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News:usa

2000.08.14 by Frank Pipal mr.pipal@petanque.org

FPUSA qualifiers

Story contributed by Ed Porto.
An all Armenian team from Worcester Massachusetts defied the bookies and have a year to get in form for Monaco 2001


As the rain turned cold at the close of the final match, it became clear that this year’s great American Pétanque Championship was a Cinderella story, a tale of underdogs making the grade and upending perennial favorites. Into the cool Massachusetts summer came a wide array of hopefuls from across the country, lending credence to the event’s official title, "The F.P.U.S.A. World Championship (Seniors) Qualifiers". The usual suspects from California, New York and Florida were met by others less known to the Big Game circuit – Washingtonians, Mainers and five local Worcester teams – forming an ample field of sixty contestants.
The Friday warm up games were harsh lessons in terrain negotiation and technique – a course of instruction which lasted all weekend and handed down many grades of "Incomplete." The spongy wet clay pistes, covered in coarse gravel, defied predictable or consistent results. The plombée quickly became the pointing style of choice but yielded to the demi-portée and even some power-bowling as the weekend wore on and the ground dried under a reluctant sun. Pointing was a tough task as chosen données became cruel jokes for perplexed tacticians.
The ground, this event’s most formidable opponent, was equally challenging for the shooters. It allowed for no glancing blows to a target ball, as partial hits on the clay and gravel dispensed the projectiles in random directions. Only clean shots on the metal made hay. As baffled players negotiated the terrain, the skill and composure of many a shooter were woefully exposed. Pointers ruled. And pointing, the basic skill of good pétanque, carried the day.
The tournament format provided a degree of forgiveness as sixteen of the twenty teams made Sunday’s pools. But for many, it was "déjà vu all over again." The eight teams who advanced were as diverse as the original field. All regions, ages, sexes and playing styles represented: the solid Maine pointers (Andre Strong, Mark Kindschi and Mia Kanzawa), Bill Hughes and his D.C. boys, Mai Nguyen’s ("no money, no carreau") all-Vietnamese trio, the New York defenders, the Floridians (Brothers Canesse and John Rolland), the "Dream Team" of Nielsen, Nguyen the Younger and Msr. Triay, veterans Canabou and Felix Legrand with the cannoneer Pascal Corchia and one local team comprised of Le Mistral Club President Albert Kallanian, Leon Bogosian and Jacques Azadian. What? No Louis, Alec and Max?
Light rain began to fall as the quarterfinals got underway. The random pairings brought forward four worthy contenders, two from the Northeast and two from California. As umbrellas were hoisted and trash liners found their way onto heads and shoulders, spectators hunkered down to view the Semifinals. The match terrains were doubled in width and no side games were engaged. Though disappointed to be out of the chase, many were content to tuck their boules away and watch others play on the unyielding terrain, now remoistened with the persistent drizzle. As Gerard/Felix/Pascal began their match against the defending champions Hans/Jeannot/Ti, most of the spectators – and both video cameras – were trained on this battle of titans. Some savvy onlookers, however, stood between the two Semifinals to keep an eye on all the contestants. And as the Californios took control of the game against the New Yorkers, an intriguing development was unfolding in the "other" match.
The crafty Worcester team of Albert, Leon and Jacques, with their consistent pointing and cool demeanor, were quietly turning the Nielsen/Ngyuen/Triay dream into a nightmare. As the visitors struggled against the terrain (and against themselves), the local gents pointed too many for the mighty Raymond to shoot out. The Red Gladiator, always a force to be reckoned with on the U.S. pétanque circuit, became a picture of vehemence and determination. He desperately staved off defeat with two magnificent cochonnet shots in successive rounds, only to be outpointed in the end by the unflappable Albert who casually rolled in the (13-10) game winner after taking one wayward shot at Raymond’s well-placed last boule.
Buoyed by their contentious victory over such a formidable trio, the home team got off to a fast start against their final opponents. After building up a 9-1 lead, their formulaic attack stalled and, as good competitors in any sport will do, Canabou, Legrand and Corchia took full advantage. They utilized the four-court wide terrain and tied the game at eleven-all. The late rounds saw boules with eyes for the cochonnet as points were won via routes that seemed to defy physics. When the last point was not shot out or beaten, the crowd cheered those good old home boys (winners, 13-11), the sixteenth ranked entry to the pools, for games so well played and for an ending which warmed that chilly evening in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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