Cincinnati’s hometown-hero air hockey players are safe and sound in Las Vegas, preparing for Saturday’s first round of the Air Hockey World Championships.
Jason Cornell and Jeff Huisman left Cincinnati at 3 a.m. Friday to catch their 6:45 a.m. flight, then enjoyed breakfast with Huisman’s parents in Las Vegas, who flew in from Seattle to celebrate Mom’s birthday.
After breakfast they checked out the tables and competition area at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, running into USAA President Michael Rosen, who said he will introduce the competition’s only participants from Ohio during the opening ceremony.
“He said he’s going to introduce us even though there are other people that are new,” Cornell said, “just because we brought a little hype to the tournament from Cincinnati.”
Cornell and Huisman don’t seem too phased by the players they’ve seen at the practice tables so far. Cornell says the other pros don’t seem to be doing anything out of the norm, just using some fancy puck-dribbling methods that haven’t really worried the rookies.
Huisman, who underwent air hockey-related wrist and elbow surgery Feb. 26, is back in action but not completely free of pain, as he was only recently allowed to resume full air-hockey activities.
“He says his elbow feels great, which is where most of his power comes from,” Cornell says. “We feel confident in his elbow being healthy.”
The guys are staying at Bally’s, which has a regulation air hockey table in its arcade where they plan to practice tonight and warm up tomorrow. Cornell says he hasn’t felt any residual effects from staying up all night before the trip to Las Vegas, and around 5 p.m. he said he and Jeff were going to get some hot dogs and check out the sports betting situation.
All matches of the 2009 Air Hockey World Championships will be streamed live at airhockeyworld.com. CityBeat will update this story once the brackets are created on Saturday.
UPDATE (9:08 P.M.): Since checking in with CityBeat this afternoon, Cornell and Huisman have witnessed a second round of professional air hockey practice that was somewhat more intimidating. A Cornall text message reads: "Registering and looking at the guys here now ... uhhh pretty good ... definitely sharper than the earlier crowd."
Cornell and Huisman will learn their places in the Air Hockey World Championships singles bracket on Saturday.