On February 21st, 2016, teams from Russia and Switzerland met for the first time to play at the Tseleevo Winter Open snow polo championship in the Moscow Polo Club.
“The Swiss invented snow polo in St. Moritz more than 30 years ago, but we are one of the few clubs in the world that runs a full season on snow”, said Alexis Rodzianko, President of the Moscow Polo Club, in his welcoming speech. Although the Swiss have a longer history of playing on snow the Tseleevo Winter Open Snow Polo Cup 2016 proved that snow polo in Russia is doing what it can to catch up. Four teams fought for victory in four very tough and cold games. The consolation and grand finals attracted a crowd of nearly 300 guests.
The first game was played between the two Russian teams on Wednesday, February 17. Moscow Polo Club, consisting of Misha Rodzianko (3), Alexis Rodzianko (0) and Gleb Fetisov (-2), easily defeated Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club composed of Egor Zaostrovtsev (1), Ekaterina Tyurina/Ekaterina Kozachenko (-1) and Maria Agranovskaya/Alexander Obolensky (-2) with a score of 10-4 that snow polo in Russia is doing what it can to catch up.
On Saturday, February 20th, the two Swiss teams from Polo Club de Veytay, located near Geneva, played it out on the snow. Team Veytay with Simon Luginbühl (2), Alexander Patyutko (0) and Christopher Tremege (-1), defeated their compatriots on team Matterhorn consisting of Mani Radjai (0), Frans von Chrismar (0) and Peter Byrne (-2), with a score of 10-6.
The same evening Russian and Swiss players met in the recently opened StandArt design-hotel in Moscow – the first Russian member of the international Design Hotels collection, for a welcome dinner and the presentation of the teams. Angel Pascual, a two Michelin star chef from the new North-South restaurant created an exclusive menu based on local seasonal products.
On Sunday, 21st of February, teams and guests arrived at the Moscow Polo Club in anticipation of the final games. Polo fans were welcomed in a heated marquise where they were served hot tea, mulled wine and a Woodford Reserve’s Winter Polo Tea signature bourbon cocktail. The matches were preceded by the national anthem of Russia performed live by Elena Romanova – winner of numerous international musical competitions and finalist of the Russian version of The Voice. Following which the teams of Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club and Matterhorn were presented to the crowd and the ball was tossed into play by the referee. Right from the start, Egor Zaostrovtsev, one of Russia’s top players chose a strongly offensive strategy full of risky attacks. While this brought his team some beautiful goals, it also left the Russian team undefended and allowed the Swiss to push some of the weaker players into committing several fouls, which kept the score very close the entire game up to the last minute when Mani Radjai scored a beautiful long goal resulting in team Matterhorn taking third with a score of 5-4.
The match for the first place was especially interesting and dynamic, it was a standoff between the best players of Russia and Switzerland, Misha Rodzianko and Simon Luginbühl. In the first two chukkers the Russian team was able to gain a significant advantage bringing the score to 7-3. However, as it often happens in sports, it is more important to maintain the advantage, than to gain it: the Swiss team adjusted its tactics, putting all their efforts into blocking Misha Rodzianko and launch counterattacks. 8-8 on the score-board in the last chukker got the audience nervous, and to the joy of Russian fans, Gleb Fetisov scored a goal in the final minute. Unfortunately, it was off a foal and did not count. The Swiss team quickly took the initiative and at the final seconds of the fourth chukker Simon Luginbühl led his team to victory – ending the match with a score of 9-8.
As a result, Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club came fourth; third place went to the team Matterhorn. The Moscow Polo Club took second receiving a consolation prize of premium handmade Woodford Reserve bourbon. The absolute winner was the team from Veytay – its participants received memorable trophies and gifts from partners of the tournament. Simon Luginbühl was named best player and the best playing pony was Rocket which Luginbühl played in the first and fourth chukkers (owned by Alexis Rodzianko).
The entertainment for the day was not over after the prizes were given, players and guests moved to the Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club to watch a unique heli-golf tournament.
The Tseleevo Winter Open was full of sharp moments and left lasting impressions on everyone in attendance. Without a doubt it was a highlight of this winter, leaving guests in eager anticipation of the new summer season, which will be launched on May 21st with the Spring Classic Polo Tournament.