Three players with local ties will compete on the U.S. team in the Snow Polo World Cup in China today.
Tommy Biddle Jr., Pelon Escapite and Del Walton are competing in the Third Annual 2014 Fortune Heights Federation of International Polo Snow Polo World Cup in China.
Biddle grew up in Aiken and was the quarterback at South Aiken High School. Escapite's farm is in Williston, and Walton's farm is in Blackville. Biddle Jr. and Escapite are both rated six goals in the outdoor and Walton carries a three goal handicap.
The Snow Polo World Cup championship will be played at Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, and the tournament is composed of teams from England, Australia, Mexico, Chile, Spain, New Zealand, France, Brazil, South Africa, Canada, the United States and defending champion Hong Kong, China.
The U.S. is part of Zone 2 and will have its first game today against New Zealand. The U.S. will play Brazil on Saturday and France on Monday. The quarterfinals begin on Jan. 14 and the finals will be Jan. 19.
The tournament started on Wednesday.
The players participating in the tournament will all be at the same disadvantage, having to play horses they've never ridden before.
The playing surface in the arena is created by special snow cannons that are used in ski resorts, according to the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club.
Biddle Jr. is the fourth player in history to achieve a 10-goal handicap rating in the arena; the others are Hall of Famers Winston Guest and Dr. Clarence “Buddy” Combs Jr., with Joe Henderson being the last player to earn the distinction before Biddle was raised to the elite status in 2011.
For tournament results, visit www.snowpoloworldcup.com for daily updates.
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.