Gorka Esteban Tercilla was born in Ezcaray, La Rioja, and is one of an exciting generation of young pelotaris emerging from that province. He made his professional debut for Aspe in September 2010 at the age of 20 after a string of outstanding results as an amateur, including victory in the Under-22 World Championship and the Torneo Diario Vasco in 2008. His best result to date as a professional came in the 2011 Promocion Pairs where he and fellow Riojan Miguel Merino finished as runners up. Dos Paredes thanks Gorka for taking time out from his busy schedule to answer these questions!
How did you start playing pelota? Did it run in your family?
I like pelota because of my dad, he has always played pelota, frontenis and pala and I started playing because he used to take me with him to the frontón.
How old were you when you started?
I started at a very early age; I think that my first game dressed in white was at the age of 4.
When did you decide you wanted be become a professional?
I don’t think you get to decide that. All the children that start playing pelota, like in any other sports, want to play in the highest levels. In order to achieve it, you have to work hard and be lucky.
Which players were your inspiration growing up and who do you look up to now as a young professional?
As a child, you always admire those who win titles. Later, you have a look at different things, how they play or things they do. Right now, the top pelota players are Irujo and Olaizola II, but most of the Rioja players look up to Titin III.
Did you find the leap from the amateur to the professional ranks a big one in terms of level?
In the first games, you notice the difference between the professional and amateur ranks. In amateur matches, it is easier to score a point. In the professionals, all games are really hard, faster and longer
What do you consider to be the best performance of your career to date and why?
I really don’t know, I couldn’t say. One of the most beautiful games was the final game of the Diario Vasco, the final game of the sub-22 championship, the debut, the Promocion pairs final with Miguel Merino.
What would you say is your best shot?
I think it is the left hook
Obviously the Promocion pairs championship didn’t go as you might have hoped, having been runner up in 2011, but what are your goals for the remainder of 2012?
My goal since I started is to work on my shots that need more improving and little by little to improve my game. I know I need to improve in the singles competitions.
Pelotaris seem like a close knit community, especially those from Rioja. Is it difficult when your friends become your sporting rivals?
You need to know the difference. Outside the fronton nothing changes and they’re your friends, but inside the court, they are your rivals and you want to beat them.
There seems to be a plethora of young talent emerging from La Rioja at the moment, with you, David Merino, Rico IV and Untoria all having turned professional in the past couple of years. Good things must be going on in the region at grass roots level?
Miguel Merino, Cecilio, David Merino and I come from the same club and they have been with us from the beginning and have given us their support. We all have also trained in Titin’s center, where we joined Untoria, who comes from Najera. Joaquín (Plaza), Titin III and, in my case Goyo, have helped us to reach here. We have not spent so much time with Rico, he trains with people from his empresa. In La Rioja, people have been doing things well, they have great potential and you will hear a lot about them.
Describe a typical day in the life of Gorka Esteban. How long do you train for and what does your training involve?
We train every day except for the game day and the day before, when he just go running, do some exercise and stretch. A common practice day would be to start training at 10:30, when we play pelota more or less for 90 min, or we do conditioning, technique… It depends on the day. More or less, we finish every day at about 13:30. We have lunch and then, at 16:00 or so, I go to college. After classes, dinner and to sleep.
How do you look after your hands? Have you ever had any major problems?
I have not had serious injuries so far with my hands, and when they are painful, I usually go to Logroño to see physios Pedro and Ana. They are really good and they treat us well. My worst injury was one I had a short time after my debut when I had two straight torn ligaments and I had to rest for two months.
What do you think you would have ended up doing if you hadn’t become a professional pelotari?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I imagine I would have spent more time studying and I would have kept on playing pelota as an amateur. Pelota is what I like most and I would have kept on playing.
Do you combine your time on the fronton with any other sports, either for fitness or for fun? What other sports do you follow?
In the past I practised many sports. Nowadays, I do few and if I practise any, it is for a short period of time. I like all sports, I love sport, there is something appealing in all of them, mainly in all those that take place in the fronton. As far as following other sports, tennis, basketball, soccer, handball….
How do you like to spend your time away from the fronton? You are studying?
I like being with my friends, relatives, going to the movies, going to the mountains, travelling, etc… Studying is a must-do, even more so if we take into account this economic crisis in which we are living.
If you could invite any five people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be?
The five members of my family that are always with me.
Follow Gorka on Twitter: @gorka_ezka
Many thanks to Igor Lansorena for his help with the translation