The pickleball couple of Pat Kane and Rock Borracchini is well known - especially on the Senior Tournament circuit where Pat has made a reputation for himself as a tough player who usually finishes on top. But this month’s featured player, Rock Borracchini really defines “tough” in a way that even Pat cannot match.
Rock and Pat recently moved from Seattle to Surprise, Arizona. In April last year, she was distracted while driving her golf cart. The cart went up over the curb and hit a lamppost head on. She was thrown through the window and suffered severe wounds including a broken collarbone, a deep gash on the face, a broken cheekbone and a hard blow to the head. A blood clot formed in the brain, compressing much of it and putting her in a grave situation. She was air lifted to the trauma unit of a local hospital. The medical team there held out little hope for her survival. Rock underwent five hours of surgery. When it was over, she was conscious but doctors knew that if she survived she would need months or years of therapy. On the second day of her hospitalization, Mark Friedenberg, a friend of the couple and also a top ranked pickleball player, called her at the hospital. Hoping to inspire her, he promised to play with her in the Huntsman World Senor Games in October if she was improved enough to play. According to Mark, he “wanted to give her another incentive to get well and get back and play pickleball.”
Rock’s family and Pat were there to help her through the rough times. Soon she went home from the hospital. Her recovery progressed. Amazingly, she was back on the pickleball courts in October. And so, on Friday, October 15, 2004 after only two weeks of practice, Rock found herself in the finals of the Mixed Doubles Pickleball event of the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. The match started out slowly. Mark and Rock fell behind by 6 points. Then Rock set her mind to it and with a rush of competitive spirit she started to rally. Those present at the Huntsman games will remember the emotional finish to this match when Rock Borracchini and Mark Friedenberg won the gold medal that day. It was an inspiring display of determination to overcome her injuries and toughness in competition. It was a remarkable recovery from the brink and Rock credits much of it to her family, her friends and to Pat.
Though Rock enjoys pickleball, she excels in many sports. She is a champion slalom water skier and has won quite a few tournaments. She is a great snow skier and likes to ski the trees and the bumps – not the groomed trails. She loves softball and hiking, bicycling and tennis. Pat says, “She keeps herself in tiptop shape. She is Italian so don’t get her mad.” It probably doesn’t happen very often because according to Bob Halpin, “She is a very upbeat person and was quite cheerful on the court even when she could hardly move as she started her comeback. She is friendly and well liked by everyone here at Sun City Grand.”
What she misses most since moving to Arizona is her family back in her hometown of Seattle. Her father, Dino, co-founded with his two brothers the popular Borracchini Bakery and Mediterranean Market. (The bakery workers will gently correct your pronunciation by telling you it’s Borracchini – rhymes with zuccini.) Apparently, eating all those delicious baked goods and Mediterranean specialties is good for pickleball, for Dino at age 82 still plays a pretty mean game.
So what outlook does this spirited, active and tough survivor have on life? “Nobody says because you age you have to be old,” Rock replies. And one might add, “Nobody says because doctors hold out little hope for your survival that you have to give up.”
David Mahabir is a ranking table tennis player who has represented Ontario and Canada in several international competitions. In 1985, he received an International Achievement Award from the Government of Ontario in recognition of his distinguished performance in the field of amateur sport.
From 1989 to 1991, David was the table tennis coach of the Bermuda table tennis national youth team. He promoted the sport in Bermuda by coaching and giving demonstrations in schools and local prisons, including special attention to handicapped children.
In the 90's, David successfully completed all levels required to be a certified tennis coach. At the present time he works as a pro for one of the local tennis clubs in Toronto.
Since being introduced to Pickleball at the Milliken Recreation Centre just about two years ago, David has given the game a tremendous boost. He has raised the level of play among the top players and encourages players to bring out the best in themselves. Even when partnering with weaker players he still manages to win. In singles he is extremely difficult to beat because of his remarkable reach and amazing coverage of the court. His table tennis and tennis experience is evident.
Fellow players at the Milliken Recreation Centre wish David much success in his future endeavors!
This Player of the Month has been around for a while and competed in many sports. At age 84, Jack Riday is active, energetic and inspires awe and respect around the pickleball courts. In his early years, he was a four-year member of the Cornell Varsity Tennis Team where he graduated in 1941 with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering. Later, at age 70, he and his partner had a National Senior Doubles Tennis ranking of 17 for their age group and they were number one in the state of Washington.
He says, “Long ago, I was Wisconsin State Badminton champion for six years running. My partner and I were Midwest Doubles champions for the same period. “ The skills he developed in these two sports transferred easily to pickleball. Jack started playing in 1989 when he was introduced to the game by a friend at Sahalee who had a court in his yard. “They were all beginners, and we didn’t even play a regular game.” A few months later, the Seattle Parks Department started the Senior Sports Festival. Jack signed up for golf, tennis and racquetball. There was also a signup place for pickleball, and he thought, “what the hell?” He reported to the registration desk at the appointed hour for his first ever Pickleball game. They told him to go warm up for a couple minutes and come back when he was ready. When he returned to the desk, he told them he thought he was ready, “but you’ll have to tell me the rules.” He managed to make it through that first match and ended up winning the tournament. As if winning the pickleball event were not enough, he also won in golf, tennis and racquetball that year!
Jack’s golf honors include being a former Sahalee Senior Golf Champion. Sahalee is a course that is ranked one of the top 100 courses in the US and was host to the PGA Championship in 1998. Several times he has shot his age. He has been married for 62 years to Barrie Dillon Riday who has been known to hit some pretty mean Pickleball shots herself. They have three children and six grandchildren – many who are carrying on the family tradition of playing pickleball. Jack still continues to play several times a week, often patiently coaching new players and dispensing helpful tips. If you find yourself on the opposing side of the net, watch out. Eighty-four years of experience have given him great accuracy in placing his shots and his ability to fake the direction of the ball is a killer!
Enrique Ruiz Acuna
The One and Only
Pickleball fans can't seem to stop talking about this great player. No wonder - he is tall, dark and handsome. AND he can play pickleball like nobody else!
His name is Enrique Ruiz Acuna. He is a true champion with a champion's heart. He knows what it takes to win and lose. And he does both with dignity. He is also a people's person. He enjoys meeting and encouraging all kinds of people in the world of pickleball. In fact he is always coaching new players and willing to play with beginners at their level. His most important goal is always: let's have fun! And he always does whether he's playing the toughest match in the West Coast tournament or a fun Sunday night game at the local elementary school. And while he's having fun he manages to win just about every game he plays! People love to play with Enrique. He builds confidence as he keeps it a light and friendly game. That is unless he's competing for a medal then he doesn't hold back. He knows how to give it his all and WIN!
Enrique was originally a table tennis competitor. He has found pickleball to be a fun alternative. He started playing pickleball because a table tennis friend invited him to come to a night of pickleball classes taught by April and Larry Seekins. He has come a long way from those nights at Jackson School in Hillsboro, Oregon. With patience and great coaching he soon was moving on to competing in tournaments.
"It's a great game. There really is nothing like it." Enrique said of the game. Of course there really is nothing like Enrique. He has excellent control and his own style. He knows how to hit the line precisely or just kiss the net and drop the ball over. He also switches hands when he needs the extra reach. This unconventional method works well for him even though he has an excellent backhand too.
Another reason he plays the game is because "pickleball is a great way to meet cute, athletic women." And in the spring of 2002 he did just that. Her name is Judy and she is the love of his life - even more than pickleball. But luckily she likes the game too. In fact on their upcoming trip to Mexico the two will be bringing the game south of the border. They will be traveling to Enrique's home in Tula, Tamaulipus, Mexico, which is near the Gulf of Mexico. When Enrique returns from his vacation he will be getting ready for the next tournament that's held up in Washington State. And after that you can find him in Portland, Oregon at the State Games of Oregon, defending his title for the third consecutive year.
Enrique is always up for a friendly game and for making new friends. So if anybody wants to talk "pickleball" feel free to write to him. You can get in touch with him by going to the "Places to Play" under the "State of Oregon" on this website.
Jim had never even heard of pickleball until his wife, Tammie, suggested that they take a pickleball class together at Portland Community College. Tammie still plays occasionally, but Jim has been hooked ever since. What began as an exploration into a new sport over 5 years ago has grown into a passion that now takes him onto the court at least 4 times a week. Jim is a threat both on the indoor court as well as the outdoor court. In the short time he has been playing, he has risen in the USAPA rankings to the top ten in the nation. He has entered tournaments in his home state of Oregon, participated in the West Coast Championships in Washington, and this year played in the first ever National Pickleball Championships in Florida. The number of first and second place awards he's won is impressive and include the following list just in the past two tournaments he's played:
State Games of Oregon
Gold medal - Open Division Mixed Doubles
Silver medal - Open Division Men's Doubles
Silver medal - Open Division Men's Singles
Gold medal - Age 35+ Mixed Doubles
Gold medal - Age 35+ Men's Doubles
Gold medal - Age 35+ Men's Singles
Jim deserves a medal just for having the stamina to participate in this marathon list of events.
National Pickleball Championships in Florida
2nd place - Red Division Men's Singles
2nd place - Red Division Mixed Doubles
2nd place - Open Division Mixed Doubles
Jim is not only a talented player, but so enthusiatic about this game that when no other courts are available he will play outside on tennis courts, marking the lines with masking tape. He tries to get anyone he can to play and if you try to make the excuse that you don't have any equipment, he will sell you a paddle or some balls out of his gym bag.
Watch for Jim to move up in the rankings in the coming year. This tough and talented player is going to give many opponents a run for their money.
Vivian Owens is a relative newcomer to Pickleball. She started playing 2 ½ years ago and has competed in tournaments, playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The first year she entered the Senior Games pickleball event, she won the gold in doubles. To watch this 71 year-old mother of 8, grandmother of 16 and great-grandmother of 2 is awe-inspiring. She is quick on her feet, has the reflexes of a cat, and can really wallop the ball. She attributes her strength to the fact that she lifts weights - heavy weights. Her speed and reflexes are the result of an amazingly active lifestyle.
Vivian has always been active in sports. Over the years, her interests have included ice skating, skiing, swimming, basketball, volleyball and soccer. Then there was football in the back yard with her sons. That ended after she broke her shoulder. She played racquetball until her early 60s. Yet her strengths have been in running, softball, bowling, racquetball, horseshoes, triathlon and bicycling - all sports in which she has won trophies or medals. She won gold in her first triathlon in 1985.
Though Vivian no longer participates in some of these activities, cycling remains a lifetime sport. For Vivian this doesn't mean just bicycling around her hometown Spokane, Washington. In 1986 she pedaled her bike from Bainbridge Island, Washington all the way to Boston on a three-month trip. The following summer, she rode her bike from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico. This past summer, she bicycled in the 2001 National Senior Olympics held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and won the silver medal - a big thrill! Neil, her husband of 42 years can be seen videotaping her at various competitions.
So what does this accomplished athlete and former business owner do in her spare time? She coached a girls' softball team from 1972 to 1978, winning league championships in 1973, 1974 and 1975. She drove a race car in the Powder Puff Derby (1953). However, right now she is focused on becoming "…a really, really good pickleball player for my age."
Despite having to deal with the pain of polymyalgia, she continues to press forward with her activities, saying "it may slow me down at times, but never makes me quit…. I say to all seniors, keep moving - don't let yourself turn to stone."
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