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Sunday, December 30, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sports Briefing

Elephant polo keeps Jones on the ball

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Getting caught with too many men on the ice in hockey is embarrassing. But don't get caught with too many elephants on the pitch, either. That's a foul in elephant polo.

Every December since 1982, the World Elephant Polo Association has held its championship tournament at a field on the edge of Royal Chitwan National Park in Chitwan, Nepal.

This year Chivas Regal, a team representing Scotland, beat the Tigresses, a United States club that became the first all-women's team to make it to the tournament final.

"Elephant polo is a remarkably fast game," said Tigresses goalie Laurie Jones, a 46-year-old lawyer from Bremerton. "Elephants move faster than you'd think. The only time the game is slowed down is when the elephants are caught in a muddle, so it's important to space yourself across the field."

The rules are constantly evolving, and the elephants, it seems, are constantly testing them. Picking up the ball with the trunk is a foul, for example, but unintentionally kicking a ball into the goal is allowed. And crushing the ball — initially, soccer balls were used in the game — necessitated the change to the standard polo ball now in use.

"The easiest thing for a goalie would be to have the elephant lie down in front of the goal, but somebody actually tried that during a game and they disallowed that," Jones said.

Elephant polo is played on a marked field, 120 meters by 70 meters. A team consists of four elephants, matched to their opponents in size and speed, and four players. The players' sticks, ranging from 5 to 12 feet long, are made of bamboo.

Unlike horse polo, each elephant also carries a mahout, or driver, as well as the player.

The goalie usually plays on a bigger elephant. "The goalie elephant needs to charge and intimidate the offensive elephant at just the right time in order to give the goalie the best opportunity to take the ball away," Jones said.

Baseball

Texas Rangers outfielder Carl Everett had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Rangers acquired Everett from Boston in a Dec. 13 trade.

Golf

David "Spec" Goldman, an amateur who won more than 200 tournaments — including two World Seniors titles — died Thursday in Dallas after a lengthy illness. He was 92.

Tennis

Lleyton Hewitt, No. 1 in the men's rankings, has split with longtime coach Darren Cahill. The 20-year-old's new coach is former Australian player Jason Stoltenberg.

"Darren and I had a great partnership, and Jason's going to do just as well, I think," Hewitt said.

Motorsports

French rider Pierre Quinonero won the first stage of the 5,850-mile Dakar Rally in the motorbike category, and Spaniard Fernando Gil set the best time in the car class in an event marred by a fatal accident.

The driver of a vehicle unconnected to the race was killed when he struck a support vehicle, race organizers said in Paris. They cited police as saying the driver tried to pass another vehicle before colliding head-on with the support car.

Soccer

Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 2-1 to take over first place in England's Premier League.

Previous league leader Newcastle lost 2-1 to visiting Chelsea.

• Liverpool's Michael Owen scored his 100th goal in a 1-1 tie at West Ham.

• The Blackburn Rovers signed Andy Cole from Manchester United as the English striker seeks to seal a first-team place and press for inclusion in next year's World Cup squad.

The fee for Cole, 30, reportedly was $11.6 million.

— Times news services

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