By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Sarah-Jane Perry, a local resident and an ambassador for the Commonwealth Games, tonight revealed how much it means to her to be a Brummie and how much it would mean to win a medal on home soil.
During the Opening Ceremony of the 22nd edition of the Games in front of more than 30,000 fans at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, she was selected for an interview by the BBC cameras as the rest of Team England filed past.
She said: “It is absolutely amazing. I cannot describe the atmosphere here in this stadium.
“It’s absolutely packed to the rafters and it’s absolutely incredible. I’m loving every single second.
“I was born in Birmingham and grew up in the West Midlands so everything to do with me is about the West Midlands, so I would love, love, love to win a medal – not just for my family and friends but for the whole of the West Midlands.”
As the team progressed around the track, England team-mates Ali Waters and Gina Kennedy, plus assistant coach Nick Matthew, led a rush towards the cameras!
We also caught sight of squash flag-bearers Rachael Grinham (Australia), Tesni Evans (Wales), Joelle King (New Zealand), Kijan Sultana (Malta), Marlene West (Cayman Islands), Aifa Azman (Malaysia) and Emma Keane (Bermuda).
Grinham was in the limelight straight away as Team Australia were the first squad to enter the arena.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, in which Grinham and co-flag bearer Ed Ockenden led more than 250 Australian athletes, Grinham referenced the opening ceremony’s focus on inclusivity, saying: “I think it’s an issue that should be important to everyone.”
On her record Games appearances, she said: “I’ve never been about keeping score of achievements and things like that. I’ve always just enjoyed playing. I love playing for Australia, that in itself as an experience is amazing to be able to do.”
At 45 she is the second oldest squash player in the tournament, with Cayman Islander West five years her senior and still competing! West led out her Cayman Islands team-mates at her sixth Commonwealth Games.
She will be competing in the women’s doubles alongside Jade Pitcairn and in the mixed doubles with Cameron Stafford.
There was a pleasant surprise on screen as a message was broadcast from Malaysia’s eight-times world champion Nicol David wishing her nation every success in Birmingham as World No.24 Aifa Azman led out her delegation. The honour was originally supposed to go to team-mate Sivasangari Subramaniam, only for a traffic accident in June to rule her out of the Games.
Malta’s Kijan Sultana, making his Commonwealth Games debut at the age of 18 and one of a trio of squash-playing siblings competing in this year’s event, alongside sisters Colette and Lijana, was the sole male squash player nominated as a flag-bearer.
Scotland’s Laura Aitken was also interviewed during the ceremony and was asked about a record rally in which she had supposedly been involved and which the BBC interviewer claimed lasted more than 3,000 shots.
We clearly need to know more about that!
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games began with a bang as a cast of 1,500 performers wowed the fans inside Alexander Stadium and a global audience of more than one billion viewers.
The ceremony, planned by Artistic Director Iqbal Khan, told the story of Birmingham’s embrace of generations of Commonwealth communities and featured a range of artistic displays, including a crowd-pleasing performance from Duran Duran and a 10-metre-high bull representing Birmingham’s historic Bullring market.
As England’s assistant coach Nick Matthew, a three-times gold medal winner, said in a recent article on Squash Mad: “The players can enjoy the tourist stuff for a couple of days but then it’s down to the business of winning medals.”
The squash singles competitions begin today with the top seeds enjoying a bye and some unsung heroes from around the globe will enjoy the opportunity to perform on the glass court at the University of Birmingham, with seating for 1,750 spectators.
Let The Games begin!