2004 U. S. Men's Junior team, composed of current USSRA Under-19 champion
Chris Gordon, Harvard sophomore Garnett Booth, two-time USSRA junior age-group
winner Joe Raho and Penn freshman Suleyman Saleem, will fly this Wednesday
evening from JFK Airport to Islamabad, Pakistan (with a brief stopover
in London) to compete in the 13th World Junior Championships, a prestigious
biennial tournament whose individual flight will run from August 17th-22nd
followed by the team event from August 23rd-28th.
Head coach Michael Calloway,
assistant coach and former Hobart standout
Chris Smith, a four-year veteran of the highly successful Squashbusters
organization, and team manager Vijay Chitnis, who was recently appointed
Director Of Junior Development after a praiseworthy two-year stint as
coach at St. Lawrence, will be aiming to surpass the 8th-place standing
in Chennai, India, by the 2002 team, on which Gordon played and which
by Julian Illingworth and Will Broadbent, the current Yale and Harvard
Part of their optimism stems
from the strong showing of several squad
members this past month at the Pioneer German and Dutch Opens, which were
in Cologne and Amsterdam respectively, and in which many of the top world
junior players participated. Gordon and Booth, who are clearly the top
on the team, also played this past winter in the British and Scottish
so this year's team has more than its share of recent high-level international
experience, always an important element in an event such as the Worlds.
Gordon, a 9/16 seed slated to play the No. 3 seed in the Individuals quarters
they both get that far, recently won a round in the qualifying of a PSA
event, while Booth, after missing most of the early portion of the 2003-04
intercollegiate season with a leg injury, played a major role down the
drive of Harvard's run to the Ivy League title and a near-miss bid to
Trinity College for the national championship, which the Bantams barely
won via a
5-4 Potter Cup final.
The Americans hope that the
4-5 days between their arrival in Pakistan
and the beginning of the individual draw will be sufficient to allow them
to rid themselves of the jet lag that inevitably accompanies a journey
magnitude and to acclimatize themselves to the several thousand feet of
altitude and what are expected to be extremely hot and humid playing conditions.
This latter task should be facilitated by the fact that the tournament
played in a brand-new (and hence presumably air-conditioned) club, fortuitously
located on the grounds of the Pakistan Air Force base.
This latter situation, as
well as a myriad of other security precautions
that have been taken by the host country, should hopefully ensure a safe
smooth event even in these troubled times in that region of the world.
Pakistan national squash association has taken steps to make sure that
floors on which the U. S. and other teams are staying will be heavily
and the American team fully plans to "stay close to home" and
to limit their
travel to between the hotel and the playing arena.
The USSRA as well as many
other countries are constantly monitoring the
situation in and around Islamabad, as is the World Squash Federation under
whose umbrella these Championships are run, and there was a fair amount
back-and-forth during these past months among the major figures involved
with Team USA as to the advisability of sending a team under the current
The families of several prospective American team members were alarmed
about the safety issues to decline an opportunity to attend the team try-outs,
but in the end the U. S., as well as 21 other team entries from around
world, have decided to participate.
In a brief interview this
weekend, Smith emphasized how much support the
team has gotten from coaches, USSRA officers and the entire American junior
squash community for the trip. Fundraising efforts continue even now in
attempt to cover the costs of the trip, and anyone interested in contributing
access donation information (including online donations) on the team web
(server2000.net/a003sp4), which will also be supplying daily updates on
team's performance and results, as, of course, will Squashtalk.com. People
also sign up on the web site to receive daily emails from the team from
Countries such as England,
India and Australia have always provided
formidable competition during the quarter-century history of this championship,
Smith and the other team officials nevertheless believe that this American
line-up has the talent, experience and potential to improve dramatically
U. S. showings in this event.
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