CHENNAI : As the individual events came to an end at the World Junior Squash Championships on Monday, the focus shifted to the boys’ team event. Egyptians — who were the runners-up in the last edition at Bielsko-Biala (Poland) in 2016 — were given the top seeding after their dominating run in the singles category. But the surprise is the team immediately below them in the seedings table. Canada. Considering the racquet sport is way down in the popularity stakes (below ice hockey, lacrosse, football and basketball) , it is impressive to see their juniors in second place. Even in the singles event, three players advanced to the R16 stage. So how did a team that only finished 11th in 2016, enjoy a significant jump?
Coach Jonathan Hill attributes this improved show to the increase in the number of international tournaments over the last couple of years. “Three of our players were not seeded. But they made it to Round of 16 in the singles event. Canada’s number one Julian Gosset has been fantastic. Julian along with James Flynn and George Crowne can provide a tough competition as a team,” Hill said. “They played British Junior Open, Pan American Championship, the Cologne and the Dutch Cup. Each year, they play the Canadian Junior open in December and US Junior Open in December and the British event in January. The more they play the better they become.”
Talking about the popularity of the racquet sport back home, Bill said after the 1980s it is gaining momentum. “When Jonathon Power was playing, people were fond of squash. He was the first North American squash player to be World No 1. The team even reached semifinals of the World Championships in the mid-80s. After that, we had one memorable outing in 2010 in Ecuador where we were in the last eight. In Canada, cities like cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary are very much into the squash. Everyone knows ice hockey is the most popular sport, but more people are aware of squash now.”
Being seeded second in the tournament, Hill said that current bunch is a better side than those in the previous editions because of the adaptability of the players. “This team has very good depth. Most of the times a country will have one or two strong players but this year we have four players who are very interchangeable. All of them can play in different positions. Though they have a unique style of play, they are strong as a team. They play in a very structured manner. This side is versatile, which is why I believe we got the second seed.”Win their next match against Argentina early on Wednesday and they will be in the knockouts. firstname.lastname@example.org