Friday 29 May 2009

Squash 2016 receives worldwide support on WSD

World Squash Day in at Buckingham PalaceSquash's bid for Olympic status gained pace last Saturday 23rd May with the Squash 2016 logo being unveiled around famous London landmarks on World Squash Day.

A Routemaster London bus was hired by James Poole to tour the banner around the capital, with publicity opportunities being taken at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye and the Tower of London ...

Elsewhere around the world World Squash Day achieved its biggest level of participation to date.

The day began with Phil Buscke of The Datsuns performing a bungee jump live on TV from Auckland Harbour Bridge in New Zealand (see bottom).

Leading professionals lent their support to the bid by joining in hundreds of Olympic-themed events, all taking place on the same day, Saturday 23 May.

The biggest event was held in the USA at the Apawamis Club in New York, where squash legends Jonathon Power, David Palmer and John White took part in a 100-a-side 'Battle of the Border' fixture.

World number two Natalie Grainger, a World Squash Federation 2016 Ambassador, who participated in the event, said: "It was fantastic to see so many leading players supporting the event and more than 500 people came through the club's doors on the day. The event raised money for the bid, showcased squash in the most positive way and helped to raise the profile of the sport."

The World Squash Federation reported the rest of the events happening on WSD in its press release:

"From the professionals of North America, through Europe and Asia to the townships of Soweto in South Africa, thousands of children were entertained to free coaching lessons and a vivid introduction to squash on a very special day for the sport which boasts 20 million players across all five continents.

Rio, Chicago and Tokyo - three of the cities bidding to host the 2016 Olympics - held special events throughout the day. As well as open days at every squash club, enthusiasts took to the streets in numbers to be photographed waving their Squash For 2016 banners at prime locations in each city.

The 'Squash For 2016' cry rang out in all 14 States of Malaysia where more than 53 squash venues at squash centres, clubs, colleges, universities and schools - even Armed Forces centres and Police Squash Clubs - joined in this major effort.

The Japan Squash Association hosted a press conference in Tokyo attended by more than 20 members of the National media.

Other open-air events took place in India (with photographs outside the Taj Mahal and the Gateway to India) and South Africa (Table Mountain).

In Cape Town, South Africa, Villager Squash Club hosted a "Last Man Standing" tournament. It turned out that the tournament should have been titled "Last Person Standing" since a woman, Siyoli Lusaseni, was crowned the Champion, after five hours of squash and 24 games with different squash enthusiasts!

Another huge event in terms of participation was in Mumbai, where Indian ace Ritwik Bhattacharya was the star turn in a programme of State League fixtures with 128 players from Maharashtra between the ages of eight and 65.

Illustrating Squash's cultural diversity, Iran and Nepal held massive press conferences, arranged national TV coverage and invited prominent IOC guests.

Women's world No1 Nicol David, also a WSF Olympic Ambassador, hosted an open day at her training base in Amsterdam, while back home in Penang, Malaysia, she raised $10,000 towards the Olympic Bid by auctioning off her collection of clothing and rackets which she had worn and used to win major tournaments during her illustrious career.

Without doubt the most exhausted supporters of the event were at the LeƱadura Country Club at the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, and at Thurles Squash Club, County Tipperary, Ireland, where club players held 24-hour squash marathons.

Mexico's world No16 Samantha Teran, another Olympic Ambassador, headed the celebrations in her homeland which featured activities at many of Mexico's most important clubs, and concluding with a gathering at the Angel of Independence in the centre of the capital.

A special tournament to celebrate Squash 2016 Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, attracted not only hosts of squash enthusiasts to the Clube Paineiras do Morumby, but also the famous Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury.

At the end of an exhausting, but hugely successful weekend, World Squash Day founder Alan Thatcher said: "The event was massively supported by national federations, and some extraordinary individuals came to the fore to organise amazing events in so many different countries.

"The energy and commitment from so many sources was almost overwhelming, and clearly illustrated the passion we all have to see Squash gain its rightful place in the Olympic Games."

World Squash Day

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Thursday 21 May 2009

World Squash Day to descend on world capitals

World Squash Day 2009With just two days to go until World Squash Day 2009, squash fans around the world are preparing for events to publicise squash's bid for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Promotional bus tours and 24-hour squash marathons are just some of the events planned as far afield as London, Chicago, Madrid, Rio, and Tokyo ...

Including: meeting times and route for Saturday's 'Big Day Out' in London

WSD has been branded 'Squash 2016 Day' this year in support of the Olympic bid.

In London, a bus tour of major sites dubbed the 'Big Day Out' will hoist a 'Squash For 2016 banner' at various locations, starting at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at 11am, before heading on to various venues, such as the O2 Dome and Canary Wharf, after which stops will be made at the following locations:

1pm: Tower of London and Tower Bridge
1.45pm: St Paul's Cathedral
2.30pm: Covent Garden
3.15pm: Houses of Parliament
4pm: Buckingham Palace

All squash fans are welcome to attend. At the end of the day the plan is for everyone to adjourn to Hyde Park for refreshments.

The organisers are asking groups around the world participating in WSD to send in photos so that they can 'show the IOC that squash is a truly global sport' ahead of the crucial Olympic vote later this year.

The Squash for 2016 banner will also be unveiled in front of many of the world's most iconic buildings in cities such as Chicago, Madrid, Rio, and Tokyo.

Squash's hard working pros are also supporting WSD: Nicol David is holding an auction of her prized tournament memorabilia in her home city of Penang, while Nick Matthew will be heading to Milan for the Five Nations Tournament with his Hallamshire, Sheffield, team taking Squash 2016 banners, flags and T-shirts to the Polisquash Sports Club.

The day will start with Phil Buscke, guitarist with Kiwi band The Datsuns, bungee jumping from Auckland Harbour Bridge in Squash 2016 t-shirt live on TV.

World Squash Day 2009

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Thursday 14 May 2009

Finsbury and Sobell courts to be saved!

Sobell CentreSTOP PRESS!

It appears that there is a silver lining to the credit crunch where squash is concerned ...

We've reported the latest developments on the future of the Finsbury and Sobell leisure centres for the past couple of years, focussing on the threat to the squash courts there.

So today's news that Islington Council is going to shelve its plans to rebuild the premises (which would have almost certainly reduced the numbers of squash courts) due to tumbling property prices will be a sigh of huge relief for all the squash players in the community who use the facilities.

Full details here.

More to follow ...

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Wednesday 13 May 2009

Digging behind the headlines from Euro Teams

ETC 2009The headlines (sic) reporting a double-English win may have lacked originality, but this year's European Team Championships was perhaps more remarkable for individual stories than the final result.

I think I might give up tournament predictions after suggesting that the English women might struggle against the Dutch in the Final of this year's European Team Championships. They went on to beat the Netherlands 3-0 - but more of that later ...

When writing that previous article I had forgotten that James Willstrop was injured (though happily on the mend); hence I overlooked what bearing this might have on the English men's chances of retaining the title. Alister Walker was also making his debut in the team, and was preparing for, as he put it, his "first big match in the shirt".

He went out first against Julien Balbo in the Final against France and put the team on a strong footing with an efficient 3-0 win: another French feather in the bandanna after memorable victories over Greg Gaultier and Renan Lavigne in his run at Canary Wharf last year.

With Willstrop missing and Lee Beachill retired, Nick Matthew was the senior member of the squad and duly delivered against Greg Gaultier, taking their rubber in four games. Matthew has put together a strong run since coming back from injury; a shame this has come towards the end of the season. If he can maintain fitness over the summer then 2009/10 has the potential to be his most fruitful year.

Peter Barker could not repeat his victory over Thierry Lincou at the same stage last year, and went down 3-0. This pitted Adrian Grant against Renan Lavigne in the decider for the title. There was nothing in it, and the Londoner eventually prevailed 13/11, 12/10 (Lavigne would have had to win 3-0 for the French to take title, or 3-1 and win on countback).

Taking the final rubber to win the event for his team was a nice personal accolade for Grant who, while (and I only found this out recently) the current English pro with the most PSA tour titles, has not won a 'big one' and perhaps doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Like the recently retired Vicky Botwright, his biggest wins may come wearing the England kit.

31 years and counting

I had been anticipating the England v Netherlands Final less for the impact that Botwright's absence might have on the rest of the England girls than the fact that it was Natalie Grinham's first outing since defecting from Australia.

It was not a debut to remember. Not content with having the hoodoo over one Grinham sister in recent times, Jenny Duncalf politely declined to read the script for Natalie's appearance in orange. It went to five, with Duncalf prevailing 11/8 in the final game.

This was the second rubber after Alison Waters had beaten Vanessa Atkinson in straight games. Atkinson has slid down the rankings in the past couple of years, but has still managed to reach a number of finals in the past 12 months. I can't quite decide whether she's in terminal decline; I always seem to arrive at events after she's been knocked out so can only really go on recent results. Maybe being in the unaccustomed position of Dutch number 2 will have some bearing on her future as a pro.

Laura Lengthorn-Massaro beat Annelize Naude, and the unblemished run in this event was extended to 31 years.

This double English win might not have made for stirring headlines, even within the squash world, but the smaller stories written in Malmo gave food for thought. How will Grinham fare in the Dutch team (the next Women's World Teams is in 2010)? Will any of the English women be ready to mount a sustained challenge to the top three next season? Does the performance of the English men suggest that England still possess real strength in depth? (I don't see a young Ashour or El Shorbagy coming up behind them; the Men's World Teams in September may be a sterner test).

One other story that hasn't received much column space was Tanya Bailey's return from injury. She beat Ireland's Tanya Owens on Day 3, though didn't appear in the Final. In an interview she mentioned that she would soon be off for a hip operation. Though her career has been beset by illness and injury, like Botwright she has been a fantastic servant for her country, and has had many successes in England colours. She will be 30 later this year, and it would be sad if the former World Junior Champion did not appear next season for one last crack at the big titles that have eluded her.

Finals results:

Alister Walker 3-0 Julien Balbo
11/1, 11/7, 14/12

Nick Matthew 3-1 Gregory Gaultier
11/9, 8/11, 12/10, 11/5

Peter Barker 0-3 Thierry Lincou
13/15, 7/11, 7/11

Adrian Grant 2-0 Renan Lavigne
13/11, 12/10

Alison Waters 3-0 Vanessa Atkinson
12/10, 14/12, 11/7

Jenny Duncalf 3-2 Natalie Grinham
11/5, 11/7, 5/11, 8/11, 11/8

Laura Lengthorn-Massaro 2-0 Annelize Naude
12/10, 11/2

Tournament photos
ETC 2009

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