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Squash for Olympics

Warren Yee
Friday, March 01, 2013

AS September nears, when the international Olympic committee (IOC) will sit in Buenos Aires to decide on adding one sport, squash is attracting waves of support through the World Squash Federation's (WSF) latest Squash Back the Bid initiatives using Twitter ID 'vote4squash and #vote 4squash'.

Such high profile personalities including cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh are backing inclusion of squash in the Olympic program for the 2020 Summer Games.

Ahead of the first Test against Australia, the three Indian cricketers posted their picture on Twitter holding a banner that read: "I back squash, would you?" Their support for the racquet sport comes a week after tennis icon Roger Federer endorsed squash's debut in the 2020 Games. "I started with a wooden racquet in squash," Federer had said after meeting women's world No.1 squash player Nicol David in Rotterdam. "It's a wonderful sport. I think squash deserves to be in the Olympics, they run a great tour with great personalities. I'd be very happy for them personally. I used to play every Sunday with my dad," Federer said.

The IOC will vote in September to add one sport. Karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboard and wushu are also in the mix, along with a joint bid from baseball and softball. A final vote of IOC members will confirm the successful candidate in Buenos Aires this September. Squash officials trumpet that their sport is played in 175 different countries (including Fiji), its top athletes would participate at the Games and that a portable court could be set up beside any iconic venue in the host city.

In light of the above article on Squash Back the Bid 2020, I see these words fitting to share with the squash community particularly the current local crop of young squash enthusiasts many of whom I continue to have the privilege to share my knowledge of the game and a few who are already at national level squash and exceeding their wildest expectations.

They include young competitors such as Justin Ho, Marika Matanatabu, Sidhu Iyer, Nitesh Singh, Andre Roxburgh, Jioji Simpson, Vanessa Roxburgh, Natasha Roxburgh, Janice Chan, Alison Yee, Nicolla Chan, Nelly Tukana, Fook Tukana, Neel Tukana, and many others.

Here is a matter of fact story of squash legends so far locally to back up the case of our fairly ambitious aims.

Many might have heard of Winston Thompson, a revered squash great of Fiji, whom I must credit the following quote (from 18 years ago) with as our then junior team (Vimlesh Naidu, Ifran Mohammad, Dinesh Parmeshwar, Jonathan S, Edward Kumar) left to compete in the first Oceania Junior Squash Championship in Brisbane: "Although you will all be experiencing the many challenges and obstacles that must test you, I acknowledge and encourage your continuing efforts to bring out the best in yourself that is the result of your dedication to the game, sincerity, self-discipline, respect, appreciation for one another; your sportsman-like humility in winning and your joy of competing towards the games."

His well-known crunch-line is "affix the end firmly in sight and just work it backwards to see where you are now, from here, just follow your heart!"

Another revered squash great is Vijay Krishnan who insists on absorbing and enforcing the pressure on all opposition that saw his success in the squash scene locally for several years. He's nick-named 'Pressure' for he would refuse to take the easy kill and he was able to focus on the game with powerful concentration. A player who fancied hard work more than pure talent.

Dennis Fong, a master tactician and fine stroke-player would not give an inch when it comes to capitalising on the prospect of gaining tactical or psychological advantage in order to advance his game. Dennis happened to be my greatest rival in squash.

Susie Yee is the unparalleled squash queen of the 80s who probably retired undefeated with her highly credible rival Lillian Gardner taking the reins after that.

Later came Wati Swan and Rita Takiveikata who were both distinguished forces for national representation in the women's category. Wati dedicated herself for two years and represented Fiji in 1997 making a name for herself as 'The No.1'. Takiveikata achieved a doubles gold medal for Fiji partnering with me in 2007. Rita shows a kind of tenacity that is probably only matched by the beauty of her written vocabulary.

Takiveikata decided to retire in 2011 following an injury just before the Pacific Games. Through several years of dedication Rita continues to be a valuable influence on the development of juniors in Lautoka.

Willie Valentine, a classic, complete squash player. His touch on court was thrilling to watch. He made a tremendous mark on the history of Squash Fiji becoming the first to win gold at Regional Pacific Cup 1983. (Thanks to Willie too, I am the second, 2007, Samoa Pacific Games).

Most recently, Justin Ho and Marika Matanatabu emerged as a formidable force. Ho earning national titles in 2008, 2010, 2011. Marika just under 17 years old, is matching the likes of Ho, 22, upsetting him in the BSP national play-offs last week and taking him out in the final of the 2012 P Kumar Open. Their dedication to the sport is a vital example for many young aspirants. They are expected to feature prominently in this weekend's BSP Nationals finals.

In the women's category, the top four contenders are Janice Chan, Natasha Roxburgh, Mavi Matanatabu and Alison Yee.

From what I've seen lately, they are expected to be pretty hungry as the finals gate opens today.

Do I hear one quip: "No offense
but we are here to win" or do I hear "Defense is the best offence" Good luck ladies. I know you won't hold back anything you've practised in hard training.

Among other top A graders, the likes of ever improving newcomer veteran Bruce Southwick, former National reps Sailesh Pala, Fili Lesuma and the Suva Juniors with 70 others are gracing the Defence Club and Northern Club. Tension is already building towards today setting the stage for a grand final on Saturday and a fine treat for spectators at Defence Club.

I believe all the players, irrespective of their grades will find that competition will be tough, especially with the National title in all grades up for grabs, should any match be easy?

Whatever difficulties we experience, it really doesn't matter that much. A prominent coach once said, "All that it required of you is the self-empowering decision to believe in yourself — this is what will drive you with imagination and the strength availed, that attracts or creates the positive conditions that will see you dare to dream."

* Yee is a former Fiji Squash Association president. He held the national number one spot for many years and is also a former South Pacific Games gold medallist. Yee coaches the junior players in Suva.

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