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PLAYER TO WATCH: STERLING GIANNICO

Sterling Giannico has battled his way back into the high-goal with a combination of talent and perseverance. | 02/14/18

Sterling Giannico wasted no time making an impact this season at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). Playing for the first time for Tonkawa—a job he had long hoped for—he won the Joe Barry Cup, the first major high-goal tournament of 2018.

He was thrilled when he got the call in January from Tonkawa captain Sapo Caset. The two go a long way back (“I remember playing Legos with Sapo when we were kids!” says Giannico) but had never been teammates. In his first season at IPC four years ago, Giannico played for Los Machitos with Matias Magrini against Tonkawa.

“They beat us in the semifinals of the Joe Barry,” says Giannico. “That’s where I met the Tonkawa team, and it was always in the back of my mind that one day I wanted to play for these guys. So being here now is just an amazing feeling, and I have to take advantage of it.”

Sterling, whose dad was a groom, learned to make the most of any opportunity that came his way. The 24-year-old from Santa Barbara, who went to high school in Argentina, persevered through a lot of “almosts.” He won the 2014 Iglehart Cup with Los Machitos and was named MVP, but then came a string of disappointments when major titles eluded him by narrow margins. Playing for Alegría in the 26-goal series in 2015, he made it to the C.V. Whitney Cup final and the USPA Gold Cup semis (overtime loss). In the 2015 U.S. Open, Alegría had two overtime losses in their first bracket games. That summer Giannico made it to the final of the Pacific Coast Open on the Valiente/Alegría team.

He spent the past two years playing medium-goal and training some of his younger horses. In 2015 he bought Déjà vu, who is now his favorite high-goal mare, and played her in the 26 with Alegría. “She was just 6 years old and had never played that kind of polo before. She was playing 6-goal, but she just jumped in [to the 26] right away,” says Giannico. When it comes to the semifinals and finals he plays her in the first or second chukker and again in the fifth or sixth.

Yatay Paris is another favorite mare he is playing this season. He bought her from Nacho Figueras last summer. “She’s out of Chicago a really good mare Nacho used to play, and she’s by a really good stallion of Mariano Aguerre named Machitos Libano. A lot of his babies are playing the Argentine Open.”

Photo by David Lominska

This season Giannico’s determination got him back into high-goal, which is difficult territory rough a 3-goaler like him who was looking for a job. He and other young developing players lend each other support in Florida, he said, such as when one is struggling with a particular issue with a horse that the other has had experience with. Giannico brought eight horses this season and is playing five of them.

“As American players I think we have to help each other wherever we can,” he said. “Right now I’m far from home. I’m from California. If we’re going to advance we have to stick together and help each other.”

Here are some additional thoughts he shared with PoloChannel.

PLAYING WITH TONKAWA

I think if we are disciplined and keep working harder, we can win another tournament. Playing with these guys is just amazing! They made it easy for me to jump in and play with them because they play simple. The more we hit the ball forward and backwards and believe in each other, the more effective we are. But when we start holding the ball too much it gives the other team a chance to get back into the game, and it doesn’t go as well.

HIS TEAMMATES 

I just met Negro (de Lusarreta) this season. He’s a great guy, super calm and nice. So is Sapo. When you’re playing on a team with two guys who believe in you and want you to grow, it gives you that extra power to not give up and to keep going.

MEMO GRACIDA’S INFLUENCE

I learned the most from Memo Gracida. I worked for him for three years, and we traveled from Santa Barbara to Palm Beach to Argentina. He’s fantastic and a great teacher. He loves teaching. We got to play in Argentina in some 18- and 20-goal tournaments when I was 16 to 18 years old. He taught me how to have a better vision of the field. Before I started playing with him I thought polo was quick, just running and hitting. I had some ability, but I didn’t really understand the technique. Memo really changed my game.

BEING REMEMBERED

My goal is to become a player who is respected. When the day comes and people drink mates and talk about you, I hope they’ll have something to say that is nice—not that, “Oh, he was a 7- or 8-goal player, and he was really strong.” It’s not that much about reaching 10. It’s about just being remembered for things that matter to me.