Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Mexican racquetball champ wins another world title

Paola Longoria of Mexico has done it again. The 33-year-old native of San Luis Potosí won her fifth world racquetball title this week, solidifying her ranking as the No. 1 female player on the planet.

Longoria came out on top in the World Racquetball Championships, which in past years have been held in an array of countries, including South Korea, Colombia and Ireland, but this year happened to be in her hometown of San Luis Potosí.

In the women’s singles title match, she posted a tidy 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 win over Gabriela Martínez of Guatemala, the world’s No. 2 player.

Longoria, who has been a top-echelon player since winning her first Pan American Championship in 2006, has now won International Racquetball Federation world singles titles in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2021 and 2022. No one has more singles titles than her; two Americans are next in line with three apiece.

Paola Longoria celebrates her fifth International Racquetball Federation world title in her home state of San Luis Potosí this week.
Paola Longoria celebrates her fifth International Racquetball Federation world title in her home state of San Luis Potosí this week. IRF

And that’s not all. She and Samantha Salas also won the women’s doubles world title, beating the Argentinian duo of Valeria Centellas and Natalia Mendez in a thrilling final. The match went a full five sets, with Longoria and Salas prevailing 11-6, 15-17, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10.

Longoria and Salas, a 35-year-old native of León, Guanajuato, entered the tournament as the No. 1 women’s doubles team in the world and have now won five straight IRF world doubles titles.

The tournament was held at the Loma Sports Center in San Luis Potosí, and much of the action was streamed live online. Archived versions of this year’s women’s singles final and women’s doubles final are available on the IRF’s YouTube channel, and the announcing is in English.

Longoria entered this week’s tournament fresh off a gold medal in mid-July at the 2022 World Games, a competition for sports that are not included in the Olympics. In that final in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as in the final this week, her victim was Martínez — two satisfying results since it was the Guatemalan who, in 2018, ended Longoria’s run of three straight world titles.

Fourteen years ago, Longoria became the first Mexican woman to reach No. 1 in the world professional rankings. According to Wikipedia, she uses a “semi-western grip,” a style that not only is “rarely used in racquetball,” but she is “the only active professional player to employ it.”

According to the newspaper El Universal, Longoria, Salas and other Mexican players who competed this week did not receive any financial support from the Mexican Racquetball Federation or Conade (the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport). A few weeks ago, some Mexican players took up a collection to help defray their costs.

“It is sad to see that racquetball is not supported,” Longoria said. “It is a sport that has given great satisfaction to Mexico.” She acknowledged that it’s not an Olympic sport, but added that it’s a sport at which Mexico is quite good. “We are the sport that won all the medals in the Pan American Games,” she said.

For their part, Conade pinned the lack of funding on some erroneous expense reports submitted by the players and the 2021 dissolution of Mexico’s High Performance Sports Fund (Fodepar).

Longoria also criticized the management of Ana Gabriela Guevara, general director of Conade and a former world-class runner in the 400 and 800 meters. “As an athlete I admire her, but she lived the reality, so it surprises me that she does not understand” what we are going through.

“I am an athlete who does not like gossip or drama … but it is time to raise my voice,” Longoria concluded.

With reports from Reforma and El Universal

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