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20 Aug, 2007 04:01

Royal sport returns to Russia

The game of polo in Russia ended with the 1917 Revolution, but in recent years it has been staging a comeback. It is considered by many to be the ultimate aristocratic sport, historically associated with royalty.

The thoroughbred horses also known as ‘Polo Ponies’ are quick, agile, and most of all, competitive. 

“I love the adrenaline, the speed, and maybe a little bit the violence,” said Mikhail Rodzyanko, polo club member. 

Michael Rodzyanko is one of many Russians who have taken up polo in recent years.

He began training at the Moscow Polo Club in 2003, when the facility first opened.

It became a family affair as Rodzyanko's father and sister are also avid players. 

“It is a beautiful sport and I think if there is anything Russia needs, it is to restore some of the beauty in life,” explained Aleksis Rodzyanko, President of Russian Federation of Polo Players. 

Thirteen members currently belong to the Moscow Polo Club, training up to three times a week and taking part in tournaments all over the world.

Experts say the elite sport requires a high level of training, dedication, and discipline.  

“You need good hand-eye co-ordination because you're moving at a significant speed and trying to meet a very small ball with a mallet 52 or 53 inches long,” added Aleksis Rodzyanko.

With the largest field in organised sport – measuring about 300 metres – scoring is as much about teamwork as it is about triumph.

Aside from the players' excellent skills, the most important element of polo is a pony.  Training lasts from two to three years, and while strength and speed are important requirements, the most important characteristic of a pony is its love for the game.

But while this game may be favoured by many, it is only played by few as an annual player’s membership to the Moscow Polo Club can cost as much as $US 17,500 which is several times more than the average annual salary in Russia.

But some spectators say sitting on the sidelines is just as exciting as getting in the game.

It is a wonderful addition to a country that continues to make a name for itself on the global playing field.