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Huntsman World Games

The Huntsman World Games are a class act—from CEO Kyle Case to the hundreds of volunteers who help the players every step of the way. A line of competent registrars gets the 11,000-plus competitors on their way to pick up their shirts, catch the free shuttle, and head off to play. Photo IDs are printed on the spot and your badge gets you into a free meal social, complete with entertainment, in each sport and a personal handshake and “Thank you for coming” from Kyle Case. Pickleball staff Bryan Enarson, David and Nancy Jordan, Bob Klarich, Bob and JoNan LeRoy, George McCully, and Ken Schoonover have it down to a science and this year was no exception. The city of St. George, Utah, provides the sunshine and a stunning backdrop of mesas at two locations, Little Valley and Sun River. This year there were lots of new faces. Keith Washington of Florence, AZ, had two goals when he came—”to win medals and to make friends”—and he did both. “Everybody was great, from the participants to the volunteers, and you will definitely see me again,” he said. “Dee Rochel encouraged me to come and I’m so glad she did.” In addition to being top players, Dee and her husband Rick organize the coffee and the fruit for the nearly 800 players and schedule the volunteers who maintain the distribution booths. What is especially nice about Huntsman World Games pickleball is that competition is divided into five-year increments. It is a qualifier for the NSGA national championships. But it also has B, C, D, and E divisions for players who want to compete at their level but not qualify. For example, the 50-54 A MXD doubles was high-level pickleball when Takako Tourangeau and Glenn Spivey defeated Erica Gonzalez and Steve Cole 15-8 in the final game for the gold medal. There were lots of top players in that draw. The 90-94 MXD division was won by perennial standouts Doris Castaneda and Armand Matern. The number of crossover athletes was interesting this year. Joyce Jones competed in tennis and won gold in pickleball WD with Marion Lisahora. Ted and Barb Biggs of Edmonton, Alberta, competed in badminton and pickleball. They enjoyed the opening ceremonies, the numerous ice cream shops, the free medical testing— and being able to play multiple sports. They competed in the Nevada Games prior to Huntsman so they were able to play two tournaments in one trip. Mike Cooper of Edmonton won the triathlon, got silver in mountain biking, bronze in MD pickleball and silver in MXD! California badminton stars Sue and Curt Dommeyer won the 65-69 D MXD in pickleball. Karin Sobotta of Ft. Mojave, AZ, has three national racquetball titles. She played college tennis at the University of Idaho and still holds the career assist record there in basketball. She said, “I was a serve-and-volley tennis player so pickleball fits my style of play.” She is now a home health physiotherapist. Those are just a few of the crossover athletes who have become attracted to pickleball and play the Huntsman World Games in order to compete in multiple sports. Players enjoyed the many national and state parks near St. George. Many took advantage of the opportunity to see Snow Canyon State Park and Zion National Park. Some went to Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and off-roading in Great Basin National Park. St. George is definitely a destination that combines great pickleball with lots of fun restaurants—if they aren’t fun before the Games, they sure are fun when the players arrive. This was a record-breaking year for this first-class sporting event. Pickleball was a large part of the Games with 775 players in 1,764 matches overseen by 167 referees. Players came from 35 states and three Canadian provinces. Thank you to the beautiful city and people of St. George and the wonderful Huntsman staff. See you next year!

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