Monday, July 15, 2024

Cassie’s Corner: Manchester moments to treasure

Royal visitors and battles for medals made the 2002 Games so special

The new National Squash Centre (below) at the Commonwealth Games venue in Manchester
The new National Squash Centre (below) at the Commonwealth Games venue in Manchester

Cassie Thomas continues her Commonwealth Games Countdown with more memories of Manchester in 2002, as Team England fought hard to win as many medals as possible on home soil, and some of Cassie’s team-mates (who later became rivals) had old scores to settle …

So, after the excitement and adrenalin rush of the opening ceremony it was down to the business of trying to win a medal.

walkerpalmerThe squash was pretty much a sell out most days and the support the English received from the crowd was incredible.

Even the Queen came to watch which was a great honour for the game, although Chris Walker (pictured right in action against Australia’s David Palmer), who was due to meet and greet Her Majesty, was a little bit late for the ceremony. Apparently he was on the throne himself!

Overall, squash received a fair bit of the VIP treatment. We were chosen to meet Tony Blair (Prime Minister at the time) in the food hall and then one day, while we were having lunch, Prince Edward, who was being shown round the village, came over to our table and had a chat. Both great to meet and Prince Edward had a good knowledge of our game. He isa real tennis afficianado, after all.

So, first up was the singles event. Like four years ago I was seeded 3/4 and like four years ago I finished 3/4 and got a bronze medal.

jackmancharman1smI had a close five setter against my English team mate Linda Charman (right) in the quarter finals and then lost to Carol Owens, who was now playing for New Zealand, 3-1 in the semi finals.

I was obviously disappointed not to go one further but happy that I had won a medal.(Still no play off thankfully) The final was a very close affair with Sarah Fitzgerald beating Carol and winning the gold medal.

The doubles pretty much started straight away and my partner Tania Bailey and I were looking forward to the challenge. We progressed through to the semi finals thankfully unscathed where we faced the other England pairing of Linda Charman and Fiona Geaves.

In their previous match Linda and Fiona had beaten the Australian pairing of Liz Irving and Sarah Fitzgerald and had therefore guaranteed themselves at least a bronze medal.

This was particularly special for Linda and you could see that in her reaction when they won (lots of tears!).

The reason this was special was because in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, she along with her partner Jane Martin were the only pairing from the England team to not win a medal.

mancyellow02This I know was hard for her and winning that match and knowing she had won a medal had banished those demons from four years earlier.

Our semi-final against Linda and Fiona turned into a battle and we luckily scraped through 2-1. So onto the final where we faced Leilani Rorani and Carol Owens from New Zealand.

We knew this was going to be tough as they had beaten the much fancied sisters Rachel and Natalie Grinham from Australia in the semis.

So this turned out to be the case and we lost 2-1. It was a sliver medal for Tania and I. We would have loved to have won gold but the silver medal looked good too!

As for the men, Peter Nicol lost in the final to Jonathon Power, but Peter and Lee Beachill won the men’s doubles final against Stewart Boswell and Anthony Ricketts.

The England-Australia matches were fiery affairs, I remember. It’s always been the same, whether men or women. Pit those two nations against each other and wait for the fireworks!¬†

When I think back to the Games in Manchester there are many experiences that I will treasure. Firstly that my parents got to watch me compete in such a big event. I particularly remember walking round sport city with them in my England tracksuit and getting asked for my autograph.

They thought this was fantastic and of course wearing the England tracksuit was the main reason for the autographs as I’m sure they didn’t have a clue who I was!

Secondly, spending it with my England team mates. We were all close friends who spent time together socially as well as at tournaments so to spend the whole Commonwealth Games experience with them was great.

Then thirdly the atmosphere and support that the English athletes received. Everywhere we went from the opening ceremony, in the squash arena and walking around sport city it was fantastic and something I will never forget.

Manchester definitely did us proud!

Pictures from the Squash Mad archive 

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