Last weekend saw the Bicycle Film Festival celebrate its 6th year of supporting bike polo by hosting a Single Player Triple Threat Shuffle Tournament in Newington Gardens, Southwark.
44 bike polo players from all over the UK arrived, err, promptly at 9.30am (many were a little bleary-eyed from the BFF party the night before). The organisers then shuffled the players into random teams of 3. The players competed in successive games of Swiss Rounds. After each round they were shuffled into a new team depending on their individual progress in the previous rounds.
The big twist with this bike polo tournament (organised by London’s infamous ShuffleComm) was that shots with the broad side of the mallet (known as ‘shuffles’) were allowed and did not result in a disallowed goal as bike polo convention dictates. This sometimes led to a playing style moved towards a one-touch passing game, reminiscent of ice hockey, with moves finished off by a speeding attacker glancing the ball into the back of the net.
Some players felt a little dirty after their games, but everyone’s spirits were kept high by the relentless heckling of other competitors: “you should have shuffled it”, “shuffle that sh*t”, “super shuffle”, etc.
The day was blessed with sunshine and carefully selected tunes (each player had one selection) which mellifluously floated across the courts from the polo boom-box (from an MP3 set to shuffle – completing the triple threat of the tournament title). Free beer was provided by Hackney Brewery, which kept everyone smiling even after successive losses.
A short break in proceedings allowed for an old school track-standing competition in the afternoon (despite the fact that every bike polo player now rides a freewheel). French Max emerged as the champion before a few more “delightful” games of stay-on were played whilst the organisers battled to work out the current ranking of each player.
The top 12 players were taken into two semi-final games before the winning 6 players were ‘shuffled’ into a final game. The losers of the final were John (‘H-Bomb’) H, Luca (‘Super Luca’) Semeraro and Chris (‘Nice Tats’) Pickering and the winners were Ali (‘Backhand’) Osborn, Jon (‘O’) Marshall and Robbie (‘Vomit King’) Warin.
Winning the final was short lived for the 3 champions as ShuffleComm demanded only one player could be crowned Shuffle King. Ali and Jono (top seeds) had to play one-on-one against each other and Ali eeked out the win 3 goals to 2 even though it was clear Jono was the better player all along [sic].
Prizes (courtesy of Magic Bike Polo products, Knog and the BFF) were awarded to the players before Ali held his Shuffle King trophy aloft his head only to have it ceremoniously explode thanks to the embedded fire crackers, remember: safety first kids.
Hard Fast, Die Young.