>May 2000 Gallery: 
Martin Bronstein’s Global Gallery

His Monthly Views on the World of Squash

2000, Gallery # 2000-5
: Carol
Owens…John Rooney…Junior Men’s Worlds… Eye Group… Live Coverage…


While the rest of top women were taking
it mostly easy between the British Open last December and the grand Prix
in Hurghada in April, Carol Owens, the Australian who is now based in
New Zealand, was going like a rocket. Playing men, leagues and any tournament
that came up she not only kept herself sharp, she got even sharper.

“In New Zealand they have a tournament
almost every weekend, and sometimes I played played in both men’s and
women’s, eight matches in a weekend,” she told me when she finally got
back to New Zealand after her triumph in Egypt. When I asked her if Leilani
Joynce, the new British Open champion, was training that hard she replied:
“I don’t know – she lives an hour and a half away in Hamilton. I beat
her 3/0 in a tournament in February and that’s all I saw of her.”

Owens’ hard work paid off, she whomped
world champion Cassie Campion twice in the Hurghada tournament and walked
off with top prize. “You know, all the reporters make a big thing of it
when I beat one of the top players. But I’ve beaten Cassie five times
out of seven – according to one reporter – and I’ve beaten Leilana several
times so it’s really no big thing for me. I suppose it’s just that I’ve
never won a major title before,” she explains. “Look, if I can get my
head and everything else together on the day, I should beat those girls.
I’m older (28), I’ve got more experience and I should beat them.”

Owens has been on the WISPA circuit
for ten years and has only got up to three in the rankings once -“and
that was only for short time” she said modestly, although she has been
in the 5-8 group for the last six years. When I asked who should be ranked
1-2-3, she unhesitatingly put Sarah Fitz-Gerald at one and Cassie at two
with herself at three. I reminded her that she gave me an e-mail blast
when I said she failed to play well in the Al Ahram, but that she does
play very well and suddenly fall right off. She agreed that was so but
said she normally does very well in Egypt because the court they use is
slow and it suits her very well. “But at the British Open, I went in thinking
I was going to win; I had had never felt so positive before. I wasn’t
disappointed because I lost in the quarters [ a nail biter against Natalie
Grainger losing 9-7 in the fifth] but because I played badly. When I lost
to Fitz-Gerald in Munich, I lost 9-0 in the third but I felt I played
well, ” she claims.

Unhappily, Americans won’t be seeing
Owens for some time. She won’t be playing in the three US tournaments
because the prize money is so low. “A lot of the girls are playing in
them because there’s nothing else. But the total prize money is $14,000
and if we keep playing in them they’ll never raise it. I’m not going to
spend $3,000 on air fare with the risk of meeting [an unseeded] Fitz-Gerald
in the first round because her ranking is so low. I’m in this game to
make money. If I had a sponsor for my air fare, that would be OK. I only
have one sponsor, Head rackets.” Owens will make her next appearance at
the Australian Open in August. Meanwhile she’ll continue to play eight
matches in a weekend and spend some time on the court with Paul Wright,
former England and New Zealand National Coach, who now has his own club
in New Zealand.


Pakistan has its Khans and Australia
has its Martins but Ireland has its Rooneys. John Rooney is now working
his way up the PSA rankings – not in the top 100 yet – after leading the
Irish team in the world Men’s Junior Championship in Princeton in 1998.
The young Rooney has a wonderfully natural feel for the game of squash
and it is definitely in the genes; the number three on that Irish team
was younger brother Liam, who will now lead the Irish junior team in the
European championships (which are happening now in Bremen in Germany)
and also in the world junior event in Milan July 16-29.


Andrew Shelley, WISPA’S’ head honcho,
is also a consultant for the World Squash Federation and as such has been
working with FIGS (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Squash) for the last two
years on the Milan event. There was a huge hiccup last year when Shelley
had to tell the organisers that their planned facilities was not up to
scratch and they had to start all over again. Andrew tells me that everything
now is in place with early rounds of both individual and teams to be held
in the Vico Squash and Fitness Centre which overlooks the main prison
in central Milan. “We are erecting the glass court in the prison grounds
so that we can get a captive audience, ” he told me with a straight face.
He was of course joking….I think. Seriously, the court will be erected
in Cathedral Square Gallery in the heart of Milan. The tournament accommodation
is Hotel del Cavalieri, which is nearby, and 28 countries are expected
to participate, two less than the record 30 teams which travelled to Princeton
in 1998.


Although the official seedings have
yet to be made, Egypt, with their hordes of talented juniors, are bound
to be top seed with England in second place. Ireland will be participating
despite an official of Irish Squash in Dublin declaring they would not
be sending a team, a statement that had not the slightest official weight
behind it. The Rooneys dad was very upset at this and has taken steps
to have that statement nullified, even to the point of ensuring the entry
fee was found. So young Liam Rooney will carry the family escutcheon forward
on to the world stage once more.


Fablon, who we used to call The Eye
Group, have lost no time in getting into gear for the next British Open
which will probably take place in Birmingham in October. They have deposited
a six figure sum with the SRA and are deep into promotion for the next
event. They sent Vic Flores (who is known as Video Vic) and a crew out
to Hurghada to take some tournament footage to be used in the promotional

Paul Gittings, Eye Group Director,
had to getJonathan Power and Peter Nicol to stage some squash in their
own time, since they weren’t allowed to video the actual tournament (due
to some behind the scenes machinations regarding video rights) “Peter
and Jonathon were fabulous – extremely co-operative and in the end this
footage will probably come out better than the match material. In fact
all the PSA players understood what we were trying to do and helped us
in any way they could. Same thing with the WISPA players – total co-operation.
Also we have great footage from the British Open in Aberdeen which we
can use.” Gittings told me.


I have seen the British Open video
and it’s good; a comprehensive round-up of the tournament with the two
finals almost in full. I still winced as I watched Cassie go for some
ridiculous shots to allow Leilani to win the title and shuddered again
at the sight of Nicol drained and white after retiring from the Men’s
final. The usual charge that you can’t follow the ball is nonsense, you
can follow the ball quite easily and the shooting was damn good. Gittings
and Co. are now working on getting live coverage on the air, which is
squash’s next step. They do it in Egypt and Malaysia, why not Europe?

One of the reasons why squash has
not been successfully televised in Britain is that no producer has ever
done enough to know the pitfalls. With Vic and Jean de Lierre in Canada,
there are two men who not only love the sport but are passionate about
getting it on television. And they have mounds of footage, so they both
really know what they are doing. Indeed Vic has a huge smile on his face
these days because one of his dreams – that of a monthly television squash
show – will soon become a reality. The Eye Group has seen the value of
such a show and have gone partners with Vic. We should be seeing it on
air in the next few months.


If Milan is a little too far for your
schedule, at exactly the same time (July 16-23) Andre Maur his putting
on his all-inclusive – and I mean all inclusive – squash tourney which
he calls the Swept Away Jamaico Open Squash Classic 2000. It’s seven days
of squash , golf and tennis plus dozens of other activities. (If you want
a day-by-day breakdown of all the activities -fun and games – click on
www.globalsquash.com ). This is a tournament for all players, pro and
am, young and old, men and women. There will a draw for the top 16 PSA
players, one for the top four WISPA players and draws for both sexes from
3.0 to 6.0, Over 35 thru 70+. Entry fee is $70 US or for Canadians there’s
a package deal from Toronto via American Airlines costing $1650 which
includes absolutely everything. Andre ran the very successful Atlanta
PSA tournament recently and is based at the Concourse Club in Georgia.
Call him on (770) 729 9052 or email him on andre@globalsquash.com. But
everything you want to know is on the website.



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