A-Z of the Commonwealth Games Part Two: Pain and medals, parties and music
Alan Thatcher continues his guide to the Games, with highlights from all the action on and off court. Who knew that James Willstrop had a Glasgow Fan Club? Who knew we nearly had an Indian streaker? Who knew (and who can remember?) the highlights of all the parties that followed the Closing Ceremony?
A TO Z OF THE 2014 COMMONWEALTH GAMES SQUASH
K: KIWIS KING AND KNIGHT. Lost third-place play-off in the Mixed Doubles after a 78-minute battle with Australians Kasey Brown and Cam Pilley, but Joelle won the bronze in the Women’s Singles, beating England’s Alison Waters 11-7, 11-7, 11-5. Martin and Campbell Grayson, the No.5 seeds, surprisingly lost in the last 16 of the Men’s Doubles to fellow Kiwis Paul Coll and Lance Beddoes, who battled all the way against Daryl Selby and James Willstrop.
MATTHEW “KILLER” KARWALSKI: Fought hard to be there. The full story of the legal battle will come out soon.
L: GREG LOBBAN. Covered every inch of the court in singles and doubles, diving across the big blue box (left). With a saltire carved into his heart, and inspired by the fervent crowds, he must have been having an extra Irn Bru for breakfast every day.
LEGACY: It would be wonderful to see a new, annual Scottish Open on both PSA and WSA calendars, coupled with a massive development programme.
M: MAHESH MANGAONKAR: Threatened to streak round the glass court in his undies if India failed to win a medal. Fortunately for him, Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa delivered a gold in the Women’s Doubles.
LAURA MASSARO: Disappointed not to do better in the women’s singles final against an opponent showing total control, especially after a titanic opening game, but she can be proud of her performances every time she pulled on that England outfit.
NICK MATTHEW. What a tournament for Sheffield’s world champion. He carried the flag for Team England at the Opening Ceremony at Parkhead, won his 100th international cap in the early rounds, celebrated his 34th birthday by beating Scotland’s Alan Clyne (amazingly it was his birthday as well), claimed the men’s singles gold by beating James Willstrop in a pulsating final, and won silver in the men’s doubles with Adrian Grant in the final match of the whole squash proceedings.
MEXICAN WAVE: Now known as the Melbourne Wave, after being kicked off by the Aussie players who were always looking for things to liven up the action.
KEVIN MORAN: A great player in the making for Scotland. And quite possibly the biggest fan of Games mascot Clyde. Thanks to Kevin and England’s Sarah Kippax for joining me at courtside to give Clyde (and a bunch of keen youngsters) a free coaching lesson.
MEDALS: I felt sorry for the individuals and doubles teams who reached the semi-finals and lost the bronze medal play-offs. One of the most tense, exciting, dramatic and outstanding matches featured Scotland’s Alan Clyne and Harry Leitch against England’s James Willstrop and Daryl Selby. I have never seen James Willstrop look so animated on court as he did when he and Selby clinched victory. And look at the faces of Clyne and Leitch as they took part in a BBC interview at courtside moments after the match. The contrast of elation and despair.
MOPPING: Peter Barker got into trouble after being misquoted, saying he” wasn’t happy with some of the refereeing and mopping”. He unwittingly upset some of the volunteer Clydesiders who were part of the court crew. What Peter actually said concerned issues relating to “refereeing and marking”. As for the mopping, perhaps the Scottish curling team should have been invited down to mop the courts.
N: NICKS. The top Nick Hunter Award goes to Scotland’s Harry Leitch.
NOVICES: Quite a few made it on to the glass court in the early rounds, and they looked absolutely terrified of their surroundings. But the top pros nursed them through, every time, in a thoroughly sporting manner.
O: OLDEST PLAYER ON THE GLASS COURT. I think it was me. I sneaked on for a quick hit an hour after the final Medal Ceremony and played a front-half game with Martin Woods, Assistant Tournament Director (and sneaked an 11-10 win). I also managed to climb on the podium for a team picture involving all the Presentation Team. Hashtag: Friends For Life.
P: PARTIES. Glasgow city centre is Party Central. We will not reveal which member of Team England went missing with all the accreditation passes, forcing some squash players to blag their way back into the Athletes’ Village at 5am after a massive rehydration exercise following the amazing Closing Ceremony at Hampden Park.
DAVID PALMER: A quick shower, change of shirt and a Vegemite sandwich, and he was back on court after the mixed doubles triumph with Rachael Grinham to partner Cam Pilley in the men’s doubles. After two tired backhand drops into the tin, I hope DP bought Cam a large, foaming pint or two of Glasgow’s finest ales for nailing another gold for the Aussies.
PILLEY: Hard-hitting Cam won that second gold for Australia in the men’s doubles with two thundering straight drives past Nick Matthew. Wish I’d brought the radar gun. With Glasgow bathed in sunshine during the first week, the temperature was just right for another bash at his own world speed record. Here he is partying hard with the England boys after the closing ceremony!
PILLOCK: The gentleman (I use the word loosely) from a Far-Off Land in a suit who told Lucie Selby (wife of Daryl) to move out of her seat. This self-important individual reportedly said: “Madam, do you think that your desire to watch your husband from a front row seat trumps my accreditation?” Apparently Mr Big Shot was put in his place by a brilliantly-controlled riposte from Lucie. Congrats to the WSF members who were quick to apologise to Mrs Selby having witnessed this embarrassing episode.
PAISLEY: Our student digs were seven miles out of town at the University of West Scotland in Paisley. They must be used to student hours in Paisley, because hardly anywhere was open for breakfast before 9.30a.m. And the Glasgow taxi drivers all fed you the hard-luck story that Paisley was outside the city boundary. Just so they could justify ripping you off with a £20 fare every time you needed a lift home from Granny Gibbs (see Part One). Before we discovered the delights of Granny Gibbs,, we were late night regulars in The Bull (opposite a chip shop owned by Paolo Nutini’s mum and dad).
Q: QUICK FINISHES. The early doubles matches were all over in half an hour, some much less. It was only when the medals grew closer that the tactics tightened up and the matches became more attritional. However, with central court options that would be unavailable on a smaller court, the shots down the middle produced a fascinating need to readjust, realign and rethink strategy.
R: RESPECT. An unwritten code of conduct runs through the top levels of squash where the leading professionals know the pain and sacrifices they and their opponents all have to make to reach such phenomenal levels of achievement. That aspect of the game shone through in Glasgow.
REFEREES: Good job throughout the singles, although there were occasional moments of confusion in the doubles. At this level, we need to award strokes.
ROYALTY: Prince Tunku Imran of Malaysia and Prince Albert II of Monaco handed out some of the squash medals. And England’s Prince Edward was in the audience to watch the action.
S: SCOTLAND. Great to see so many Saltires bouncing around the bleachers as the home fans got involved with the action. Scotland deserves to host a major world-ranking event to produce a long-lasting legacy from this amazing squash competition. (See Legacy)
DARYL SELBY: Not called on for the singles, and wore his heart on his sleeve throughout the doubles.
SOUTH AFRICA: Where were they? Astonishing bad luck for players like Steve Coppinger, Siyoli Waters and many others who deserved to be there.
T: TIN: Lowered to 13 inches for the doubles. Big success as it led to more attacking options.
TAXIS (see Paisley).
TAPE: Lots of it on view as injured players strapped themselves up and battled on through the pain barrier.
U: UNDERDOGS. The Glasgow crowds certainly embraced the finest Corinthian spirits by cheering for the underdogs (or any team playing England).
V: VISITORS. Squash fans travelled from all over the world and it was great to see them enjoying every minute of this fantastic spectacle.
VICTORS: Congratulations to all the gold medal winners, whose chests were bursting with pride as they stood on the podium and turned to face their countries’ flags as the national anthems were being played.
VANQUISHED: Everyone was a winner in the Glasgow Games. There so many classic encounters, with players performing at levels way above their seeding and ranking.
W: JAMES WILLSTROP. He looked in immaculate form throughout the singles, and many fancied him to end his long losing run against Nick Matthew. But, in the fifth game of a classic final, it was Matthew who finished stronger to take the gold. James can take comfort in the fact that he won an army of new fans in the Presentation Team, who tried to work his name into the chorus of many a song (see Granny Gibbs in Part One)
X. Glasgow went the Xtra Mile. So did all the players.
Y: YOUNG TALENT. The planning starts now for the Gold Coast Games in four years’ time.
IVAN YUEN: I hope this richly talented squash player will devote his immediate future to squash. He could do quite well.
Z: ZAC ALEXANDER. Sent home from the Athletes’ Village as the result of the legal wrangles over Australia’s team selection policies. What a desperately demeaning, demotivating and depressing process to force an athlete to endure. I hope he gets the chance to shine on the Gold Coast.