (Prince Albert), Karina Odegard (Saskatoon) "Our team is ranked #1 going into the Worlds," said Istace, 29, "which gives us a great chance at repeating the title." That top-seeding was earned at the 2000 World Championships in Mexico where, for the first time ever, Canada won the World Cup.

Since then, Canada has followed up with a first-place finish at the 2002 Tournament of the Americas in Bolivia, including a first-time ever gold medal win by the Canadian women's team. Karina Odegard, 19, of Saskatoon was part of the women's doubles team that won gold in Bolivia, and was on the World Championship team in 2000. "I'm excited about going - we have a very strong team." Odegard and MacDonald, 24, are the current Canadian doubles champions.

Winnipeg's Jennifer Saunders, 25, is the newly crowned Canadian singles champ. "Over the coming weeks I'll be training hard on my fitness and my game. I want to represent Canadian racquetball to the best of my ability, and I want to strongly contribute to the team as we retain our title."

According to Canadian singles champion Michael Green, 27, "Our men's team has exactly the same people as two years ago, but we're all much stronger now than we were then. I feel great about our chances." Green, Istace and Waselenchuk are all highly-ranked players on the men's professional racquetball circuit in the US.

Doubles expert Mike Ceresia, 39, is on track in his training. "There is nothing like pulling on the shirt with the Maple Leaf," said Ceresia who partnered with Green to help Canada win Gold in 2000. "We expect the competition from the top countries to be fierce, but we are sending a team with a lot to prove - our team goal is to retain the World Cup, which will be like winning the Stanley Cup."

Also accompanying the team will be referee Cal Smith (Vancouver). "Coming off our fantastic finish at this year's Tournament of the Americas, our team has great confidence that they can continue to be the best in the world." He added, "These athletes move so well on the court, they could all excel at any sport that they choose."

Coaches Ron Brown and Michel Gagnon (Longueuil) will hold a training camp in Winnipeg during the weekend of July 12-14. The players will leave for Puerto Rico in early August, to compete against more than 30 other countries.

Canada Men Women
#1 singles: Kane Waselenchuk (Edmonton) Jennifer Saunders (Winnipeg)
#2 singles: Brian Istace (Calgary) Josee Grand'Maitre (Longueuil)
Doubles: Mike Ceresia (Burlington) Amanda MacDonald (Prince Albert)
Michael Green (Burlington) Karina Odegard (Saskatoon)
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