BARBADOS HAS ONLY been participating in Segway polo since 2009 but they have already made their mark on the international stage. Two titles and two final appearances in five years have helped to expose a virtually unknown sport which has struggled to gain popularity.
Since the Segway Polo Club of Barbados (SPCB) was formed in 2009, its membership has more than doubled from seven to 16, and that is encouraging news according to SPCB president, Ralf Luther. Speaking to NATIONSPORT during a practice session at UWI’s hockey Astroturf yesterday morning, Luther explained that Barbados had already created quite a stir on the world scene. “The very first World Cup that we went to in Germany, we didn’t have a clue of what to expect because we were very new to the sport. “But we went there and beat everyone and ended up winning the competition,” Luther explained. “We then went on to successfully defend our title in 2010 right here in Barbados, before being defeated in two close finals in 2011 and 2013.”
Luther believes that the unique sport has a lot more to offer, especially in the sports tourism sector. However, with no home for the sport, no proper infrastructure and the high cost of equipment, he has lamented that Segway polo is not reaching its full potential. “We don’t have existing facilities. If today you started a football club and you didn’t have any land, you had to prepare a field, buy the goalposts, all the footballs and the gear, then per player it would end up costing hundreds of dollars a month, and we are having that challenge,” he revealed. He explained that the machines themselves cost around $15 000 each duty free. Luther said that fortunately, both UWI and the Barbados Hockey Federation allowed them to use their Astroturfs for training purposes.
“We are trying to keep the costs down to attract players, but some of us have made a major investment in the segways. “Luckily they don’t have any maintenance costs and the electricity is very cheap for them because they don’t use a lot. “I think we are expensive compared to a regular football or cricket club, but that really is because we have to pay for our own infrastructure,” Luther admitted. He pointed to one of the strong points of the sport being the fact that it suited people of all ages. “There is no running involved, so it isn’t a sport for young people . . . anyone can play Segway polo,” he said. “The hardest part of it is riding the Segway but once you can get it mastered, it is truly an enjoyable sport and I would encourage anyone to come and try it out.”