Tag Archives: Pamplona

Olaizola and Ibai Zabala put champions to the sword

Saturday 16th January, Pamplona

The defending champions were well and truly humbled on Saturday by a stunning performance from Aimar Olaizola and Ibai Zabala, who now sit second in the table and look ever more secure as a pair. In contrast, Titin and Merino will need to turn things around merely to make the semi-finals. At the start of the championship, it was obvious that Olaizola was the predominant player in the partnership, shielding his inexperienced partner from pressure. However, as the tournament has progressed, Zabala looks more confident and Olaizola seems happier to give him his head. He is playing with great security and not a little style, with an especially strong right. With greater equality in the pair, it is now easy to see them challenging right to the end of the championship.

In contrast to Zabala’s assured play, David Merino looked extremely out of sorts, making a catalogue of errors. This left Titin running for scraps in the face of a dominant Olaizola. The Asegarce pair looked to dominate matters from the outset with a faster ball than their opponents may have liked. Their choices, both in this and in the tactical sphere, worked perfectly and the crowd could hardly believe what they were seeing when they raced into a 14-0 lead. There was no way back from here for the Riojans. The champions managed a reaction of sorts, netting five points in a row thanks to some classy finishing from Titin but Olaizola and Zabala continued to dominate, leaving nothing to chance in a 22-8 annihilation. In under three quarters of an hour the game was up and the 2012 winners left to lick their considerable wounds.

Winners/errors: Olaizola 10/1, Titin 7/2, Zabala 1/1, Merino 1/6
Match time: 44 minutes
Balls hit: 321

Martinez de Irujo and Zabaleta consolidate while Olaizola and Ibai Zabala climb the tree

There was high octane play in the Riojan capital of Logrono on Sunday evening as table toppers Martinez de Irujo and Zabaleta came from behind to beat Titin III and Merino II 22-20 in a match that lasted almost an hour and a half. The momentum of the game changed on a sixpence many times over. The defending champions, playing front of a passionate home crowd, started the better, going 3-0 ahead. Even when they were pegged back and overtaken, they found the strength to forge on again, taking their lead to 10-6, 12-7 and 13-8. Irujo and Zabaleta fought back however, drawing level at fourteen and then sixteen apiece. Titin and Merino looked to have rediscovered their command of the situation when they took a 19-16 and 20-18 lead, but again they were undone with the increasingly powerful Irujo and Zabaleta coming through at the death to take four consecutive points, and with them the win. While there was much scintillating play to thrill the Adarraga crowd, there were also many mistakes, but these did not detract from the drama of the game. Especially engrossing was the tooth and nail fight at the back of the fronton between the two young defenders, who gave yet another demonstration of the youthful talent which fills Aspe’s roster.

Aimar Olaizola and Ibai Zabala moved up to second in the table on Saturday with a hard fought 22-19 victory over former top pair Bengoetxea VI and Beroiz. Labrit was full for this much anticipated encounter, as locals came in their droves to see whether the combined solidity of Bengoetxea and Beroiz would be enough to dampen the spark of Olaizola. Though the pair in blue pushed them all the way however, Goizueta’s most famous son proved once more that despite an inexperienced partner in tow, any pair with him at the helm will be very hard to stop. The game was very even from the start with the spoils shared at 3-3, but Olaizola and Zabala soon moved into a 6-3 lead. Beroiz failed to place enough pressure on Olaizola and fed him too many easy balls with which he was all too willing to mete out punishment; 6-3 became 8-3. Bengoetxea staged a fight back however, and with Beroiz in increasingly solid support seized the lead back at 9-10, and then 9-12, with some dominant shot play. It cost the red pair much effort to fight back but they scrapped their way to the lead again at 14-13. Deadlock ensued as the pairs could not be separated, tied at 17, 18 and 19. From this juncture thought, Olaizola stepped up a gear, and wasted little time in hitting his way to victory, 22-19 the final score. Bengoetxea and Beroiz, who looked invincible a few weeks back, are now on something of a losing run. Olaizola and Ibai Zabala, on the other hand, may now dare to dream of the semi-finals. There is a short highlights video on etb, here.

Meanwhile, in the Promocion Championship, Gorka and Cecilio became the only unbeaten pair in the competition, beating Apezetxea and Larrinaga 22-16 in Logrono. They now sit atop the table alone. At Labrit, Mendizabal III and Merino put Aritz Lasa (playing for Olazabal) and Arruti to the sword, winning 22-6.

Irujo and Zabaleta are in a position of strength

Irujo and Zabaleta are in a position of strength

Photo: mine

Pairs Week 7: the slow moving saga unravels

Friday 1st February, Zestoa: OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-6
Many questioned the wisdom of pairing the might of Aimar Olaizola with the inexperience of the untried Ibai Zabala, but thus far the experiment is working, mostly. The empresas made a conscious policy of picking pairs which would be evenly matched, thus creating close matches and greater excitement but at times, the dominance of Olaizola has been so great that he appears to all the world as if he could win entirely alone. This would, however, be to do Zabala a disservice for he has held his own at this level for the most part and has at times looked very solid indeed. It is too soon to tell whether they will have the staying power to go all the way, but on the strength of this showing they can be fairly optimistic. It is true that this year just as last, Arretxe and Begino are clearly the least potent of the couples, but they were destroyed here in no uncertain terms. They kept pace for a short period, Arretxe temporarily hitting with Aimar as an equal, but once the latter got his eye in there was no stopping him. This was as vintage a display of shot play as you are ever likely to see and there was nothing his opponent could do to stem the flow. Zabala played his part ably as Begino endured another bad day. Olaizola and Ibai Zabala move up to third in the table, with this their fourth win. Arretxe and Begino remain entrenched at the bottom with a solitary point. It is easy to forget that, not so long ago, Begino lifted the trophy with Olaizola. Times have changed.

Saturday 2nd February, Idiazabal: EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA beat BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ 22-11
Aitor Zubieta’s first match without the ousted Sebastien Gonzalez was a triumph. It was he who made the difference, dominating Beroiz at the back and giving Bengoetxea virtually nothing on a length from which he could hit a winner. When the opportunity did come his way, he proved unable to close the deal. Joseba Ezkurdia, miraculously recovered from what looked like a much more serious shoulder injury, stepped into the fray and looked as if he had always been there. He belied his tender years, and doubtless also allayed the fears of the Aspe bosses that they might have taken the wrong decision regarding Gonzalez. An Ezkurdia flop would have looked very bad indeed. However, it will take more than one golden match to resurrect the title hopes of this pair. With Gonzalez, Zubieta managed only a solitary win, over bottom pair Arretxe and Begino. They still languish in seventh but with a full rotation of matches still to be played, time is on their side. In the early days of the championship, Bengoetxea and Beroiz looked almost unbeatable and every inch the winners. However, as some other pairs have risen, their form appears slightly on the wane. They are still second in the table, with five wins and two losses, but both these defeats have come in the last two weeks. Their immediate future trajectory depends on whether Bengoetxea can keep Olaizola at bay when they clash on Friday at Labrit.

A good day for Aitor Zubieta

A good day for Aitor Zubieta

Saturday 2nd February, Pamplona: MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – ZABALETA beat JAUNARENA – BARRIOLA 22-13
Very much on the up are Juan Martinez de Irujo and Jose Javier Zabaleta. They have lost only one match so far, and that 21-22 (to Bengoetxea and Beroiz in week three), and look be growing in both confidence and flair. Attracting much of the praise is Zabaleta, new to this level of competition but taking to the big stage like a natural. It is easy to forget his tender years when one observes his command at the back of the fronton, and sensed the calmness in his demeanour. Aspe have clearly found a treasure, no matter what happens from this point on in the Pairs. Irujo, who has not had a great year by his standards, lagging dramatically behind Olaizola in the quest to be the best, appears galvanised by this new partnership. Jaunarena, another golden young talent here stepping in for Xala, proved easy pickings for Irujo on Saturday but will not be overawed; last week he clearly demonstrated his potential at this level. Barriola, so used to being in charge, could not unseat Zabaleta as the pair in red dominated every aspect of the game. They now sit top of the table in isolation while their opponents slip to sixth with two losses in the past two weekends. Xala will undergo a physical test on Friday to determine whether he can play in Tolosa on Saturdau against Ezkurdia and Zubieta.

Sunday 3rd February, Bilbao: BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU beat TITIN III – MERINO II 22-9
The Pairs Championship is a slow burning affair. Some couples hit their stride right from the off, winning weekly with seeming total control. Others, such as Jon Ander Albisu and Pablo Berasaluze enter the tournament with high hopes but initially fail to fire. However, as long as any period of malaise is relatively contained, there is time to turn things around and there is a sense that recovery may be on the cards for Albisu and Berasaluze. They opened their account with four straight losses but have now won three in a row, lifting them from the base of the table up into fifth and right in contention for the semi-final places. This latest win was perhaps their most impressive; they flattened the defending champions 22-9 in Bilbao on Sunday, leaving the Riojans looking dejected and clueless as to how to come back. The commander in chief was undoubtedly Berasaluze, who looks to be back in the same kind of form he displayed in December. He hit winners for fun and totally dominated Titin who looked flat footed and stretched to his limits. David Merino, so often such a model of classical elegance at the back, for forced to scrap in order to lift himself out of the traps placed for him by a masterful Albisu, who was clearly the better of the defenders. So petulant was Merino’s body language by the end that he appeared broken in both body and soul. And so, Titin and Merino’s up and down title defence continues. They still sit fourth, holding onto the final qualifying spot narrowly, but there is still far to go.

For the current table see here, and for past results and future fixtures, go here.

In the Promocion Championship, Gorka and Cecilio took command at the top with a 22-6 win over Lemuno and Aretxabaleta. Elsewhere, Urrutikoetxea (replacing Tainta) and Ladis Galarza beat Mendizabal III and Merino I 22-14, Elezkano II and Mendizabal II (standing in for Larunbe) beat Olazabal and Arruti 22-18 and Apezetxea and Larrinaga squeezed past Rico IV and Untoria 22-21. For the full Promocion table, see here and for results and fixtures, here.

Gorka Esteban, going well in the Promocion

Gorka Esteban, going well in the Promocion

Pictures: mine

Pairs Championship: first week wins for Irujo-Zabaleta and Bengoetxea-Beroiz

Also victorious in the first round of Pairs Championsip matches were Martinez de Irujo-Zabaleta and Bengoetxea VI-Beroiz. Irujo and debutant Zabaleta were not overly stretched in beating Gonzalez and Zubieta at Labrit last Sunday, running out 22-11 winners. Far closer was Bengoetxea and Beroiz’s win over Berasaluze VIII and Albisu, which finished 22-21. This looked like the most enticing of the first rotation’s matches on paper, with two evenly matched pairs featuring two of the most dynamic forwards on the circuit. Bengoetxea and Berasaluze have both been in great form recently, coming second and third respectively in the Cuatro y Medio and they put on a great show at a buzzing Bizkaia. For the first part of the match, affairs were extremely close with the eventual winners pegged back from 7-4 to 7-8 before the pairs were locked in combat on eight, nine and ten. Beraslauze and Albisu edged ahead 12-10 before Bengoetxea and Beroiz began to exert pressure and looked to be heading for a reasonably comfortable triumph. Thanks to the potency of Bengoetxea’s shot play and the rock solid defence of Beroiz, they forged ahead to 16-12 and 19-14. However, Berasaluze is nothing if not tenacious and, audibly goading Albisu on, he led a revival. They closed to 17-19 before Bengoetxea and Beroiz steadied the ship, giving themselves four shots at match point on 21-17. However, again their rivals fought back, setting up a winner-takes-all final point from 21-21. In a point of high tension, it was Berasaluze who fell first, handing the game to Bengoetxea and Beroiz when his strike fell agonisingly low. We will surely here much more from both couples as the championship progresses.

Victory in Bilbao for Oinatz Bengoetxea

Victory in Bilbao for Oinatz Bengoetxea

Bat, bi, hiru! Jaunarena nets historic third txapela

Saturday 8th December, Pamplona


Promocion Cuatro y Medio Final

Jon Jaunarena lived up to his billing as the hottest young talent contemporary pelota mano last Saturday, becoming the first player ever to win all three Promocion championship titles in the same year. He adds the Cuatro y Medio crown to the Pairs title he won with Cecilio, and the Manomanista. This tournament has not been plain sailing for Jaunarena; he was forced to fight hard by Ongay in his first round match, coming from behind to win 22-19, and was beaten heavily by Gorka in the first round of group matches. However, Gorka’s dip in form coupled with a brace of excellent wins, one over the eventual runner up who qualified from the same group, saw the favourite through. Debutante Elezkano, who was impressive in reaching the semis, was easy prey and a final therefore awaited against Untoria who had come through a tough encounter with Jorge Rico in the last four. Jaunarena was the clear favourite at Labrit, especially given his 22-15 defeat of Untoria in the group stages, but the pressure was immense. The 20 year old knew that history beckoned and that a win would likely provide a launch pad into the elite echelons of the sport. The final was a tense one, played with great passion in front of a capacity crowd. Jaunarena raced to a 7-0 lead as if to eschew once and for all any notion that the expectation might get to him. However, Untoria proved a tougher adversary than this early discrepancy suggested and came roaring back into contention at 11-11. The rivals could not be split in the ensuing passage of play, finding themselves tied at 12, 13 and 14 before Jaunarena edged ahead again, taking an 18-15 lead. Again his opponent retaliated, coming to within a point at 18-17. In a developing pattern, Jaunarena surged once more, this time to 21-17 and match point. He made his army of supporters sweat however, ceding three straight points to a determined Untoria before finally seizing the championship, and with it the record, 22-20.

With this victory comes adulation but also expectation. Jaunarena is now seventh in the Manista.com rankings, above such established luminaries as Xala, Barriola and Laskurain, and his youth points to a career of greatness. However, Aspe will need to handle him well; his potential is clear but in order to deliver he will need astute management and a solid head. For now though, Leitza’s new champion can enjoy his success and growing celebrity while Oinatz Bengoetxea attempts to give the town its fourth txapela of 2012 against Aimar Olaizola on Sunday.

Scoring sequence: 7-0/ 7-2/ 8-2/ 8-3/ 9-3/ 9-8/ 11-8/ 11/ 12/ 13/ 14/ 17-14/ 17-15/ 18-15/ 18-17/ 21-17/ 21-20/ 22-20
Service winners/errors: Jaunarena 4/1, Untoria 4/0
Winners/errors: Jaunarena 13/7, Untoria 6/4
Match time: 74 minutes
Balls hit: 286

There is a good post match interview with Jaunarena in Noticias de Gipuzkoa, if you understand Spanish or have Google Translate to hand. There are also some pictures on Aspe’s Flickr (I can’t find any pictures of Jaunarena at all which are out of copyright so can’t post any directly!).

Cuatro y Medio: the week that was

Shell shocked Xala beaten 22-12 by Arretxe
The quarter final rotations got underway last Friday, across the bay in Iparralde, when Arretxe II took on Xala in Hendaia. Nobody would have made Arretxe favourite for this game; Xala is by far the more decorated, the more experienced at this level and had near home advantage to boot. However, the upset happened. Xala was simply never in the game and looked utterly lacklustre, but nothing must be taken away from the underdog, for this was not a simple case of the favourite being dramatically off colour. Arretxe bossed almost every point, finishing with a whopping sixteen winners. That Xala made only six errors in a match where he was so comprehensively beaten is testament to Arretxe’s dominance. The final score is flattering to Xala, and came about thanks only to a relatively late rally from the former Manomanista champion, who mustered six winners in a row on the way from 3-18 to 12-19. However, any hope of an extraordinary comeback was dashed by some further Arretxe shot play. Xala appeared stunned, along with his legion of fans, and now has work to do to make the semis.
Scoring sequence: 0-5, 1-5, 1-10, 2-10, 2-14, 3-14, 3-18, 10-19, 12-19, 12-22.
Winners/errors: Xala 8/6, Arretxe 16/4
Balls hit: 197
Match time: 39:42 with 7:13 of actual play



(Image by Patrick Janicek under Creative Commons)

Olaizola II beat Bengoetxea VI 22-13. The following day it was the turn of the defending champion to take the stage in Pamplona, and he demonstrated to the public in no uncertain terms why he has won this title on five occasions. Bengoetxea, although he has never been Cuatro y Medio champion, is a great exponent of the short court game, having won the Navarrese title twice, including the last two editions, but he found the going tough here, despite fighting every inch of the way in his customary style. Olaizola punished him with a physical game, littered with trademark left handed hooks, and although Bengoetxea pushed him close in the mid part of the game, closing to 8-10, he had little answer in the latter stages.
Scoring sequence: 3-0, 6-3, 10-3, 10-8, 13-10, 15-10, 17-11, 18-13, 22-13
Balls hit: 259
Match time: 46 minutes



On Sunday, the pelota cognoscenti gathered in Eibar, where Martinez de Irujo beat Retegi Bi 22-18. In contrast to Friday’s game, this one appeared to be matching the form book from the start, when Irujo stormed into a 10-1 lead. Playing with more speed and vigour than Retegi could handle, the man from Ibero was in complete control. However, spurred on by his great father in the botillero’s chair, the less lauded player fought his way back, first to 4-10 and from thence to 5-13, 13-14 and 15-15 before seizing the lead at 15-16 with his second service winner in a row. His lead grew when Irujo hit low for 15-17 and an upset looked on. However, Irujo snapped into action when it really mattered, breaking his opponent’s heart with a run of five straight points. Retegi pulled on back at 20-18 to restore a little hope, but when he hit high in the next point, Irujo wasted no time in producing a winning serve to take a win which was far less comfortable than it should have been.
Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-1, 10-1, 10-2, 10-4, 12-4, 12-5, 14-5, 14-13, 15-13, 15-17, 20-17, 20-18, 22-18
Winners/errors: Irujo 16/10, Retegi Bi 8/6
Balls hit: 234
Match time: 40:40 with 9:51 of actual play



Berasaluze VIII beat Barriola 22-11. On Monday it was the turn of Abel Barriola and Pablo Berasaluze to strut their stuff as they clashed at Santanape in Gernika. This looked on paper to be a potential close run thing, but Berasaluze proved by far the stronger. He prevented Barriola from unleashing his left arm by taking many balls on the volley and defended like a terrier. With the score at 20-5 in Berasaluze’s favour, Barriola looked to be in for an embarrassing evening but the Leitzarra managed to rally to a degree, saving face by adding six further points. This was nowhere near enough however to prevent the Asegarce player from seizing the day.
Scoring sequence: 1-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-7, 4-11, 5-20, 11-22
Balls hit: 200
Match time: 52 minutes



In the Promocion Championship, the results were as follows:
26th October, Arrigorriaga: OLAZABAL beat ELEZKANO II 22-19

27th October, Pamplona: JAUNARENA beat LEMUNO 22-16
27th October, Ezcaray: UNTORIA beat GORKA 22-18
28th October, Eibar: RICO IV beat APEZETXEA 22-12

This week, the main championship fixtures are:
Friday 2nd November, Leitza: XALA v BENGOETXEA VI
Saturday 3rd November, Pamplona: BERASALUZE VIII v MARTINEZ DE IRUJO
Sunday 4th November, Bilbao: BARRIOLA v RETEGI BI
Monday 5th November, Tolosa: OLAIZOLA II v ARRETXE II

The Promocion Championship games are:
Friday 2nd November, Leitza: JAUNARENA v UNTORIA
Saturday 3rd November, Pamplona: GORKA v LEMUNO
Sunday 4th November, Bilbao: APEZETXEA v ELEZKANO II
Monday 5th November: Tolosa: OLAZABAL v RICO IV

San Fermin Final: Zubieta resurgent as Bengoetxea and Begino fall short

Saturday 14th July, Pamplona


San Fermin Pairs Final

It has been an extremely tough year for Aitor Zubieta. The tall, powerful defender from Etxarri-Aranatz, imperious at his best, had made the slow and painful journey back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the end of 2010 and was starting to fire when his old hand problems flared up. He missed most of the Pairs Championship as a result and the issues lasted to a greater or lesser degree for weeks afterwards. Aspe paired him with his close friend Yves Salaberry for San Fermin, a tournament he has always wanted to win, doubtless in the hope that together they could rekindle the form of early 2010 when they won the Pairs Championship together in superb style. Zubieta has long been the confidant of Xala, acting as botillero for him in individual tournaments and on the fronton they share an understanding which, when everything clicks into place, is wonderful to witness. So it was here, and it was Zubieta, back from the depths of sporting despair, who emerged as the player of both the match and the tournament in an emphatic rebirth.

Although Bengoetxea, who had won the Cuatro y Medio tournament the previous weekend, and Begino began the final as favourites, their opponents were in command from the get go. When their early 3-0 lead was pegged back, they surged forward again, opening the gap to 7-2. Bengoetxea appeared a shadow of the player who had regained such verve in beating Olaizola II and Irujo the week before, leaking too many errors to maintain any pressure. Xala, while not spectacular, took the opportunities which were presented to him and accumulated points with the minimum of fuss. Bengoetxea found some pace and direction subsequently, and pulled his pair to within two at 6-8, but it was then that the relentless pressure of Zubieta began to wear Begino down. His hitting was as powerful as it was accurate and he also showed a great deal of invention, willing to come forward when necessary as well as to race back in defence, where he proved able to alleviate pressure with some monster returns. He continually put Begino on the back foot, and although his opponent defended gamely and often superbly, there was little Bengoetxea could do to help him turn the tables. At 14-8, then 16-8 and 18-9 it seemed there was no way back for the Asegarce pair.

However, at this juncture things went a little awry for Xala and Zubieta, largely due to resurgence from Bengoetxea whose temporary supremacy allowed Begino room to move. Zubieta made several errors to which he had hitherto seemed immune and Xala lost his former potency. At 18-16, times were worrying for the leaders. An incredibly tense point followed in which Bengoetxea finally hit low to give Xala and Zubieta an inch more breathing space, but then a miscue from Xala meant the pressure was very much back on. Both players cursed the heavens, knowing they had let their opponents off the hook. However, they kept their cool and returned to doing the basics well. Once again Begino came under incredible pressure from Zubieta and cracked twice over before Xala sealed the deal with a txoko. The relief as well as the unabashed joy was palpable.

Ever since 2010 when Xala and Zubieta scaled the heights so impressively, many within pelota fandom have been waiting for a reprise and with Zubieta finally healthy again we were treated to a vintage display. Rarely has a player exuded such genuine happiness, allied so wonderfully to the party mood which pervaded Labrit as the revellers celebrated the end of their party week before taking to the streets, clad in red and white to bid San Fermin farewell for another year.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-2, 7-2, 7-5, 8-5, 8-6, 14-6, 14-7, 15-7, 15-8, 17-8, 17-9, 18-9, 18-16, 19-16, 19-17, 22-17.

Winners/errors: Xala 5/3, Bengoetxea 4/6, Zubieta 4/4, Begino 4/6

Service winners/errors: Xala 1/0, Bengoetxea 2/0

Match time: 1:18.52 with 34:35 of actual play

Balls hit: 678

San Fermin: opening weekend round-up

The opening weekend of San Fermin 2012 saw some great pelota, and first on the bill was the festival’s cuatro y medio final between two Navarrese players, Oinatz Bengoetxea and Juan Martinez de Irujo. Despite Bengoetxea’s excellent semi final win over Aimar Olaizola, and Irujo’s loss to the same player in the Manomanista final, Irujo was the favourite here; two straight big match losses seemed almost inconceivable. However, Bengoetxea had not read this script and barely gave Irujo a chance to hit his stride, serving with power and playing at a whirlwind pace. The match was close at 9-7 but eight straight points for Bengoetxea killed off any resistance Irujo could muster. He pulled it back to 17-12, but by that time the die was cast. Victory for Oinatz, 22-12 in 46 minutes.

Both pairs matches played at the weekend finished with the same scoreline. In the first, which took place on Saturday, Olaizola II and Apraiz beat Titin III and Barriola 22-14. Yesterday, 2010 Pairs Champions Xala and Zubieta defeated Berasaluze VIII and Albisu 22-14. Berasaluze was in many ways the more potent of the forwards here, but he was also the more error prone. Xala, while he managed only half the winners of his opponent, committed no errors to Berasaluze’s five. The bigger difference was in the defenders, where Aitor Zubieta had an excellent game with three winners to one error. Albisu was wayward at times and could not match Zubieta’s relentless pressure. Titin III and Barriola play Bengoetxea VI and Begino tonight, while Berasaluze and Albisu play Irujo and Merino II tomorrow.

Live pelota this week: Gora San Fermin!

Two hundred and four hours of partying kicked off in Pamplona today as its citizens welcomed the 2012 San Fermin. In addition to the word famous bull-related antics and non-stop revelry, the festival incorporates an elite pelota tournament held at Labrit which sits on the edge of the old town opposite the bullring. The San Fermin Cuatro y Medio tournament began, rather incongruously, last weekend with two semi-finals. In a turnaround of form, Bengoetxea VI beat Olaizola II 22-18 while Martinez de Irujo wiped the floor with Barriola 22-5. The victors will meet in the final at 11.30 tomorrow morning and this will be shown on ETB via the web. Thereafter, the doubles tournament takes over and we have a feast of live pelota to look forward to over the next week. The full schedule can be viewed on the Asegarce website, and coverage is detailed below.

Saturday 7th July, Pamplona


Followed by BENGOETXEA VI v MARTINEZ DE IRUJO San Fermin Cuatro y Medio Final

Sunday 8th July, Pamplona


Followed by BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU v XALA – ZUBIETA San Fermin Pairs Championship

Wednesday 11th July, Pamplona


Followed by BENGOETXEA VI – BEGINO v either OLAIZOLA II – APRAIZ or TITIN III – BARRIOLA San Fermin Pairs Championship

Thursday 12th July, Pamplona


Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II v either BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU or XALA – ZUBIETA San Fermin Pairs Championship

Saturday 14th July, Pamplona



To watch, go to http://www.eitb.tv, https://www.eitb.eus/es/television/etb-sat/orhttps://www.eitb.eus/es/deportes/deporte-en-directo/

Pelotaris play as Pamplona parties

Pelotaris play as Pamplona parties

Image by Jaronson used under Creative Commons

Promocion Manomanista: champion Jaunarena eyes the bigtime

Saturday 30th June, Pamplona


Promocion Manomanista Final

Just as Aimar Olaizola confirmed his stellar 2012 form last weekend, another, younger, pelotari built upon his own wonderful year. Jon Jaunarena, twenty years old and a professional for a year and a half, won the Promocion Manomanista title to add to the Promocion Pairs he took with Cecilio in the spring. The Promocion championships are designed as the breeding ground for young players not yet ready for the dizzying heights and in Jaunarena they have produced a star both of the present and future. These results all but guarantee him a leg up into the limelight in the coming year and on his showing of Saturday he will handle the pressure with aplomb. His opponent was Joseba Ezkurdia, who since his debut last December has taken some notable scalps. The stage was set for him to seize a txapela in his neo-pro year, but Jaunarena, who is a year younger but possesses an extra year of experience, had too much in what proved an exciting battle.

Jaunarena was immense throughout and wore Ezkurdia down physically. His shooting ahead to 7-2 was a statement of intent and although his opponent managed to drag him back to parity at 11-11 and 14-14, he never lost his poise. This was a tough match with gruelling rallies, and Jaunarena brought boundless energy which Ezkurdia struggled to match. He tried to nullify Jaunarena’s serve with volleyed returns, but Jaunarena was so strong off both sides that as the match wore on he was constantly beaten back. Jaunarena edged ahead 17-15 and 18-16 before the floodgates opened, allowing him to take four points in a row to secure his second txapela of the year.

Both players are precious talents who must be brought on with care. Despite his loss here, Ezkurdia is clearly destined for great things but for the time being all eyes are on Jaunarena as he attempts the leap to the next level, another in a line of great pelotaris from the small Navarrese town of Leitza. Its citizens celebrated Manomanista victory in 2008 with Oinatz Bengoetxea; how long before Jaunarena gives them equal cause for joy?

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-2, 7-2, 7-3, 8-6, 10-7, 10-10, 11-11, 11-12, 12-12, 13-13, 14-14, 17-15, 18-16, 22-16

Winners/errors: Jaunarena 9/2, Ezkurdia 8/6

Service winners: Jaunarena 7, Ezkurdia 6

Match time: 56.04

Balls hit: 242