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Friday, February 28, 2014

Q&A with Peter Lasusa


Former US Squash Chairman, Peter R. Lasusa, Jr.

Last June Peter Lasusa finished his four year term as the Chairman of US Squash. He had served on the organization's Board for the last nine years.  When he initially got involved it was known as the USSRA, but Peter oversaw way more than just a name change.  He recognized early on a need for a change in the governance structures and implemented big changes during his tenure that led to a dramatic turnaround in the prospects of the organization.  Membership has doubled, participation has doubled and revenues have more than doubled.  And the US Open is among the premier squash tournaments in the world.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How I Remember my Countryman, Nelson Mandela


Mandela handing over the Rugby World Cup winners trophy in 1995

I grew up in the Eastern Cape in South Africa during the height of the apartheid era in the late 70's and 80's, in a part of the country now known as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Area.

Being a white person growing up in that environment meant living with certain privileges.  But it also meant I was handicapped without even knowing it, as were all the other boys at the boarding school which I attended.  You see, we had a tainted view of the world. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Youthful reflections on the British Junior Open


Ayush Menon

Below is an article written by Ayush Menon, a young man of Indian descent who is a Junior US Open Squash champion in his age group.  Ayush is a first generation American and at the age of 12 years has already accomplished much in the game of squash. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

An analysis of the IOC voting processes

 
London, England, site of the 2012 Summer Olympics, which squash just narrowly missed being a part of 
In order for a new sport to get voted into the Olympics, first it needs to be recognized by the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF), a sister organization to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This body essentially monitors the 'B list' of sports that are not in the Olympics but perhaps could be. They facilitate a big convention on a regular basis called SportAccord. Delegates from all of the member federations of the B list sports (e.g. squash, karate, bowling, motorcycling, surfing) come to these conventions to showcase their sports and share ideas with others and attempt to get the visibility that is required in order to get onto the Olympic A list.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Q&A with Karim Darwish

Karim Darwish, Egyptian professional squash player

Karim Darwish, of Cairo, Egypt, is one of the world’s best professional squash players. His list of accomplishments in the sport is impressive. As a young man Karim won the World Junior title and then the World University Championships. In 2009, at the age of 27 and after over a decade on the professional tour, he attained the PSA world number one position. As a seasoned professional, Karim Darwish has Captained Egypt to the World Team Championships twice. In 2009 he received the PSA "Player of the Year" award in tribute of his extraordinary success. Darwish is still ranked at number five in the world today and has had an unbroken stretch in the PSA world top ten since October 2007. He has also attained the remarkable achievement of 25 major tournament titles during his illustrious career as a squash professional.

I recently got the privilege of asking Karim a few questions about his squash career and his life in general. Here is our conversation:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Squash and the Olympics - The Final Chapter?


Roger Federer with Nicol David, long time squash world number one from Malaysia
Which sport is the best choice for the 2020 Olympics? The answer is obvious to me. As is probably evident by now I have done a lot of research on this topic, not out of any obligation, but because I am fascinated by how the process works and also because I think that the sport of squash deserves to be more popular than it is. So, please indulge me again whilst this squash blog temporarily becomes a blog about the Olympics. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Squash and the Olympics Part Four

When the result of the IOC Executive Board vote regarding the new sport for the 2020 Olympics was revealed last week, I was very relieved that squash made the shortlist along with wrestling and baseball/softball (baseball and softball joined forces and are considered one sport).  But, honestly, the more overwhelming sensation was a sick feeling deep in the pit of my stomach.

The reason I was uncomfortable about the decision was because wrestling was the clear favorite of the IOC Board during this vote.  I suspected that this would happen after comments made by Jacques Rogge, the outgoing IOC president.  In September this year his twelve year term will be over and the IOC will have a new president.  That vote on a new sport for 2020 will take place at the IOC general assembly meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  A host city will also be selected for 2020 at that time.  For the record:  There is only a single spot for a ‘new’ sport.  Two of the three sports on the shortlist have already been in the Olympic sports program, so to say they are ‘new’ would be an inaccurate description.  For the sake of inclusiveness, transparency, fairness and advancement of the Olympic movement, one would think that the choice faced by the IOC membership is an easy one.  Just vote for the sport that has never been in the Games and has never been kicked out.  That is, vote for squash.   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Squash and the Olympics Part Three


Ramy Ashour immediately before his first serve to Simon Rosner in their KPMG Grand Slam Cup match

This Wednesday in Frankfurt, Germany, the condensed single night squash tournament that was made popular in Boston arrived in continental Europe.  A US company run by John Nimick called Event Engine hosted the inaugural KPMG Grand Slam Cup in Frankfurt, Germany.  The games format for these one day events is shortened to make the events more entertaining for the crowd.  And they have also introduced a sudden death third game decider that makes for nail-biting viewing for the spectators as well as the large online TV audience.  Furthermore, the fact that there were no PSA ranking points on the line (which would be the case if squash were played in the Olympics) created an almost exhibition-type atmosphere where everyone was quite relaxed and where the players' complete arsenal of shots were laid bare.  The lucky spectators at the cocktail tables at the foot of the court, those in the stands on either side, the office workers peering in from the glass cubicles above and all of those watching live on PSASquashTV could appreciate the players' full set of talents on display.  Everyone could see the play very clearly and follow the white ball perfectly.  The game of squash has a come a long way in terms of visual appeal.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wizards of Oz

The final four before play began - the English in red, the Australians in white
This weekend Adam Scott became the first Australian to ever win the Green Jacket at the Masters Golf in Augusta, Georgia. There are two other Australian sportsmen who play a highly competitive, yet not entirely dissimilar ballsport who are no strangers to major success.  During this same four-day period over which the Masters was contested, Australians Damien Mudge and Ben Gould were playing together as partners in their second consecutive finals of the NetJets World Squash Doubles Championships in New York.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Q&A with a World Number One


Damien Mudge, doubles squash player
 The Trinity College men’s squash team in Connecticut is not the only one that has been dominating the game of squash in the US for the last decade and a half. There is a doubles squash player who has been dominating that version of the game over the same time period.

The head pro at the University Club in New York is thirty six year old Damien Mudge of Adelaide, Australia. The University Club of New York houses one of the oldest squash clubs in the United States and is the largest by members. Damien has been head pro there for the last twelve years and has been the world number one hardball doubles squash player for almost all of that time.

The hardball doubles tour is a uniquely North American phenomenon and you may be surprised to know that the prize money is more in aggregate than what singles players earn playing tournaments in the US. This means many of the world’s top PSA professionals move to the US after their PSA days and coach and play on the doubles tour. So, Mudge has plenty of competition.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Q&A with a Giant Killer


Stephen Coppinger, Tournament of Champions 2013 Giant Killer
 At the recent Tournament of Champions in New York City one player caused a few huge upsets and entered the fray of top men's professional squash. Twenty eight year old Stephen Coppinger, South Africa's number one squash player, is enjoying the best run of his professional career right now. Coppinger was world number twenty three going into the event, so he was seeded to lose to Peter Barker (English world number eight) but beat him in the first round. In the second, he should have lost to Adrian Grant (English world number seventeen). He beat Grant in five games, something which very few players ever do. Grant is notorious for his fitness and mental strength and his good record at winning five setters. This makes what Stephen did even more notable, considering that he beat Grant 11-1 in the fifth game of their ToC match.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Ryder Cup of Squash

Not a terrible view greeting you when you fly in to Bermuda
Every November for the last five years, I have attended the Bermuda Squash Challenge. This year there were sixty four amateur squash players from various countries around the world in attendance. The nations represented were the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Bermuda of course. It is never very hard for those that travel to enjoy everything the island has to offer. There is world class golf, sailing, snorkeling and diving; and at the end of one of these long hard days in the sun one can enjoy a nice refreshing 'dark and stormy' or two, or more.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Q&A with Alison Waters


England's Alison Waters on court against world number one, Nicol David
Last week at the most recent Women’s Squash Association professional event, the Carol Weymuller Open at Brooklyn Heights Casino in New York, long time world number one and tournament favorite, Nicol David, was beaten 3-1 by someone who came through the qualifying draw for the event. That qualifier’s name is Alison Waters. This should not have been such a big surprise.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Q&A with Sam Cornett

Samantha Cornett, Canadian professional squash player
All of the world's best women (literally) compete in the Carol Weymuller tournament at Brooklyn Heights Casino next week.  And then again in the US Open in Philadelphia two weeks thereafter.  Nicol David of Malaysia, the long time women's world number one, is playing in both events.  She has never won either of them but is favored to win both.  At the last WSA world tour stop in Malaysia a few weeks ago, however, she surprisingly lost in the final to the world number two, Raneem El Weleily of Egypt.  They have played many times over the years and this was the very first time that Raneem had beaten Nicol.  They continue their rivalry over the next two tournaments in the US.  We are privileged to get to see this potential magma shift in the game happening live in New York and then only an hour away in Philly.  I encourage you to get to these events if you can, as this is a rare opportunity.     

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Squash and the Olympics Part Two

Usain Bolt, fastest man ever, is an avid cricketer, but has he hit a squash ball?
Thank God the Olympics are over. I did not get anything done for two weeks. Come evening time all I could think about was getting home to watch the day’s events on TV. The coverage was incredible. In the US it seemed there were at least three cable channels almost entirely dedicated to the Games, so one could have easily spent the full two weeks on the couch. I really don't need this kind of temptation.

Thinking back, there were so many stand out moments during the Games that it is hard to choose just one favorite. I enjoyed seeing Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt achieve greatness and watching the Fab Five win the team gold in the women's gymnastics.  And who can forget Misty and Kerri's third straight gold in the highly entertaining women's beach volleyball, or the inspirational efforts of double amputee Oscar Pistorius in the 400m?  He competes again in the Paralympics starting next week in London. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Squash and the Olympics Part One


Squash is in the running to be included in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. A reliable source once told me that a few decades ago squash simply had to formally apply to the IOC and it would have been guaranteed entry into the Games, but the powers that be (in squash) dragged their feet and did not apply. Then when they decided they wanted in, it was too late. One wonders what the motivation was to keep the sport out of the Games. During the 1970's squash was one of the preeminent sports in the world. Winning the British Open was the highest honor, it was the de facto World Champs at the time, and it was competed for by the best squash players from many countries around the world. I am sure those squash players would have opted to play for Olympic Gold had they gotten the chance. One can only hope that the decision at the time was made for good reasons, with the best interests of the sport in mind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Q&A with Donna Urquhart


Donna Urquhart, Australian professional squash player

Donna Urquhart was born in December 1986 in Yamba, a small town on the east coast of Australia popular for its good surfing. This tall and powerful squash player made her break through into the top twenty in 2010 after a year of strong results. In fact, at the Cayman Islands Open early that year she nearly took out world number two Jenny Duncalf, after losing a close fifth game. Since then Urquhart has shown she can hang with the world's very best players. Recently she beat both Madeline Perry and Kasey Brown, two players ranked higher than her in the current world rankings. Clearly Urquhart has a lot of upside potential.

Monday, April 30, 2012

(A Day in the Future of) Your Perfect Squash Facility


 A busy day in New York City

As you approach the National Squash Center building from the nearby downtown Manhattan subway stop on this cool but sunny Saturday afternoon, you see that the bicycle racks near the front entrance are near to full.  Great, you think to yourself, this means there are lots of people inside.  Pretty normal, but you still find it a welcome surprise after six months as a member at the club, as it makes for a nice ending to a day in the City.  A friend of yours is parking his shiny new motorbike across the street. "Hey man, what's up?" you say. He saunters over with a smile on his face. "I'm good, thanks. Nice evening for squash huh?" "Yip" is your only reply. It's all you really need to say to your friend; he get's it. You walk into the club together.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Best of Both

James Willstrop, immediately after reaching world number one for the first time

Last month James Willstrop did something very impressive... he beat Ramy Ashour 3-0 in the finals of a major PSA tournament the day after Ramy had beaten Nick Matthew in convincing fashion. Ramy is widely considered the most talented player on the tour and has been world number one himself.  Many assumed that Ramy would beat James too.  I was one of them, admittedly, after seeing what happened in the semis versus Matthew. This was a battle between the top Egyptian squash player of his generation versus the two best Englishmen on the planet right now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Will Ramy Roar in Richmond?



Which of the world's best squash professionals will win the next big tournament on US soil, the North American Open next week.  To watch this impressive promo video click HERE
 There are three big Professional Squash Association (PSA) tournaments in the United States every season. The US Open was in Philly at the end of last year and the Tournament of Champions (ToC) just finished in New York. You would expect the third tournament to be in another major squash hub, like Boston, but it is not. It is two hours south of Washington DC, in Virginia.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Q&A with Nick Matthew

Nick Matthew in a match against a big rival recently, Amr Shabana

Nick Matthew is easily one of the best English professionals in the history of the game of squash, a sport invented in the country of his birth.  He was PSA world number one for all of 2010, has been world champion twice, has two Commonwealth individual gold medals and has led his English compatriots to the World Teams title twice, and the European Teams title seven times.  On American soil he has won North American Open twice and the US Open once.  Unfortunately though, he has never won the Tournament of Champions (ToC) in New York.  This could change in the next week and he could potentially add this title to a long list of tournament wins during his illustrious career. I asked Nick Matthew a few general questions yesterday in New York. You can read his answers, some of which may surprise you, below. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cornell Takes it to Trinity

The Trinity College Mascot above the squash offices, a blue and yelllow Bantam
 
The Trinity College Men's Squash Team has won two hundred and fifty consecutive college matches over the course of the last thirteen years. It is the longest unbeaten streak in the history of US college sports. The men's team coach, Paul Assaiante, is now a legend of the game and is the current US National head coach. He even consults for the New England Patriots football team. He knows how to get the best out of a sports team.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Q&A with Yasir Butt

Yasir Ali Butt, Pakistani professional squash player

Yasir Ali Butt is a professional squash player from Lahore, Pakistan. He is a friend of Baset Chaudhry, of Trinity College fame. They played together on the Pakistani junior national team. Yasir is currently a member of the senior national team, the team that underperformed in the world champs in Paderborn, Germany, a few months ago and was then controversially banned by the Pakistani Squash Federation from playing any events in his home country for eighteen months.

So he recently moved to the US to pursue his squash career.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Blood, Sweat and Cheers


The clubhouse at the Rockaway Hunting Club in Cedarhurst, Long Island, NY

There is a quiet little neighborhood an hour outside of New York City on the south shore of Long Island where, in 1878, the Rockaway Hunting Club was founded. As one would imagine, the primary sports at the outset were fox hunting, steeplechase racing and polo. Rockaway was particularly well known for its strong polo team. They frequently won the national championships and the club boasted many of the best polo players in the country. But the playing fields and paddocks have long since given way to eighteen grass tennis courts and a short but deceptively challenging golf course. The old stable house still stands; it is used as storage space for equipment and machinery. The oldest sport that remains is skeet shooting.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Moneyball

St. Louis Cardinals celebration immediately after winning the World Series
Last Friday night, the St. Louis Cardinals won their eleventh World Series Finals after a nail-biting seven game finale to the season. I was in downtown St. Louis that night-Washington Ave was a sea of red and white.  The celebration was ridiculous.  It reminded me of the Boston Red Sox win in 2004 where they came back from three games down against the Yankees and ultimately ended up winning their first world championship after almost a century of baseball, ending the curse of the Bambino.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Q&A with Amr Shabana

Egyptian squash legend, Amr Shabana, holds aloft the US Open trophy in 2009

This week I had the privilege of sitting down with Egyptian squash legend, Amr Shabana.  I have never met anyone with such a record of achievement in the game (look him up if you don't know the name, in which case where have you been(!)) and so I was a little nervous asking some of these questions as I was not exactly sure how Shabana would respond.  I was very relieved that Amr is not only a genius on the squash court but he is also a total gentleman, a great conversationalist, and has a real love for squash that is conveyed in the passion with which he speaks about the game.  Oh, and he knows more about the history of the international game than anyone I have ever met.  Hands down.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Power of One

A picture of Maria from her youth
Maria stands next to her four brothers at the soccer coaching camp where her dad dropped them off and introduces herself to the coach with a boy’s name. The brothers don’t flinch as they know she can hang with them physically; they have been getting into brawls with the neighborhood kids for years. Maria’s hair is cut short and she is in pants and looks like a boy. She even has a scar through her right eyebrow that reminds her of all the fights she got into as a kid (she took a rock to the head for that one).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Q&A with Hisham Ashour

Hisham Ashour, professional squash player

For those who don't know, Egyptian professional squash player, Hisham Ashour, is the older brother of Ramy Ashour, a world number one (currently he is at two).  Ramy is one of the most gifted of all the squash players on the PSA circuit right now, and he is not the only one in the family.  Hisham is also an extremely talented squash player, but he has not achieved the same success in recent years as his younger brother.  Occasionally, Hisham has been accused of being an underachiever, given his incredible abilities.  But he has been putting in hard work this past season and has shot up in the world rankings to PSA number 13 - and he may still go higher.  He is most famous for the Mazuki shot (check it out here: Mazuki video).  He is also very well liked by many of the other top professional squash players.  One gets the sense that he is like a big brother to many of them, not just Ramy, leading by example on court and through his enthusiasm and love of the game. A little while ago in New York I got the rare opportunity to talk with him -

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Suddenly a Sailor


James and I putting out the spinnaker the first day (before the storm)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that around the time the Printing House Squash Club was getting broken down last year, a squash friend of mine from the club sold his apartment, pulled his kids out of school, bought a 55 foot Catamaran and sailed off into the sunset, you know, in the hopes of spending the winter in the Caribbean and then the summer loping around the Mediterranean. You can read that article here: From Bermuda With Love.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Double The Fun

Damien Mudge getting out of the way of a speeding bullet

Last week I watched the finals of the last professional doubles tournament for the season, the Player’s Championship. The matches were played in Long Island and in New York City. On court for the finals were three Australians and one British squash player. What you may not know is that all the Aussies on court were from the same town, Adelaide. And two of them even went to the same school - Prince Alfred College.