Friday, July 19, 2024

Nick Matthew carries the flag for Team England

Fellow athletes vote for squash world
champion to be Games standard bearer

Nick flies the flag
Nick flies the flag

England’s world champion Nick Matthew is one of three squash players carrying flags at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at Celtic’s Parkhead stadium.

Malaysia’s Nicol David, like Matthew a gold medal winner in Delhi, will be carrying the flag for Asia, while men’s world No.23 Chris Simpson is the standard bearer for Guernsey.

Matthew’s selection by his fellow athletes follows a five-week battle to be fit after undergoing a knee operation.

The 33-year-old from Sheffield said: “It’s been a race against time to get fit but this is a great honour to be chosen to carry the flag by this incredibly talented team of athletes from Team England.

“The Commonwealth Games is a pinnacle for squash players in a multi-sport Games environment, and I feel extremely proud to represent all the different sports and athletes here as we unite as Team England.

“I can’t wait to share that very special moment with the whole of Team England before we get down to the business of bringing home the medals for our country.” 

Matthew paid tribute to the medical teams at England Squash and the English Institute of Sport, and added: “I had a small meniscus tear which was just wear and tear from playing so much squash.

“They said it would be a six-week recovery period but luckily I am ahead of schedule. The key for me is to maintain the mentality that my job is not done by just getting here.

“The timing was not ideal but injuries like this can happen at any time and that’s just part of professional sport.”

Lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan Matthew said: “The uncertainty was a bit of a worry because I was told if I wanted to make the Commonwealth Games then I needed an immediate operation.

“I don’t know if I will be 100 per cent fit but I’m feeling strong enough to perform.”

Matthew begins the defence of his title against an unknown opponent, Xavier Koenig, from Mauritius, and is seeded to meet fellow flag carrier Simpson in the quarter-finals.

No.3 seed Peter Barker, from Essex, lies in wait in the semis, with Matthew’s long-term rival James Willstrop scheduled to make the final at Scotstoun a repeat of their showdown in Delhi four years ago.

Matthew will be aiming to match his record in Delhi with gold in singles and doubles. He is again teaming up with his 2010 partner, Londoner Adrian Grant, in the men’s doubles event.

nicccNicol David, meanwhile, is seeded to meet England’s world champion Laura Massaro in the women’s singles final.  

David (right), winner of the Women’s Singles gold medal four years ago and now competing in a record-equalling fifth successive Games, has topped the world rankings unopposed since August 2006. “I feel privileged and honoured to lead the Asian continent in the Commonwealth Games,” said the record seven-times world champion on hearing the news.

Simpson, Guernsey’s highest-ranked squash player of all-time, said: “I feel very proud and honoured to be Guernsey’s flag bearer at tomorrow’s Opening Ceremony.”

World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran could not hide his delight at the recognition achieved by the trio: “It is a great honour for our sport that three squash players will be carrying the flag of their country at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.

“We are very proud of them, and their selection shows just how highly esteemed Nicol, Nick and Chris are by their nations.”

British rowing icon Sir Matthew Pinsent was one of the first to offer his congratulations to Matthew: “Congrats to @nickmatthew squash – wonderful choice for ENG flag bearer,” tweeted the four-time Olympic gold medallist.

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