Interview: Eric Weil in Buenos Aires
Adolfo Cambiaso, arguably the best polo player in the world, is as keen as ever and wants to break more records after 23 years in top polo. He doesn’t have many polo records left to break however. He has scored most goals in the Argentine Open (766) and was top scorer in 1998 with 67 goals.
His rapid rise began when he was 17 and he took part in his first Open in 1992 with Ellerstina. Two years later he won it, as well as the Triple Crown with victories in the Hurlingham and Tortugas Opens also and obtained his top handicap rating of 10.
A year later, he founded the La Dolfina Polo Club in his home town, Canuelas, in the province of Buenos Aires where he also has his ranch. In only 14 seasons in high handicap polo, La Dolfina has been the winner of the Argentine Open seven times, won the Hurlingham Open seven times, Tortugas once and the Triple Crown again last season. Today, at 38, Adolfo Cambiao says: “I am as keen to play as ever and to break more records.”
One record he can never break is that of having been the youngest player in the Argentine Open. Gonzalo Pieres junior did that in 1999 when only 16. And Cambiaso may not be able to beat Alberto P. Heguy’s record of playing 28 times in that tournament.
Eric Weil: Do you feel any pressure being the most popular player in Argentina?
Adolfo Cambiaso: I think I am more popular abroad where I play most of the time (mainly in the US and England). I feel no pressure because I play with passion and to enjoy myself. True, that for me playing polo is work and if I did not play more abroad, my family (wife model Maria Vazquez and two children) would not be able to live.
(Remakr by Eric Weil: However, in an interview some years ago, Cambiaso said that he was getting bored with polo and with travelling around the world, but that seemed to have changed now.)
Weil: You have done a lot to make polo more popular.
Cambiaso: Yes, I tried. Once La Dolfina played the Argentine Open final with the shirts of a local football club (Nueva Chicago) of which I am a fan, and I invited some of their more rowdy fans to come. I know some conservative polo fans did not like that. Anyway, I have done enough and someone else can do it now.
Weil: You will also be remembered as being the first player who dared to use a cloned horse in the Argentine high goal season although you have been cloning horses since 2010.
Cambiaso: A 6-year-old, called Show Me, produced in the US from a mare named Sage. Show Me had played in previous games and people were amazed at its good performance. It also participated in a later final in Palermo.
Weil: What did it feel like to mount a clone for the first time in high handicap polo?
Cambiaso: It was like a new challenge for me, like writing history. Cloned horses are a reality and have become part of polo.
Weil: When do you think you will have a cloned horse in the Argentine Open?
Cambiaso: At the moment my clones — about 30 from different horses — are too young, about 3,5 years old, so we will have to wait at least up to the 2015 season. That will be another nice moment.
Weil: Apart from that, what importance did last season have for you?
Cambiaso: We usually used the early tournaments to train for the Argentine Open. Our new coach, Milo Fernández Araujo, proposed that we should go all out from the start of the season and convinced us that with the team we have (with Pablo Mac Donough, Juan Martín Nero and David Stirling) we had no need to give anything away. So we played in Tortugas with a different attitude than previously and it was also the only trophy La Dolfina had never won. We like playing at Hurlingham in the oldest tournament in the world and we felt strong, especially when we beat regular chief rivals Ellerstina in the final which we always dominated in play and score.
The Argentine Open at Palermo is special and for me it was the 10th title, but every title is different. This time we came as easy favourites with also the chance of winning the Triple Crown, the first I could win with my club. The unfortunate part was that we were without Nero who had broken his hand in the previous game, but Sebastián Merlos replaced him well.
Weil: Did it feel strange not facing Ellerstina in the final for once?
Cambiaso: It was a surprise, but we did not feel superior. Alegría had always been a strong rival for us and in their semifinal against Ellerstina it was evident that they were no chicken feed.
Weil: What plans for next season?
Cambiaso: We don’t intend to change the team and will go all out for another Triple Crown. We are not going to let up now, specially with the responsibility of a maximum handicap team which we are for the third season (previously in 2007 and 2011).
Weil: Lastly, what else do you and if you had not become a polo player what would you have liked to be?
Cambiaso: A tennis player. I was quite good as a kid. I also like other sports, like windsurf, golf and skiing.