Monthly Archives: March 2009

Mano pairs final: thrilling victory for Irujo and Goni III

Sunday 29th March
Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian

Stunning Aimar almost turns the tables but Irujo and Goni show themselves to be the consumate partnership as the championship goes down to the wire

This was the final to end all finals: for a championship three months in duration to come down one point in the final match in front of a packed audience in full cry is the stuff of Hollywood. That it as a close run thing was not wholly unexpected, pitting against each other as it did the two best pairs, containing some of the very greatest players, of the bunch. For two weeks, press and public alike have discussed the relative merits and weaknesses of the protagonists; Irujo’s passion? Olaizola’s tactical intelligence? Goni’s consistency? Mendizabal’s talent for the big stage? Which would win the day? In the end, none of the four deserved to lose, but as the tournament hovered in flux, the sword of Damacles had to drop for two.

The first two points of the final whetted the appetite for the forward battle to come as the great Irujo and Aimar locked horns from the off. The first point went to the former who used both walls to wrong foot Aimar and signal his intent. But the Goizuetan showed he would not be dictated to with a brutal airez of his own. In reality though, it was the duel at the back of the fronton which was to set the pattern for the majority of the game. It seemed to all the world as if the Aspe pair would waltz away with the prize as they consistently held their opponents at arm’s length, never closer than two points. This seeming air of inevitability was brought about largely by the rock solid play of Goni III to whom the very idea of the unforced error seemed anathema. No matter how hard Aimar tried to set him up for a fall, the man from Zubiri returned with interest. It took the defending champions 17 points to knock him, briefly, from his pedestal of perfection when Aimar manipulated him back and forth until he hit wide. In contrast, Oier Mendizabal creaked almost from the off; before Goni had made one mistake, his young opponent had failed four times. The discrepancy in the defensive play was clear for all to see, not least for Irujo and Goni themselves, who milked it for all it was worth. Aimar played with assurance but for the large part was totally unable to impose himself. Irujo played with all his usual fire and more in his expert partnering of Goni. He was not immune from the odd careless error, greeted as usual but furious incredulity, but with dominance surely applied these hardly mattered.

When three Mendizabal errors in succession took the score to 16-11 in favour of Irujo and Goni, the Aspe partnership must have smelt the finishing line. However, this was to reckon without a man by the name of Aimar Olaizola who was not in a mood to let a potential eighth txapela pass him by. The Asegarce botillero called time out for his pair and when they returned to the fray, the match was very nearly turned on its head. With Aimar slightly repositioned on the fronton, the trailing attacker cut loose. A drop, an airez and a trademark lethal left handed hook ensured that the gap in points edged down, gradually, but assuredly. With the score at 18-15 to Irujo and Goni, Mendizabal hit low from the back of the fronton and one sensed that it was now or never for the Asegarce pair.

When Irujo miscued close to the side wall, Aimar pounced and attacked full on. Another hook levelled the score at 19-19. The crowd, now at fever pitch, gasped in stunned unison. This had hardly seemed possible a mere half an hour previously. When Goni could not return a long ball from Aimar, the defending champions were ahead for the first time and all hell broke loose in the Oier Mendizabal fan club, which was sizeable and deafening. However, their hero once again hit too low from far out and the score was tied again. Now the Aspe pair inched ahead and claimed a match point when Irujo left Aimar unceremoniously sprawling with his legs above his head. Surely this was it? But 21-21 came; Irujo could hardly comprehend how his shot failed to find the frontis. And so, one point to win it all. Who had the nerve and who would fall? The final point was agonising in every conceivable way. One moment of brilliance, one mistake and sporting fate would be sealed. Nobody had deserved this, but there was Fernando Goni brilliant to the last, sending a ball of beauty, low and skidding to the frontis. Aimar ran, dived, hit and watched. One inch was all it took to kill a dream. Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni had won.

Points sequence (Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 1st): 0-1, 1-1, 1-3, 2-3, 2-5, 3-5, 4-5, 4-6, 4-8, 5-8, 5-10, 8-10, 8-11, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 10-13, 11-13, 11-14, 11-17, 12-17, 13-17, 13-18, 15-18, 15-19, 19-19, 20-19, 20-20, 20-21, 21-21 and 21-22.

Juan Martinez de Irujo: job done

Juan Martinez de Irujo: job done

Manomanista Championship: players announced at presentation in Bilbao

Oinatz Bengoextea seeks to defend his title

Oinatz Bengoextea seeks to defend his title

At an official presentation in Bilbao this morning, the 20 players scheduled to take part in this year’s Manomanista Championship were announced. They are as follows:

For Asegarce: Bengoetxea VI (defending champion), Olaizola I, Olaizola II, Patxi Ruiz, Beloki, Leiza, Peñagarikano, Begino, Agirre and Retegi BI.

For ASPE: Barriola, González, Martinez de Irujo, Xala, Laskurain, Pascual, Urberuaga, Berasaluze IX, Eulate and Zubieta.

The first round will start on Friday (3rd April) when Berasaluze IX takes on Eulate in Zeanuri.  The full schedule can be seen here

Mano Pairs Championship Final: the players, the facts and the figures

Aimar Olaizola Apezetxea
Date of birth: 13/11/79 in Goizueta, Navarre
Empresa: Asegarce
Position: forward
Height: 1.85m
Weight: 86kg
Debut: 12/04/1998, Lekunberri
Championship pedigree: Manomanista Champion in 2005 and 2007; Cuatro y Medio Champion in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008; Pairs Champion in 2008; Manomanista runner up in 2003 and 2006; Pairs runner up in 2003 and 2006.

Oier Mendizabal Huitzi
Date of birth: 21/05/83 in Donostia-San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa
Empresa: Asegarce
Position: defender
Height: 1.82m
Weight: 85kg
Debut: 18/06/05, Zarautz
Championship pedigree: Pairs Champion in 2008

Juan Martinez de Irujo Goñi
Date of birth: 04/11/81 in Ibero, Navarre
Empresa: ASPE
Position: forward
Height: 1.86m
Weight: 84kg
Debut: 06/06/03, Pamplona
Championship pedigree: Manomanista Champion in 2004 and 2006; Cuatro y Medio Champion in 2006; Pairs Champion in 2005 and 2006; Manomanista runner up in 2005; Cuatro y Medio runner up in 2008; Pairs runner up in 2004.

Fernando Goñi Erice
Date of birth: 05/02/73 in Zubiri, Navarre
Empresa: ASPE
Position: defender
Height: 1.84m
Weight: 84kg
Debut: 27/02/98, Pamplona
Championship pedigree: Pairs Champion in 2001, 2004 and 2005

Paths to the final 

Olaizola II/Mendizabal II

Beat Titin III/Pascual 22-21
Lost to Xala/Laskurain 10-22
Beat Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III 22-16
Beat Olazabal/Barriola 22-10
Beat Titin III/Pascual 22-7
Lost to Xala/Zubieta 17-22
Lost to Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III 8-22 (Mendizabal II substituted for Zearra due to injury)
Beat Gonzalez/Eulate 22-19

Lost to Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III 17-22
Beat Berasaluze VIII/Begino 22-20
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-16

Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III

Beat Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz 22-13
Lost to Berasaluze VIII/Begino 10-22
Lost to Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 16-22
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-18
Beat Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz 22-8
Lost to Berasaluze VIII/Begino 20-22
Beat Olaizola II/Zearra 22-8
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-19

Beat Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 22-16
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-18
Beat Berasaluze VIII/Begino 22-15

Olaizola II v Martinez de Irujo: head to head record in finals

2005 Olaizola II beat Martinez de Irujo 22-18
2006 Martinez de Irujo beat Olaizola II 22-17
Cuatro y Medio
2008 Olaizola II beat Martinez de Irujo 22-17
2006 Martinez de Irujo/Martinez de Eulate beat Olaizola II/Zearra 22-11

Mano Pairs Championship Final, Sunday 18:00 (CET): the preview

Mano Pairs Championship Final
Sunday 29th March
Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian
18:00 (CET) Olaizola II – Mendizabal II v Martinez de Irujo – Goñi III

Live webcast on ETB-Sat from 17:00 (after a curtain raising match featuring Bengoetxea VI/Patxi Ruiz and Xala/Laskurain)

After nearly three months of competition and 38 matches, two elite pairs have risen to the top and won the right to face each other in what should be a pulsating final at Atano III on Sunday. In a match which was sold out within the hour, defending champions Olaizola II and Mendizabal II will take on Martinez de Irujo and Goni III for the ultimate prize.

Aimar Olaizola and Juan Martinez de Irujo face each other in a major final for the fifth time in their stellar careers and the forward battle between the two great rivals will have the word of pelota on the edge of their seats once again. Irujo had been in imperious form of late, cruising through the semi finals and getting the better of three of the very best in the process. He played last weekend in an effort to hone his form ahead of the crunch match and hardly broke sweat in driving Titin into the ground. Afterwards he expressed a desire for the final to come quickly; he is in quite some shape, both mentally and physically. Olaizola has never been quite at his brutal best in this competition, hampered at various times by back pain, sickness and tendinitis in his right shoulder which has prevented him from fully cutting loose. However, there have been flashes of brilliance, notably courtesy of his famed left arm, and he has shown his customary skill in reading and dictating matches, seizing the initiative when the chips are down. Much will depend on who can exert their authority in the early points. If Irujo hits his stride early, it will take all of Olaizola’s composure to rein him in. Similarly, if Olaizola gets his nose ahead, Irujo may be liable to wobble as he did in the Cuatro y Medio final in December when he never recovered from going 5-0 down to the Goizuetan. It is all or nothing for these two gladiators of forward play.

Despite the fact that most eyes will be trained on the forwards, matches are often won or lost from the back of the fronton and the long range duel of Mendizabal and Goni has the potential to be every bit as enthralling. Goni has been the epitome of solidity throughout the tournament, the perfect foil for the attacking might of Irujo. The man from Zubiri, winner of three pairs txapelas in his long career, has undoubtedly been the more consistent of the two of late but his opponent, almost ten years his junior, has raised his game beyond all recognition in past weeks. His striking from the back of the fronton has been mesmerising and his maturity in controlling points admirable. If Mendizabal can maintain this form, Goni may well have his hands full.

So, who has the crucial edge? Irujo and Goni must start as favourites due to their excellent form in the semi final rounds, where they remained unbeaten. Irujo is on fire at the moment and it is hard to envisage him losing his way. However, he has been known to be erratic when the pressure is on. Which Irujo will we see on Sunday? Olaizola and Mendizabal have been beaten twice by their final opponents already in this tournament but did manage to beat them in the course of the quarter finals, in a game where Olaizola clearly had the upper hand. Question marks remain over Olaizola’s fitness but if he and Mendizabal can play as they have at times, the celebrations could well be theirs. Tune in to ETB-Sat on Sunday to watch the drama unfold.

Can Aimar and Oier defend their crown?

Can Aimar and Oier defend their crown?

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Manomanista Championship presentation on Tuesday

On Tuesday 31st March, the opening presentation of the 2009 Manomanista Championship will take place at Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa. The selected competitors from both the empresas will be presented to the media in the presence of representatives from BBK, the sponsors of the tournament, and LEP.M.

The defending manomanista champion is Oinatz Bengoetxea, the 24 year old from Leitza who won his title by defeating Abel Barriola, who also hails from Leitza, on a day when the Navarrese town ruled pelota. Barriola will be back this year in an attempt to turn the tables. Other likely favourites include Juan Martinez de Irujo and Aimar Olaizola, who face each other in the pairs final on Sunday.

Bengoetxea and Barriola, rivals in 2008

Bengoetxea and Barriola, rivals in 2008

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Manomanista: Koka and Zubieta to play off for championship place

On Saturday at Labrit, Juantxo Koka from Asegarce and Aitor Zubieta from Aspe will play each other to decide which will gain a place in the draw for the Manomanista Championship. Koka is no stranger to the individual championship, having been runner up to Mikel Goni in 1997. Last year however, he lost to Aritz Begino at the second stage. Zubieta was also an early loser last year, going down to Martinez de Eulate in the opening round. Each will relish his chance to reach the championship and gain the chance to do better this year. The match will not be webcast but will be broadcast on Telecinco in Spain.

In other news, reigning Manomanista champion Oinatz Bengoetxea was in imperious form on Monday in Tolosa. The 24 year old from Leitza was the best performer on show as he and Oier Zearra defeated fellow Asegarce pair Patxi Ruiz and Inigo Leiza 22-10.

Juantxo Koka

Juantxo Koka

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Second division mano pairs final: victory for Berasaluze IX and Urberuaga

Saturday 21st March

In front of a capacity audience in Amorebieta, Asier Berasluze and Xabier Urberuaga were crowned champions in the second tier pairs competition on Saturday. The Aspe pair totally outclassed the Asegarce partnership of Aratz Mendizabal and Ibai Zabala. Zabala played a solid match but could not dent the armoury of 27 year old Bizkaian Urberuaga. The latter gave invaluable support to his attacking partner Beraslauze who used speed and guile to both outwit and out-hit Mendizabal and was especially deadly with his right hand and in his serve. This was a first pairs triumph for the victors, who have both previously won the second tier manomanista title, Beraslauze in 2006 and Urberuaga in 2007. Urberuaga has the added pleasure of going to the top, for the time being, of the rankings.

Asier Berasaluze

Asier Berasaluze

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Mano matches this weekend

On Friday night, ETB-Sat will broadcast two matches ( The first is a singles match between two young Aspe players and the second a doubles match featuring Martinez de Irujo who aims to keep his form on a high ahead of next week’s pairs final. He was originally to have played against his pairs partner Fernando Goni, but Goni was later replaced by Inigo Pascual.

Friday 20th March

There are two live matches on Sunday, also on ETB-Sat. They are as follows:

Sunday 22nd March
Festival Astelena, Eibar

However, the most significant event of the weekend is sadly unavailable as a webcast. On Saturday, the final of the second division pairs championship will be held in Amorebieta-Etxano. If you live outside Spain, the only way to follow proceedings is via the live updates on pelotalive:

Saturday 21st March

Berasaluze IX

Berasaluze IX

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Jai Alai: Foronda and Arriaga Wins First Semifinal

img_2312Duration: 79 minutes
Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 12-18, 13-18, 13-21, 16-21, 16-22, 18-22, 18-23, 19-23, 19-27, 20-27, 20-28, 21-28, 21-29, 22-29, 22-30, 23-30, 23-31, 24-31, 24-32, 26-32, 26-33, 27-33 y 27-35

Master Jai’s pair Olha and Elizegi could not match the hard working Jon Arriaga, who together with Foronda won the first semifinal with 27-35.


The game was surrounded by a nice atmosphere, and was very even through the first dozen of points. Christophe Olha seemed very focused, threw his shots with great spead and was very well directed from the backcourt by Adolfo Elizegi. Both Iker and Jon in the blue team played well, but did not seem to be able to finish the points of in the same effective manner. After 12-12 the game changed a bit, and the Jai Alive teams more consistant play payed off with six straight points making the scores 12-18. Master Jai’s players made an effort to even up the scores but only reached to 18-22 before it started to be quite clear who would walk off the court as winners. Arriaga played very well and Forondo managed to close a couple of points in a spectacular way. The last points were more even but with a small advantage for the Jai Alive team, who could then close the game with a seven points lead.

Worth mentioning is that Christophe lost three points on his own serve.

The results in the other two games were:



Source: Translated from Master Jai