Friday, January 27, 2023

Exclusive: Chris Simpson hunts a Guernsey medal at Commonwealth Games

Squash ace would love to repay Channel Islanders’ support with a medal in Glasgow
By MIKE DALE – Squash Mad Special Correspondent

Chris Simpson in action
Chris Simpson in action

Chris Simpson admits it would be “absolutely amazing” to win Guernsey’s first Commonwealth Games medal for 20 years when he competes in Glasgow later this month.

Simpson, the current PSA world no.23, will be the only squash player among a team of 38 athletes from the Channel island at this summer’s Games.

Guernsey has not registered on the Commonwealth Games medals table since Adrian Breton and Graham La Maitre won bronze in the 25m rapid fire pistol pairs in Canada in 1994.

The island has only won six medals in total since first entering the Games in 1970 – four in shooting and two in bowls.

Simpson told Squash Mad that becoming the island’s seventh Commonwealth Games medallist is a “big goal”.

“It would be wonderful to try and give back a medal to all of the people that have helped me over the years. It’s a big ask. It’s a very, very strong draw and I’m going to try my best to do it,” he said.

“The Commonwealth committee in Guernsey is one of the most well-run organisations I’ve ever come across. The help that they’ve given all the athletes trying for selection over the last two years has been amazing.”

Simpson will be battling for a medal with just six of the 22 players above him in the PSA world rankings. It would have been seven, but teams this year were reduced from four entrants per nation to three, so Daryl Selby missed out in the singles for England.

Simpson lived on Guernsey until he was 16. After two years at boarding school in Sussex he turned pro and re-located to Harrogate to be near his coach David Pearson.

“You can’t be a professional squash player and live in Guernsey unfortunately,” said Simpson. “I’d got to the point at 16 where there was no-one left on the island to train with.

“I dread to think how much money my parents spent on me travelling to junior tournaments and squads. I was flying off the island every other weekend. That was extremely hard.

“In somewhere like Egypt the kids have got a massive advantage in that they can see professional squash on a daily basis. Once they get to a reasonable standard they can even train with the likes of Amr Shabana.

“By contrast, when I was 14 or 15 I’d never even seen professional squash. I think I had one video, but there was no SquashTV, no YouTube and I’d never been to a pro tournament.

“There were disadvantages, but at the same time, Guernsey has got a rich history of squash and there are a lot of very keen players there. The squash community on the island when I was growing up was really strong and lots of people encouraged and trained with me.

“Guernsey is a unique place. A lot of people that grow up there struggle to make that break or if they do they will always gravitate back. It’s very, very hard to leave somewhere like that. Everywhere you go on the island, you know people and everyone’s friendly. It’s a very, very nice place to live.

“But I love playing squash and I didn’t want to be on the island not doing what I wanted. Leaving was actually quite an easy decision for me. I knew I’d be a lot happier coming to England to pursue squash than staying on the island and working in finance.”

Nevertheless, Simpson will be proud to fly the island’s flag in Glasgow when the Games get under way on July 23. The draw is made on July 17. 

Image courtesy of PSA

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