Thursday 28 June 2007

Nicol - 'Lessons I Have Learned'

Nicol featured on the BBC websiteYet another excellent feature on the BBC website, again centring on 'squash legend' Peter Nicol.

The feature is part of a series of video interviews with successful athletes where they describe lessons they have learned and their motivations to reach the top of their chosen sport.

While some of the Nicol's advice (such as techniques to develop the mental strength to perform at the highest level and gain an advantage over one's opponent) could come from high-performance coaching manuals, others such as a commitment to over-training as a means of knowing one's own limits are more idiosyncratic.

What the interview reveals is an incredibly strong-willed individual and suggests that coaching (even at professional level) cannot substitute for a singular ability to succeed on one's own terms.

Indecently, each time I've seen Nicol interviewed on the BBC he comes across as a natural media performer - why don't they sign him up?

Peter Nicol - Lessons I Have Learned
Watch the interview here.

Read more ...

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Duncalf European Champion for second time

Jenny DuncalfCongratulations to Jenny Duncalf, who beat Tania Bailey 3-1 in the final of the European Individual Championships in Royan, France to retain her title.

As I mentioned in her National Championships win, she seems to have developed the greater mettle to beat players ranked more highly than her, as proven in a recent 3-0 win over Vanessa Atkinson in Kuwait.

It's a shame that these successes have come at the end of the season.

Te summer break in momentum means she will have to wait a couple of months before launching an assault on the English number one position, and ultimately challenging for bigger things against the likes of the Grinhams and Nicol David.

European Individual Championships

Read more ...

Friday 15 June 2007

Matthew 'rocks' the Guardian

You don't get 'Money for Nothing' in this game ...Readers of the Guardian's weekly 'What's rocking sport' section will know that the average sportsman's choice of listening is as varied and interesting as a 1970s-style 100 stroke rally up the sidewall to good length.

But this week's focus on Nick Matthew's iPod selection proves that the way a squash player performs on court is no guide to musical taste ...

It is the incongruity that baffles.

Here is a player who bounds on to court, gleefully lashing any loose ball into the nick like a wicked, cutlass-wielding enemy in a Sinbad film.

Previously featured sportsmen commonly reveal a preference for two types of music - coffee table chart fodder favoured by middle-class thirtysomethings (see David Gray), or rap/hip-hop - usually just on the 'edgy' side of popular - without being downright offensive (i.e. not N.W.A.): the bass-heavy rhythms providing the catalyst for getting 'pumped' prior to performance.

Given the way Matthew plays, I half suspected he would warm up to a hard rock bombast, shadow-boxing to Welcome to the Jungle or squat-thrusting to the solo from Enter Sandman.

Maybe someone raised in the city would harbour a guilty collection of Sheffield's finest - the 'Leppard ...

What is actually revealed is a penchant for James Blunt and Dire Straits (maybe I'm being a bit hard - Justin Timberlake and Kanye West feature in his matchday tracklisting. You won't find your dad listening to them.)

Joe Elliott would not approve.

"I suppose a rock's out of the question?"

Read more ...

Thursday 14 June 2007

Australia open ... or not?

Jonah: success Down UnderReading the excellent Jonah: The Authorised Biography of Jonah Barrington I was struck by the number of times he participated in (and won) tournaments in Australia.

But what's the status of these events now?

A glance at the tournaments Barrington played in the country reveal events open to amateurs and professionals attracting a word-class field:

International Championship Team and Individual Events 1967
Australian Amateur 1968 (winner)
Australian Open 1970 (winner)
Australian Professional 1970 (winner)

The 2007 Australian Open will be held in Clare, a small town near Adelaide. It's move from one of the larger cities seems symptomatic of a growing indifference to squash in Australia.

None of the top 10 players in either the men or women's game have been confirmed to play in this year's event.

Past men's winners include Geoff Hunt, Brett and Rod Martin and Chris Dittmar, while Sarah Fitz-Gerald, Vicki Cardwell, Rhonda Thorne and Rachael Grinham have all taken the women's title.

It is a shame that a country which has produced so many of the current top 20 players (Ricketts, Palmer, Boswell, White on the PSA tour, the Grinham sisters and Kasey Brown on the WISPA tour) shows such a lack of investment when it comes putting on international events.

Rachel and Natalie Grinham battle it out in the 2006 Commonwealth Games finalLast years' disagreement between the Grinham sisters and Squash Australia over selection policy for the Women's World Team Championships in Edmonton also suggests that politics may also be playing a factor in the sport's development in the country.

As any long-suffering British sports fan will testify, the concept of Australia not supporting its athletes is something that hardly seems credible given the regular trouncing we get from the Aussies in cricket, rugby, swimming and more besides.

Squash Australia

Read more ...

Friday 8 June 2007

London loses out as Super Series heads north

Spectators outside the court in Broadgate Area, in the heart of the City of LondonIt was fantastic news to hear that the Super Series Finals had been saved, after the ATCO Group stepped in to fund the tournament.

The future of the Super Series had been in doubt after the sponsors had pulled out of this year's tournament.

With the 2007 British Open and the 2008 men's and women's World Opens to be held at the National Squash Centre in Manchester, the north-west is cementing its position as the preferred host for professional events in the UK.

However, for squash fans elsewhere in the country, the lack of options means that a long drive or expensive train fare are part of the package if they want to see the top players in action.

Other than the exemplary Canary Wharf Classic, this means that there will be no professional squash tournaments held in London in 2007.

For the long-term survival of the game in this country, this state of affairs is nothing short of disastrous. With money pouring into tournaments in the Middle East, only the financial muscle of the City can compete to bring the best players and tournaments to this country.

As I discussed in a previous post, it is not as if the money isn't there: the irony is that many of those who play the game most regularly are amongst the highest earners in the country.

Surely a squash-playing banker could be found to plough a relatively tiny proportion of their annual bonus into having an event named in their honour, with the cream of the world's elite squash players lining up?

That's one suggestion. A skilful and well-connected promoter - maybe borrowed from another sport? - would have many more.

I cannot believe that squash's governing bodies have not tried to leverage City money in the past (or indeed continue to do so), though the apparent lack of success suggests that something is not quite right.

Have your say:
Squash and the City

Read more ...