Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Pan-Am Doubles gold for Colombia and USA


Left to right: Canada, Colombia, Peru and USA
Left to right: Canada, Colombia, Peru and USA show their medals and wave Pachi the porcupine

Second gold for Colombia and Amanda Sobhy, and an Olympic push from Canada
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent


Colombian duo Andrés Herrera and Juan Vargas and US pairing Natalie Grainger and Amanda Sobhy were the unexpected gold medallists in the Pan American Games squash doubles championships at the Exhibition Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Herrera and Vargas, both unranked and making their PanAm Games debuts, began their shock journey to the men’s final after upsetting top-seeded Argentineans Robertino Pezzota and Leandro Romiglio in the quarter-finals.

The unheralded pair went on to take out higher-seeded Peruvians Andres Duany and Diego Elias to set up a final clash with Andrew Schnell and Graeme Schnell, fellow 5/8 seeds from Canada.

Herrera, 19, and 21-year-old Vargas took just 20 minutes to despatch Calgary’s Schnell brothers 11-6, 11-3 to claim Colombia’s second gold medal of the Games, following the men’s singles triumph by world No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

Grainger and Sobhy were unseeded in the women’s event – but wasted little time securing their place in the women’s final after beating Brazilians Tatiana Damasio Borges and Giovanna Veiga and second-seeded Colombians Catalina Pelaez and Laura Tovar.

“It’s not often you finish a match you’ve lost and feel awesome,” said Canadian No.1 Samantha Cornett after she and partner Nikki Todd took the US pair the full distance before going down 11-9, 9-11, 11-6.

“Fans came to the women’s doubles for excitement – and found it,” said World Squash Federation Vice President Linda MacPhail (action from the final pictured above). “The match was frantic and once the players took a break after the second game, it became a turning point.”

The triumph provided a second PanAm Games gold medal for both US partners (pictured above) – 38-year-old former world No.1 Grainger adding to her singles success in Brazil in 2007, and Sobhy, the 22-year-old world No.10 from New York, claiming her second in 24 hours after her Toronto singles title success.

“GOLD MEDAL for Team USA in the Doubles tonight!” Sobhy told her Twitters followers later. “So stoked to secure my 2nd PanAm gold medal tonight.”

Pan American Games Squash Championships, Toronto, Canada

Men’s Doubles quarter-finals:
[5/8] Andrés Herrera & Juan Vargas (COL) bt [1] Robertino Pezzota & Leandro Romiglio (ARG) 8-11, 11-6, 11-4
[3/4] Andres Duany & Diego Elias (PER) bt [5/8] Max Camiruaga & Sebastian Gallegos (CHI) 11-4, 11-7
[3/4] Christopher Gordon & Chris Hanson (USA) bt [5/8] Bryan Bonilla & Josue Enriquez (GUA) 11-10, 11-7
[5/8] Andrew Schnell & Graeme Schnell (CAN) bt [2] Eric Galvez & Arturo Salazar (MEX) 11-8, 10-11, 11-10

[5/8] Andrés Herrera & Juan Vargas (COL) bt [3/4] Andres Duany & Diego Elias (PER) 11-5, 11-2 (27m)
[5/8] Andrew Schnell & Graeme Schnell (CAN) bt [3/4] Christopher Gordon & Chris Hanson (USA) 11-10, 11-6 (39m)

[5/8] Andrés Herrera & Juan Vargas (COL) bt [5/8] Andrew Schnell & Graeme Schnell (CAN) 11-6, 11-3 (20m)

Women’s Doubles quarter-finals:
[1] Samantha Teran & Karla Urrutia (MEX) bt Giselle Delgado & Anita Pinto (CHI) 11-9, 8-11, 11-7
[3/4] Samantha Cornett & Nikki Todd (CAN) bt Pamela Anckermann & Winifer Bonilla (GUA) 11-7, 11-5
Natalie Grainger & Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [3/4] Tatiana Damasio Borges & Giovanna Veiga (BRA) 11-3, 11-10
[2] Catalina Pelaez & Laura Tovar (COL) bt Maria Antonella Falcione & Fernanda Rocha (ARG) 11-2, 11-6

[3/4] Samantha Cornett & Nikki Todd (CAN) bt [1] Samantha Teran & Karla Urrutia (MEX) 11-2, 11-7 (30m)
Natalie Grainger & Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [2] Catalina Pelaez & Laura Tovar (COL) 11-6, 11-6 (18m)

Natalie Grainger & Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [3/4] Samantha Cornett & Nikki Todd (CAN) 11-9, 9-11, 11-6 (32m) 


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From / Special feature on Canada’s silver sirens
Squash is one of those sports for which the Pan Am Games are one of the biggest competitions out there.

Following a visit from IOC President Thomas Bach earlier in the Games and an incredible response from the fans at Toronto 2015, it is definitely making a push for Olympic inclusion.

On Tuesday night, Canada captured a pair of silver medals in the women’s and men’s doubles events, thanks to two duos that many would say exceeded expectations.

The first gold medal match featured Guadalajara 2011 double medallist Samantha Cornett and Pan Am rookie Nikole Todd against Natalie Grainger and Amanda Sobhy of the United States. This one went back and forth, with the Americans taking the first game 11-9, before the Canadians thrilled the crowd by sending the match to a third and deciding game with their own 11-9 game. Grainger and Sobhy eventually took it 11-6.

The silver was quite the accomplishment considering Todd had never played softball doubles before, meaning they were working out their chemistry on the fly throughout the tournament.

“We spent a lot of time with each other,” said Cornett. “That’s the first thing that really helps a team. But I don’t think we had any trouble with chemistry. I think we complemented each other really well.”

“She has the shots, I have the speed,” cut in Todd.

“I actually think she has shots as well,” added Cornett. “We were a really good team.”

The veteran (Editor’s note: she’s only 24) continued to be effusive in her praise of Todd.

“Nikki, just watching her battle up and down that right wall gave me confidence to battle up and down the left,” said Cornett. “She wasn’t fazed at all. It was pretty cool. We’re going to take that with us into the next couple of days.”

The Canadians jump right back into action Wednesday morning in the team event, with high hopes to defend the gold from four years ago.

“Silver medal here is pretty cool,” said Cornett of playing in Toronto. “I think winning a gold would be way cooler. Finishing with a win would be awesome and that’s what we plan to do.”

As for the men, the Schnell brothers, Andrew and Graeme, admitted they were outclassed and outplayed by their Colombian opponents, Andres Herrera and Juan Vargas, who took the victory 11-6, 11-3 in front of the enthusiastic Canadian spectators.

“With the number of people that came out and supported us, it was definitely a treat to play in front of them. We’re kinda sorry we weren’t able to even crack these guys, even give them a match,” said Andrew. “All the credit to them. We tried a lot of different things. We resorted to just trying to hit the ball as hard as we could at the end because we didn’t know what else to do and even that didn’t work. They played really well today.”

For both brothers, the highlight was not just playing in their biggest event ever at home, but playing together.“It’s going to be pretty tough to top this one (Pan Am Games), eh?” said Graeme. “Even if I do make another one it’s not going to be the same. Obviously when we were down I think 10-3, 10-4 the crowd was still behind us and that’s something you can’t get anywhere else but Canada.”

“I’m not a team sport person. I’ve never been a team sport person,” said Andrew. “I’ve always enjoyed singles because I like to get the glory when I win and blame nobody else when I lose. But being able to share something like this and a silver medal with my brother is something that I’ll never forget and maybe maybe I have an increased appreciation for team sports now.”

They’ll also get a shot at revenge when they face the Colombians again on Wednesday in the team competition.

As for the sport’s Olympic aspirations, Cornett noted: “We’re doing the best that we can on the court and I know everyone’s doing the best they can off court to make squash an awesome spectacle and I think together it works really well and I hope the IOC sees it. I know the president of the IOC was here and he saw it so that’s pretty hopeful news for us. We definitely have our fingers crossed.”

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