‘I’m 33 years young and looking forward to my fourth games,’ says Gold Coast
By ALAN THATCHER and DAVE WORSLEY
A seven-player New Zealand squash team has been confirmed for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games led by current world men’s No.1 Paul Coll and defending Commonwealth singles and doubles champion, Joelle King.
King is delighted to be heading for her fourth Games, having appeared at Delhi, Glasgow and Gold Coast, and says she still feels young at 33.
The team is:
Paul Coll – men’s singles, mixed doubles with Joelle King
Lwamba Chilese – men’s doubles, men’s singles
Temwa Chileshe – men’s doubles, men’s singles
Joelle King – women’s singles, mixed doubles with Paul Coll, and women’s doubles with Amanda Landers-Murphy
Amanda Landers-Murphy – women’s doubles with Joelle King
Kaitlyn Watts – women’s doubles with Abbie Palmer, women’s singles
Abbie Palmer – women’s doubles with Kaitlyn Watts
King won three medals at the last edition of the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia. She took gold in the women’s singles, gold in the women’s doubles alongside Amanda-Landers Murphy, and bronze alongside Paul Coll in the mixed doubles.
King, the world No.5 ranked women’s player, said: “I’m very honoured to be selected for my fourth Commonwealth Games. At my first one at age 21 in Delhi, if you had told me then I would be going to my fourth games in Birmingham I would have laughed, but you know here I am 33 years young.
“I’m hoping to have another huge Games for squash and I’m excited to be part of this team. We’ve got the three of us who have been there before and some youngsters coming through which is exciting to see them experience it for the first time. I’m looking forward to pulling the silver fern over my chest once again.”
Coll will be appearing in his third Commonwealth Games having played at Glasgow and Gold Coast, where he claimed a silver in the men’s singles, losing in the final to England’s James Willstrop, and bronze in the mixed with King.
“I’m very happy to be selected for a third Commonwealth Games and I’m looking forward to heading to Birmingham where I spend a lot of time training with my coach, so it feels like a second home for me,” said Coll. “I can’t wait to pull on the silver fern again.”
Another experienced team member is Amanda Landers-Murphy, who will suit up for her third Games. The left-hander will play doubles with King, where she was the star of the final four years ago when the pair produced a gold medal.
New to the team are brothers, Lwamba and Temwa Chileshe who have recently spent six months training overseas with some of the world’s best, as well as representing New Zealand at the world doubles championship.
Since returning home the pair have faced each other in the finals of the Barfoot & Thompson Panmure and Auckland Opens, with Lwamba 23 beating Temwa 21 on both occasions for the title.
Lwamba was born in Zambia but arrived in New Zealand as a youngster while Temwa was born in Christchurch. They are currently training in the UK with former Commonwealth champion Nick Matthew, the three-times world champion, and will play doubles together with places in the singles as well.
Also new to the team are Kaitlyn Watts and Abbie Palmer. Watts, 21 is one of eight siblings from the Manawatu (five brothers, two sisters). She has been based in the northern hemisphere over the past six months training and playing in PSA events.
“It’s great to be selected in my first New Zealand team and I can’t wait to get to Birmingham and start competing in my first Commonwealth Games,” said Watts.
Both Watts and Palmer have represented New Zealand in team events, but this will be their first Commonwealth Games. Watts will also compete in the women’s singles.
Left-hander Palmer from the North Shore Club in Auckland will play doubles with Watts. Together at the World Doubles Champs they scored some good results.
Four years ago, the squash team finished with four medals; gold for King in singles, doubles with Landers-Murphy and mixed bronze with Coll. Coll also claiming a silver in men’s singles.
Previously King claimed bronze in singles at Glasgow, silver in Dehli in mixed and gold in women’s doubles with Jaclyn Hawkes.
The coach for the team is former pro Glen Wilson, who was head coach at Gold Coast 2018 and won a mixed doubles bronze medal at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games with Sarah Cook and a mixed gold medal at the 2022 Manchester Games with Leilani Joyce.
Paul Hornsby from the North Shore Club in Auckland is the assistant coach.
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and NZ Olympic Committee