Members of Brisbane’s budding bike polo scene return from Geneva’s world championships as questions about the sport’s legitimacy mount.
“To call it a sport at the moment is premature,” says Dwight Zakus, a lead sports organisation theory researcher at Griffith University.
“But nobody can stop them from calling it that.”
Lacking a formalised governing body and a uniform set of rules, bike polo falls short on criteria Zakus deems necessary for it to be considered a sport.
Brisbane Hardcourt Bike Polo Association’s vice president, Ollie Wykeham, respects ‘abstract’ assertions made by researchers, but says the tyre-screeching, ball-bashing activity encompasses many traditional sports’ characteristics.
“You have the thrill of competition and there’s this insane camaraderie,” says the 26-year-old, who has relished swinging his mallet since being persuaded by friends three years ago to mount up.
Bike polo, in its original grass-court form, made an appearance at the London 1908 Olympics and has been pedalling its way on to hard courts since the mid 90s.
“It appeals to hipsters, people who want to be cool and ride their fixed gears. I was one of those people,” Wykeham says.
“In a weird way we are attracting outsiders and rebels, people who don’t have a social group or are a part of less socially acceptable groups.”
He says athletes from traditional sports are also drawn to bike polo as it kindles camaraderie.
“There is no question that when people compete against one another physically and athletically it’s a sport,” he says.
Almost 400 players took part in the fourth annual world championships, in which the Brisbane trio – Wykeham, Domenico Natoli and Robert Erbacher – finished 20 places higher than in 2011.
Resolute in his continued plight to see bike polo gain credence, Wykeham says it is only a matter of time before it becomes a universally accepted sport.
If Wykeham has his way this hip polo variation will one day emulate its grass-court cousin and hit the groomed hard courts of the Summer Olympiad.