Thursday 17 January 2008

Ashour takes ToC as US interest grows

Ramy Ashour v James Willstrop in the Tournament of Champions 2008 finalRamy Ashour celebrated his return after injury with a win over James Willstrop in the final of the Tournament of Champions, held in Grand Central Station, New York.

The majestic venue is the perfect stage for flaunting the spectacle of live professional squash in the US, a country rapidly developing a greater interest in the sport ...

First reports suggest that the Egyptian's 3-0 win over his 24- year-old opponent - a much-anticipated rivalry that many hope will continue for years to come - doesn't tell the whole story, with the 11/7, 13/10, 11/9 scoreline a close affair between the two attacking players.

A recent article in the New York Times reports that squash is increasing in popularity in the country, with young people choosing squash as a sporting route into studying at Ivy League universities, taking advantage of a system that has long aided American football and basketball players.

Describing squash as "an indoor racket sport long associated with private clubs and old-boy networks", it suggests that the reasons for an increasing number choosing a minority sport as a way of gaining entry to prestigious colleges is not as cynical as it first appears:

"College is not the only reason the game is enjoying a youth boom. In recent years, squash leagues and tournaments have become more welcoming to intermediates and novices, said Kevin Klipstein, the chief executive of US Squash."

"Proponents have also managed to sell the sport's appeal outside its traditional preppy demographic. Several private clubs in New York have opened their courts to teams of young people from the inner city."

One these initiatives is the Citysquash programme, a scheme that uses squash to provide an "after-school enrichment program that provides motivated and talented young people from economically disadvantaged households with a nurturing and structured team environment" based in the Bronx at Fordham University. Its Board of Advisors includes Jonathan Power.

The US professional circuit has also received a shot in the arm in the past couple of years, with John White moving his base there and Natalie Granger qualifying as a US citizen through residency.

In the junior ranks too there is evidence of talent coming though the system with Olivia Blatchford - recent winner of the Irish Junior Open U19 title at the age of just 14 - looking a strong prospect for the future.

Tournament of Champions 2008
The New York Times article

1 comment:

  1. If squash increases in popularity in the United States and enables players to get into top universities, we can move up very quickly on world rankings.


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