Category: Basque sports (page 1 of 4)

A Girls’ Game? Women and Pelota

Continuing on our tour through Women’s History Month, I recently came across a short documentary film, Las Pelotaris: A Girls’ Game, directed by Andrés Salaberri Pueyo and Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza, which was released in 2015.

 

The film, as the title suggests, is about women who play the Basque sport of pelota, but it goes beyond Basque women to follow players from around the world. In a universe dominated by men, these women struggle for recognition for their passion in this sport. Check out the trailer, I’m sure you’ll be enticed to watch the full documentary!

As the film’s website describes:

A story of passion and challenges

‘LAS PELOTARIS’ is the story of Maite, Alice, Rose, Marion, Esther and many other women playing the Basque game of pelota; a sport which remains exotic and unknown, although it is played and practised in over 30 countries.

On the court, these women are brave and play with enthusiasm and sacrifice, but even if they win medals and World tournaments, their achievements always are discreet. Because, above all, this is a sport for men.

To read more check out: http://www.laspelotaris.com/story/?lang=en

For 99 cents, you can watch the full film at the following website: https://www.feelmakers.com/en/videos/13711/las-pelotaris_-a-girl%EF%BF%BD-s-game

For more on women and pelota, check out some of our previous posts, including one on the championship held earlier this month. And of course, if you’re interested in learning more about Basque sports, check  out Olatz González Abrisketa’s  Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic

 

March 8, 1983: Olympic gold-medal canoeist Maialen Chourraut born

Maialen Chourraut. Image at Basque Team website.

On March 8, 1983, slalom canoeist Maialen Chourraut Iurramendi was born in Donostia. Over the last two decades she has competed at the top level in world canoeing, winning the bronze medal at the K-1 event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the gold medal in the K-1 event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She is currently one of the top Basque sports figures.

Chourraut in action in the K1 slalom event at the 2012 Olympics. Picture by David Merrett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Chourraut took up canoeing on La Concha beach in Donostia at age twelve. Thereafter, she joined the Atletico San Sebastian sports club, where she learned her craft, and she competed for the first time for the Spanish national team in 2000 at the Junior World Championships. Under the guidance of her coach (and future husband) Xabi Etxaniz, also a former Olympic canoeist, she rose in the world rankings in the individual kayak (K1) category, the fast sprint event, winning medals at the World and European Championships as well as her achievement of Olympic glory.  In 2013 she gave birth to a daughter, Ane, who was present at her gold medal-winning performance in Rio in 2016 – as you can see in the video below.

And check out the amazing reception she received on returning to Donostia!

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Women’s Pelota Championship Reaches Conclusion

Yesterday, March 5, the finals of the Laboral Kutxa Emakume Master Cup–the principal women’s pelota championship–was held in Zornotza (Amorebieta), Bizkaia.

In total, 80 women took part in the event. They hailed from all over the Basque Country as well as Andalusia, Catalonia, Valencia, and Zaragoza,  and even Cuba and Mexico. They included well-known bertsolari (improvising verse singer) Iratxe Ibarra, from Markina-Xemein, Bizkaia; and Daniela Vargas, from Amecameca, Mexico, who gave up her job as an architect to train for and compete in the competition.

Check out the short promotional video for the tournament here:

The event, involving doubles or pairs, took place over two months and culminated yesterday in two different finals. In the elite category, Olatz Arrizabalaga (from Gautegiz-Arteaga, Bizkaia) and Leire Etxaniz (Etxebarria, Bizkaia) beat Nagore Arozena (Lizartza, Gipuzkoa) and Maider Mendizabal (Anoeta, Gipuzkoa) 22-14, while in the first division final Alba Martinez (Baños de Río Tobía, La Rioja) and Arrate Bergara (Tutera, Nafarroa), both fourteen-years-old incidentally, beat Nagore Aramendi (Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa)–replacing the injured Jaione Zulaika (Getaria, Gipuzkoa)–and Nagore Bilbao (Laukiz, Bizkaia) 22-18.

For more information on the event, see the official website here.

If you’re interested in learning more about this great Basque sport, check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, which sets out to explain what pelota reveals about Basque culture more generally.

The Ariñak Project: Learning about the many sides of Basque culture through music and dance

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The Ariñak Project, co-founded by Mercedes Mendive and Janet Iribarne in Elko, Nevada, is an ambitious attempt to learn about the multiple dimensions of Basque culture, centered on music and dance but also encompassing, for example, the Basque language and traditional Basque sports. According to Mercedes:

This endeavor was developed to teach important elements of music, including pandero (tambourine), accordion, txistu, alboka, txalaparta, singing as well as introducing our kids/members to the Basque language and Basque sports. It’s our goal to incrementally start our participants on a cultural journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.

As part of the project camp days are held on which participants learn the fundamentals of both music and dance from experienced instructors. The ultimate goal is to extend this learning to a more comprehensive understanding of how the instruments, the music, and the dance all form part of a greater whole that is Basque culture in general. For example, the project seeks to teach people the meanings behind popular Basque songs and dances, how and why they may be important in Basque culture more generally.

Check out Mercedes Mendive’s webpage (with contact information) here.

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And Euskal Kultura report on the project here.

This ambitious project mirrors similar efforts in the Basque Country itself that seek to interpret Basque dance as part of a wider cultural framework: first and foremost, and perhaps most obviously, as a cultural form intimately connected to music. As he notes, while doing research for his marvelous book, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music, Sabin Bikandi was himself an accomplished musician who (p.31),

suddenly realized that I had no idea of how to play for the dance, no idea of the repertoire, the repetitions, or the meaning of “following the dancers.” If I was going to write about Aldekoa, a pipe and tabor player and a dance master, I felt I had to learn the job, and the only way was to do just that—to learn to perform.

However (p.33),

the learning process was slow and complicated, and my knowledge is still a long way behind that of the great master, Aldekoa. However, the little that I learned helped me to reinterpret and understand the relationship between choreography and music, and in the end, how music and dance form a single entity. As I have observed, at present, dance and music are taught as separate subjects. Musicians do not learn anything but music, and dancers do basically the same as regards dance. Many dancers are not able to sing what they dance or the rhythm they mark while dancing. This has been a problem during my own learning process, for my musical-analytical approach found no response from the dance teachers. On the other hand, I found that many dancers are afraid of musicians’ knowledge about rhythm analysis and their knowledge of the science of music.

In short, as Bikandi observes in his work, stepping up to the next level, at least attempting to comprehend a true master like Aldekoa, required that kind of commitment to a greater understanding of how music and dance are one and the same thing, and how in this particular case, they are are also central to Basque cultural norms as a whole.

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Basque Country women’s soccer team loses to Ireland

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Elixabete Sarasola Nieto, from Donostia, who plays for AFC Ajax and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque Country women’s soccer team narrowly lost 2-1 against the Republic of Ireland, ranked 30th in the world, on Saturday, November 26. The Irish team went ahead in the first half with a spectacular free-kick by Stephanie Roche, but the Basque Country equalized with an equally great strike by Athletic Bilbao striker Yulema Corres. Ireland scored the winning goal in the second half, in which it clearly dominated the Basque Country, courtesy of Leanne Kiernan. Ireland thus got revenge for its 2-0 defeat by the Basque Country in a corresponding game in Azpeitia, Guipuzkoa, in 2014.

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Marta Unzué Urdániz, from Berriozar (Navarre), a defender who plays for Barcelona and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Like their male counterparts the Basque Country women’s soccer team does not have an official status and can only play friendly matches. The game, held at Tallaght Stadium in South Dublin, was the eighth time that the Basque national team has turned out, and its second game against Ireland, having also played against Argentina (twice), Chile, Catalonia (twice), and Estonia. with a record of 3 wins, 2 ties, and 3 losses.

Teams

Republic of Ireland WNT: Byrne (McQuillan 85), Berrill (McCarthy 46), Caldwell, Quinn, Fahey, Duggan (Murray 71), O’Gorman (Kavanagh 85), Kiernan (Prior 79), O’Sullivan, Russell (De Burca 79), Roche (McLaughlin 46).

Basque Country: Ainhoa (Eli Sarasola 46), Iraia, Garazi Murua (Esti Aizpurua 60), Joana Arranz (Baños 67), Ramajo, Unzué, Erika, Moraza (María Díaz 46), Beristain (Anne Mugarza 77), Manu Lareo (Ibarrola 74), Yulema Corres.

Check out a report on the game here: https://www.fai.ie/ireland/match/55501/2016/999943238?tab=report

For general information on the Basque Country women’s soccer team: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Country_women%27s_national_football_team

See also a complete record of all the Basque Country’s international games here: http://www.eff-fvf.eus/pub/calendarioEliminatoriaSelEspecial.asp?idioma=eu&idCompeticion=17

November 3, 1968: Mountaineer Alberto Iñurrategi born

One of the world’s great mountaineers, Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte, was born on November 3, 1968 in Aretxabaleta, Gipuzkoa. He became the tenth person–and the youngest to that date at thirty-three years of age–to complete all fourteen eight-thousander summits, the highest mountains on earth, in 2002 (see an earlier post we did on Juanito Oiarzabal climbing these peaks here).

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Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte

He climbed twelve of those peaks with his brother, Felix, who tragically died on the descent of one of them, Gasherbrum II, in 2000. What’s more,  Iñurrategi climbed the peaks in an Alpine style using few lines or sherpas and no bottled oxygen, making him the fourth person to have climbed all fourteen peaks without bottled oxygen.

Here are the figures for his successful ascents of all fourteen eight-thousander summits with the years he did so in parentheses.

  1. Makalu (1991)
  2. Everest (1992)
  3. K2 (1994)
  4. Cho Oyu (1995)
  5. Lhotse (1995)
  6. Kangchenjunga (1996)
  7. Shishapangma (1996)
  8. Broad Peak (1997)
  9. Dhaulagiri I (1998)
  10. Nanga Parbat (1999)
  11. Manaslu (2000)
  12. Gasherbrum II (2000)
  13. Gasherbrum I (aka Hidden Peak) (2001)
  14. Annapurna I (2002)

Iñurrategi thus joins a long line of distinguished Basque mountaineers and today stands, alongside Juanito Oiarzabal and Edurne Pasaban (the latter of whom we have also posted about here), as the most famous member of this intrepid group of Basques.

September 23, 1956: Stone lifter Iñaki Perurena born

Iñaki Perurena Gartziarena, arguably the most emblematic of all contemporary harri-jasotzaileak or Basque stone lifters, was born in Leitza, Nafarroa, on September 23, 1956. Despite making his name in the world of traditional Basque sports, though, Perurena is also an all-round cultural icon in the Basque Country, having been an actor, poet, sculptor, and bertsolari or improvised oral versifier as well as vociferous defender of the Basque language and culture. Despite all this activity, he still runs his family butcher shop in Leitza, and if that were not enough, in 2009 he opened the Peru-Harri Museum, a site devoted to the material of stone itself and traditional Basque sports as well as Basque culture and history in general.

Stone lifting remains one one of the most iconic of traditional Basque sports (check out a previous post here with a video showing just what it entails).  Its roots lie in the grueling work of quarries, and the challenges that emerged out of such work as to who could lift the heaviest stones (for gambling purposes of course). These challenges eventually became more organized affairs, often taking place during annual village festivals, with locals cheering on different competitors and betting on their own particular favorites. By the late twentieth century such sports were televised in the Basque Country and the participants became major public figures.

Perurena’s own personal best in the straight two-handed weight-lifting category is 320 kg (just over 705 pounds), which was a world record mark when he established it in 1994 and is still the second best ever mark today. He is also the world record-holder for the best one-handed lift, at 267 kg (just under 589 pounds). When it comes to stone lifting nowadays, however, he limits himself to carrying out exhibitions.

In many ways, Perurena has been the most media savvy exponent of traditional Basque sports. A natural showman comfortable in front of the camera, he appeared in the role of “Imanol” in Basque TV’s long-running soap opera Goenkale. And he even made a memorable appearance demonstrating stone lifting on the hit US show LIve with Regis and Kathie Lee (if you search online you may even find some images of Regis Philbin wearing a Basque beret!).

He was awarded the gold medal for sporting merit by the Government of Nafarroa in 1999 and in 2011 received the Manuel Irujo Award by the Irujo Etxea Elkartea foundation.

Check out a fascinating report by The New York Times on Iñaki Perurena and Basque stone lifting here.

 

Amazing Footage of Basque Kayak Expedition to Greenland

A trailer has just been released for a forthcoming documentary on a Basque kayak expedition to the Kurssuaq River (meaning “Big River” in the local Greenlandic Inuit language) in Greenland. Aitor Goikoetxea and Mikel Sarasola from Gipuzkoa, together with Fermín Pérez and Edu Sola from Navarre,  spent August and part of September this year in the little visited southwest corner of Greenland in search of challenging river descents.

This is, apparently, the first time such a descent has been attempted on this river by kayak. What’s more, following an unusually dry, mild, and warm spring and summer, water levels were particularly high with glacial run-off. Despite the potential hazards, the team opted for the biggest river of all, the Kurssuaq, and filmed the results for their forthcoming documentary. The actual descent involved a 12-day trek upriver before setting off.

Check out the amazing footage here:

The documentary will be released in 2017. Check out the team’s website here.

Basques star at 2016 Tug of War World Championships

Teams representing the Basque Country enjoyed a lot of success at the recent Tug of War International Federation (TWIF) World Championships, held in Malmö, Sweden, September 8-11.

The Basque national team won a gold medal in the men’s 580 kg category, silver medals in the women’s 500 kg, the mixed 600 kg, and men’s 640 kg categories, respectively. Meanwhile, in the club competition, the Gaztedi team won bronze in the 500 kg and 580 kg competitions.

See the full list of results here.

Check out the following videos of teams leaving Sweden at Malmö Airport

…and the reception for the victorious competitors at Loiu Airport in the Basque Country.

 

 

Basque sports, and sports in general, are discussed in the Center publication Playing Fields; Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

Great mountain biking video from Iparralde

Short, sweet, and fast today! The Arrosa Crew recently uploaded a great mountain biking video showcasing its skills in Lower Navarre. As well as some action-packed downhill scenes in several upland locations, the video also shows mountain bikers contending with the old city streets and walls in Donibane Garazi. Check it out here:

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