France’s Thierry Lincou announces his retirement
Framboise Gommendy reports
The first-ever Frenchman to reach the World Number One status, also World Champion, 23 Tour titles from 44 final appearances, twice European Champion, 11 times French Champion, and one of only four players to have maintained themselves in the top 10 without interruption for 10 years, Thierry Lincou, “the Guv” as the French nicknamed him, has decided to call it a day.
If he is officially retiring from the PSA (Professional Squash Association) Tour, he will still come back and support “Les Bleus” in June 2013, in Mulhouse, for the World Men’s Team Championships.
For now though, the Frenchman, originally from La Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, but who has been settled in Marseille for a few years now, just arrived in Boston, USA, where he is about to start a new career outside sports (more about that in a few months), while still coaching promising American junior players.
“I was seeing players of my generation retiring one after the other, David Palmer, Stewart Boswell. And I had been thinking very seriously about my reconversion,” explained Lincou.
“I received a few interesting offers recently, and I felt that maybe, I was starting to lose a bit of motivation. A year more could have been the year too many, as my recent physical niggles made me realise I was not getting any younger, and that it was harder and harder to maintain myself at the highest level.”
It’s a completely new page that Thierry is about to write, as he has moved to the States with Céline his wife and his two daughters, Jade and Paola.
“Céline and I went to spend a few days in Boston back in May. We truly enjoyed our time there, and we were reassured of the fact the environment suited us to a T, and would make our children happy.”
He cannot help himself being emotional when he thinks about what he is leaving behind.
“I’m leaving a whole chunk of my life in Marseille. The “Marseille Set Club” was my second home. I’m leaving behind my sparring partners, my squash mates and all the friends we’ve made here, and that goes for the four of us.”
Does he have a few regrets about his career? Yes. Like not winning the British Open – despite reaching two finals (against Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier), or just missing out on the World Team title in Odense, in 2009.
“I can still see myself in Denmark, in that decider against [Amr] Shabana, I had seven game balls in the third and fourth that I just couldn’t transform. It was a very high quality match, but I lost against a Shabana as imperial as ever in the crucial moments.”
For the memorable moments, of course he mentions his World Open title which he grabbed against Lee Beachill in December 2004, saving a match ball in the fourth.
“Yes, that was a highly enjoyable match. I saved that famous match ball in a very aggressive way that surprised even myself. I went for every shot, no holds barred, I took my chances, a succession of drop shots and volleying. And it worked.”
And of course, he still smiles thinking about his world number one ranking, which he reached for the first time in January 2004 after reaching his first World Open final in Pakistan in December 2003 against Shabana.
“For months and months I was working hard to try to be as consistent as possible, to keep a good points average on the circuit, to reach that number one position.
“A little anecdote: in July 2003 I was training in Tignes, high in the mountains, and I remember taking a funicular on my own, up to 3,300m, and writing on a stone ‘World Number 1’.
“That ranking, that status, I wanted it. Bad.”
Thierry keeps excellent memories of England and Egypt in particular.
“I would like to thank England really, as I improved my game so much at the start of my career when I used to stay in Wallingford, at Scott Handley’s.
“It gave me the opportunity to train with high quality players, and also to play my first National League matches. Then, I did very well in that country, winning a fair number of tournaments there. England inspired me in shaping my game and fighting spirit.
“I’m also grateful to Egypt for what I learned during my frequent travels to Cairo, and I have a special thought for all those players with whom I trained and who helped enrich my game.”
The “Guv” doesn’t forget who made him who is today, both professionally and from a personal point of view.
“So many people to thank – I am probably forgetting a few: first, coaches, Ludovic Bassora, Bernard Barabé; then my mentors, my “masters”, Paul Sciberras and Franck Carlino, faithful companions for 20 years, thanks to whom I reached the top.
“The French Federation, for all the logistic support they brought me since an early age.
“Claude Duhart, my first ever sponsor, who helped me to get on the pro circuit.
“My teenage friends who supported and helped me train in La Réunion, when I used to get my training programs from my coaches via faxes! And not forgetting my faithful sparring partners, Renan Lavigne, Julien Balbo, Isa Stoehr, and of course Greg Gaultier.
“Then there is my main sponsor Tecnifibre, whose international recognition went hand to hand with mine, and with whom I’ve been working now for 12 years.
“We finish with those who have been guiding me for years, my parents and my brother, with their infallible love and support.
“And my rock, my Commander, Céline my wife, and my daughters, Jade & Paola, my energy source.”
Of course he is proud of his career achievements, but he feels he has other sources of pride as well.
“First of all, let me say how proud I was to have been chosen by the WSF to present the 2016 Olympic Bid in Lausanne. That was a fantastic experience.
“Also, a few more people in the world have now heard of my birth place, Réunion Island…
“Squash also allowed me to discover so many countries, and to be a better man through the diversity of the extraordinary people I have met over the years. And thanks to Squash, I even discovered France, through so many clubs scattered all over!
“I spent so many great moments with my Club Teams, with the French Team, thanks to my team partners, team managers and National Coaches, John Elstob and André Delhoste.
“I would like to wish good luck to Renan in his new job as French national coach, to Greg to clinch that World Title, and a beautiful medal for France in Mulhouse 2013, where I will meet my supporters and friends, and defend French colours for the last time.”
For the full report with photos, quotes from Thierry’s peers and colleagues, history of his achievements, a French version of the story and more, please visit: www.sitesquash.com/