Phil Eliana of Hanamaulu trained up in Kokee since January preparing for this year’s U.S. National Racquetball Championships.
Even with the increased elevation in Kokee, it wasn’t comparable to that which he experienced while competing at the national tournament in Denver this past weekend.
“You have high altitude. The air, I wouldn’t say is thinner, but the pressure made it difficult,” Eliana said in a phone interview Thursday. “The ball is much faster. The whole transition of the game, there’s no way to practice that in Kauai.”
That effort paid off, however, as Eliana came away with two medals at this year’s event. He won a silver medal in the Heroes 40+ singles division and a bronze medal in the Heroes B singles division.
He also played in the Centurion doubles B/C division with his brother, but was ousted in the first round.
“I kind of wore myself out a little bit, but it was fun,” Eliana said. “I can say this was a really tough tournament.”
He’s participated at the national tournament eight times, including each of the last five years, and has won three gold medals during that span. He also said he’s competed in racquetball tournaments off and on since 1980.
Eliana, who graduated from Kauai High School in 1977, added he was one of three Hawaiians at the competition in Denver.
Over the weekend, Eliana played 10 matches in the three divisions, four of which went to a tiebreaker. He won seven games and lost three.
“One guy won a gold and silver, and the other won one silver. So between us, one gold, three silvers and a bronze, that’s pretty good for Hawaii,” he said. “We represented the islands pretty well — two guys from Oahu and one guy from Kauai.”
He added he wouldn’t have done as well without his coach Jim Winterton, and sponsors Unlimited Construction Co. and Kauai Athletic Club.
“He coaches at the professional level. He’s one of the top coaches in the game,” he said of Winterton.
Eliana retired from the U.S. Air National Guard earlier this month. He’s spent 32 years in service along with the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves.