American Sports Heroes You Won't Find On A Wheaties Box

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

More than 1,400 athletes have appeared on the front of the Wheaties box. So why didn't these sports heroes make the cut? We're not sure. But as far as we're concerned, anyone who plays polo off an elephant's back or cross-dresses to win tournaments deserves to join our Breakfast of Champions.

Elephant Polo: Kimberly Zenz

When Kimberly Zenz, an experienced horse polo player, discovered elephant polo on the internet, she knew she'd found her destiny. Intrigued by the prospect of simultaneously riding an elephant and wielding an oversize mallet, Zenz posted an ad on Craigslist looking for teammates in Washington, D.C. Amazingly, people responded.

Zenz's four-person team, the Capital Pachyderms, didn't have real elephants with which to practice. Luckily, that didn't matter much. Four elephants - along with four experienced elephant drivers - are provided to each team before a tournament.

Knowing that her squad could concentrate more on whacking the ball than handling the elephants (you leave that to the drivers), Kimberly and crew trained on top of old swing sets to approximate the pachyderms' height.

As one might expect, there wasn't quite enough jungle in their jungle gyms. The team's training efforts were no substitute for experience, and the Capital Pachyderms finished second to last in Thailand's 2006 King's Cup Elephant Polo Championship.

Undeterred, Zenz and her team kept practicing. In 2007, they placed second in a competition in Sri Lanka and fifth in the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal. Both victories have earned them bragging rights as "America's No. 1 elephant polo team."

Polo: Sue Sally Hale

Women who disguise themselves as men seem to be successful in only two settings -the plays of William Shakespeare and the real-life drama of Sue Sally Hale.

Hale, who received her first horse at age three, was determined to play polo, even though Southern California's thriving early-1950s polo scene forbade women from the field. So when she was old enough to play, Hale simply dressed as a man. Before each tournament, she would don a baggy shirt, stuff her hair under her helmet, and draw on a mustache with mascara.

Playing under the name A. Jones, she competed with such ferocity that one commentator claimed Hale "could ride a horse like a Comanche and hit a ball like a Mack truck." After each match, she would transform back into Sue Sally Hale, then go carousing with her teammates, who were happy to play along.

For the next two decades, Hale maintained the ruse while campaigning fiercely to get the United States Polo Association to change its policies. The association relented in 1972, and Hale finally received a membership card, along with the freedom to play under her real name.

Adapted from mental_floss magazine ("10 American Sports Heroes You Won't Find on a Wheaties Box" by Ethan Trex), which is available at your local newsstand. For a daily dose of quirky fun visit