USA Today Covers the Tournament

The Story of the First King's Cup

USA Today, September 17, 2001

Nepal wins by World Elephant Polo Assn. rules

Deftly employing 8-foot long sticks, not to mention 6-plus tons of raw power, Elephant Polo in Hua HinNepal captured the first King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament with a 3-2 victory against an inexperienced team from host Thailand on Sunday in Hua Hin. Sri Lanka too third place. Singapore and a second Thai team also part in what sponsors hope will become an annual event at the seaside resort.

The 2-day event raised some $10,000 for projects to save a species which once roamed the country by the tens of thousands. Now, less than 6,000 wild and domesticated elephants remain.

"The elephants learned incredibly fast considering that they never saw a stick and ball before a week ago," said James Manclark, the Scottish co-creator of the sport who played for Nepal. A dozen Thai elephants and their riders were recruited and went through a weeklong crash course in elephant polo.

Similar to horse polo, but played on a shorter field, teams consist of 3 elephants with a rider and a player atop each. According to World Elephant Polo Association rules, elephants can't pick up the ball - the same as that used in horse polo - with their trunks and they can't lie down in front of the goal mouth, a tactic which was once attempted.

Soccer balls were used during the first game in Nepal, but an elephant stepped on one by mistake and apparently enjoyed the tickling sensation of the escaping air. Thereafter the beasts stomped on one ball after another.

Manclark first suggested the sport to his friend Jim Edwards at a bar in Switzerland and later sent him a telegram: "Have long sticks. Get elephant ready."

The event has attracted royals and celebrities, including former Beattle Ringo Starr, actress and animal activist Stefanie Powers, tennis star Bjorn Borg and Florida tycoon, hot-air balloonist and corkscrew collector Alf Erickson. His Screwy Tuskers team routinely finishes last and plans to enter the Thailand competition next year.

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