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.”
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