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Top gun here for four-in-one sport

The No.1-ranked player in the country heads the field for the inaugural Gisborne Open Racketlon tournament, which started at Surf City Squash Club this morning.

Racketlon?

Yep. That's the general reaction from most when the sport is mentioned but it has a history dating back to the 1980s, has an international federation comprising 35 countries, including New Zealand, plus a world tour and world championships.

The sport itself is a combination of four racket sports — table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis.

In singles, each match is up to 21 points and the winner is the player with the most points compiled over all four disciplines.

The sport also features doubles, and both these formats are being played in Gisborne over the weekend.

The tournament is being run by Taupo-based Kashif Shuia, a former squash professional who is married to ex-Gisborne woman Holly Donnelly, who comes from a well-known local squash-playing family.

Both are playing over the weekend.

Another former local, Jo Shanks, is top seed in the open women's division.

Nearly 50 players, predominantly from Gisborne, have entered.

Competition is in six divisions of eight.

The open men's division is headed by New Zealand No.1 Sion Wiggin, a professional from Auckland whose prowess in the sport saw him named a finalist in the North Harbour Sport Excellence Awards.

His main rivals are expected to be Cantabrian Julian Main, who is particularly strong in table tennis, and Shuia — both of who are ranked in the top 10 in the country.

Among the local men in the open division is Mark Beard, an Eastland badminton representative and C1-graded squash player.

The table tennis and squash games are being held at Surf City, the badminton at the association hall across the road and the tennis on the Gisborne Tennis Club courts.

According to racketlon.net, the origins of the sport can be traced back to Scandanavia in the 1980s.

“Four people representing each of the four racket federations got together in Finland to form a game they called mailapelit (racket games). The first Finnish championships were held in Helsinki in 1986 and the sport rapidly grew and slowly changed to the racketlon format.”

Sweden independently developed its form of the sport in the late 1980s and held its first national champs in 1990.

When it was discoverd Finland had a similar sport but with different but more simple scoring rules, Sweden adopted these.

The first international racketlon tournament took place in Gothenburg in 2001, with Finland dominating, and the first international tournament outside Scandanavia was hosted by Scotland in 2002.

An international body was founded in September 2002 and is now known as The Federation of International Racketlon.

A world tour premiered in 2003.

World championships have been held almost every year since 2001, with Denmark dominating the men's singles in recent years through Jesper Ratzer and the reigning women's singles champions, Stine Jacobsen, also a Dane.

Denmark's Morten Jaksland held the No.1 men's world ranking as of December while Austrian Christine Seehofer was No.1 woman.