In just a few days, the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) will host its first tournament of 2018. The XXXI Pan American Championships, administered by the Pan American Confederation (PARC), will be held March 23-31 in Temuco, Chile.

This competition is held annually and is used as a qualifier for the Pan American Games. How well each country performs in this annual event determines eligibility for the Games and how many athletes from the country can participate. However, this year the Championships are even more significant, as they will be used to qualify men’s and women’s teams for the XXIII Central American and Caribbean Games and the XI South American Games. Both of these multisport events will be held later this year.

Mexico and the United States of America were the winners at last year’s Pan Am Championships, held in San José, Costa Rica. Mexico claimed gold in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles. However, in a dramatic finals match, American Rhonda Rajsich took gold in women’s singles.

This year’s Championships have a fresh feel. In the men’s division, Alejandro Landa and Polo Gutierrez, who between them took home both men’s titles, will not be in attendance for Mexico. Neither will Americans Charlie Pratt, runner-up in singles, or Jake Bredenbeck, runner-up in doubles. Instead, Mexico’s team will be comprised of Álvaro Beltrán, Rodrigo Montoya, and Andree Parrilla. All three have junior or adult international experience and Beltrán competes as a current doubles world champion. The Americans will be represented by David Horn and Thomas Carter, who will each play both singles and doubles. For Carter, this will be his first taste of international competition.

In the women’s division, the Americans will be represented by veterans Rhonda Rajsich and Janel Tisinger. However, doubles world champion Tisinger will be without her usual doubles partner Aimee Ruiz and instead will partner with Rajsich. The duo have competed together many times, winning the 2007 Pan American Racquetball Championships, but they have not played together for several years. Mexico will be represented by Paola Longoria, Samantha Salas, and Alexandra Herrera. Longoria has been the dominating player in women’s international racquetball over the past six years, and many were surprised by her loss to Rajsich in last year’s final. She will partner with Herrera in doubles, which is a shakeup from her multi-year partnership with Salas.

As with any international competition, surprises can and do occur, and several countries have the potential to cause upsets. For example, Costa Rican Andres Acuña upset David Horn in last year’s tournament and could cause a stir. With power and athleticism, Bolivian Conrrado Moscoso Ortiz is always fun to watch, and as a finalist at the 2014 IRF World Championships and a semifinalist at the 2016 IRF World Championships, he has shown he can compete with the very best.

In the women’s draw, Argentine Natalia Mendez will be seeking to prove herself following her many successes at the junior level. Another player with something to prove will be Guatemalan Ana Gabriela Martinez. Martinez has for several years dominated her age divisions at the IRF World Junior Championships but was upset in the 2017 final by Mexican Monserrat Mejia. Still, as a silver medalist at the 2016 IRF World Championships, Martinez has shown her potential to defeat almost anyone.

A final twist to these championships will be the ball. The IRF recently signed an agreement with Gearbox Sports to use the Gearbox black ball. This will be the first time some of these athletes experience this particular ball in a competitive event.

The stage is set, and the action is soon to begin. Official streaming will begin with the quarterfinals on March 29th on the IRF’s Facebook page and website, but unofficial streaming may be available earlier in the week.




About the IRF

The International Racquetball Federation is the international governing body of the sport of racquetball under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee. Founded in 1979, the IRF provides governance, rules, and leadership to its 83 national federation members. A member of GAISF beginning in 1980 and recognized by the IOC in 1985, the IRF offers three events annually and one, the IRF World Championships, biennially. It is the international umbrella organization for racquetball over the Olympic Chain of events such as the Pan American Games, World Games, Central American Games, Central American and Caribbean Games, and IRF Regional competitions.