JAI-ALAI

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - CLASSIFIEDS -

This sport is played in Spain and France. A game played in an open-walled arena where a rock-hard ball is hurled against the wall at speeds in ex­cess of 250km/h. Jai-Alai is a game the Basque call ‘‘the fastest sport on Earth’’ be­cause they ap­par­ently have never heard of For­mula One. The game is played like squash, but a ver­sion of squash that could only have been dreamt up by Spa­niards. Play­ers sling the ball at a wall us­ing a spe­cially de­signed wicker cesta bas­ket with a curved glove at­tached, ap­prox­i­mately 65 cen­time­tres long. On the re­bound, a player from the op­pos­ing team catches the ball in his scooped rac­quet be­fore fling­ing it back at the wall. If the ball is dropped, missed or flung out of bounds, or if a player drops his bat and squeals in ter­ror when the ball flashes past his head, then a point is con­ceded. The first recorded his­tory of Jai-Alai was the build­ing of an in­door arena in 1798 in Spain, and the game spread to Spain’s Cen­tralAmer­i­can and Caribbean colonies through­out the 1800s. It was briefly pop­u­lar in some parts of the USA in the ’70s, but it’s pop­u­lar­ity waned as ath­letes found other ac­tiv­i­ties more re­ward­ing than try­ing to dodge a ball mov­ing fast enough to cas­trate them on im­pact. An in­ter­est­ing fact: a Jai-Alai ball (called a pelota) can only be used for about 15 min­utes be­fore the re­peated im­pacts have torn the skin off it.

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