Wonderful memories of the athletes’ village in KL as squash made its debut
With the Commonwealth Games just under two months away the excitement is building for the players and the game. It is going to be fantastic watching squash on the big stage in a multi sports event.
I was fortunate to compete in two Commonwealth Games in 1998 and 2002 so I thought over the next few weeks it might be fun to share some memories of my experiences both on and off the court.
Squash made its debut in 1998 with both singles and doubles events. Having only played doubles on a normal sized court it was a new experience on a wider court. Though saying that everything was a new experience at the Commonwealth Games.
So after much preparation and build-up we the England Team (myself, Sue Wright, Linda Charman, Jane Martin, Suzanne Horner, Simon Parke, Paul Johnson, Mark Chaloner, Mark Cairns, Chris Walker, Manager-Stuart Courtney and coaches David Pearson and John Milton) arrived in Kuala Lumpur.
I had been to Kuala Lumpur many times previously but this time from when we landed it seemed to have a different feel. Then, once we arrived in the Athletes Village, the realisation that we were actually here definitely kicked in.
Athletes of all shapes and sizes from different countries were walking around and, being a bit of a sad sports nut, I was trying to spot athletes that I recognised.
Each country was housed in an apartment block so you got to meet people from different sports. I remember the English Rugby, Boxing, and Badminton athletes being particularly friendly and there seemed a real camaraderie amongst Team England.
With a few days to acclimatize we trained and also soaked up the atmosphere in the village and particularly in the food hall which by the way was an amazing place. It had nearly every kind of food available 24 hours a day and was a real meeting place.
One day when we were having something to eat there was a rumble of noise and we turned round to see what was happening and there walking in was the All Blacks Rugby Team. It really was a sight to see and you couldn’t help but look at this imposing group of man mountains. I didn’t envy the English Rugby men trying to tackle them.
So after a few days we had the opening ceremony. In front of 100,000 people I walked into the stadium with my fellow team mates and all the athletes from Team England. It was a fantastic atmosphere and something I had never experienced before and I don’t think I had felt such a buzz in my England kit and the added bonus was we got to see the Queen!
The next day the actual business of competing started with the singles event and it was back down to earth. I was seeded to reach the semi-finals which in the end I did, losing to Sarah Fitzgerald and getting a bronze medal (no play-off back then thank goodness!).
I was delighted to win a medal but this wasn’t without a big scare along the way. I had to play Claire Nitch from South Africa in the round of last 16. We had played a few times on the tour and she was always a tricky opponent.
For some reason that day I felt really nervous and with Claire playing well I found myself 2-1 and match ball down. I was about an inch away from losing as Claire had me stranded in the back corner and just had to hit the ball up at the front.
She didn’t and clipped the top of the tin and from there I managed to claw my way back into the match and win the fifth comfortably. For me that match really brought home how different the Commonwealth Games was. That if I had lost that match I would have had to wait another four years before I had the chance to play again and try to win a medal.
Once the final was played in which Michelle Martin won the gold medal beating Sarah Fitzgerald we had the medal ceremony where I was presented with my bronze medal. It felt fantastic to be standing on the podium and the congratulations we got back in the village from other athletes was pretty special too.
Back at the apartment there was a celebratory cup of tea and an early night as the quest to win another medal started the next day. Bring on the doubles!! Here’s a list of the medal haul in Malaysia.
|Men’s singles||Peter Nicol (SCO)||Jonathon Power (CAN)|| Alex Gough (WAL)
Paul Johnson (ENG)
|Women’s singles||Michelle Martin (AUS)||Sarah Fitz-Gerald (AUS)|| Cassie Jackman (ENG)
Sue Wright (ENG)
|Men’s doubles||Mark Chaloner & Paul Johnson (ENG)||Byron Davis & Rodney Eyles (AUS)|| Mark Cairns & Chris Walker (ENG)
Stuart Cowie & Peter Nicol (SCO)
|Women’s doubles||Cassie Jackman & Sue Wright (ENG)||Robyn Cooper & Rachael Grinham (AUS)|| Sarah Fitz-Gerald & Carol Owens (AUS)
Natalie Grainger & Claire Nitch (RSA)
|Mixed doubles||Craig Rowland & Michelle Martin (AUS)||Simon Parke & Suzanne Horner (ENG)|| Glen Wilson & Sarah Cook (NZL)
Rodney Durbach & Natalie Grainger (RSA)
Pictures from the Squash Mad archive