2001 Jr Olympics
SquashTalk News © 2001 All Photos © 2001 Ron Beck
Princeton NJ. Dec 18, 2001, by Ron Beck
THE USA JUNIOR OLYMPICS hosted about 450 youthful squash fanatics over the past weekend at Princeton's expansive and friendly squash complexes. The play was intense and extensive -- running from a lonely 8AM each morning to an anticlimactic 9PM each evening. And by Monday afternoon, foreign players had garnered all but the girls under thirteen crown.
It was in the boy's Under 19 draw that the extremes of this event came forth most forcefully. The event was won by Mexico's Moises Galvez, a wonderfully smooth and natural player with a bright squash future.
Galvez, short in stature and sporting a rakish pigtail, collected large crowd at his every court appearance. It wasn't that his matches involved suspense--- he made them all look easy.
Matching any player's style, Galvez, mature racquet skills and court sense enabled him to seemingly effortlessly dominate every contest. And his competition was formidable. The best that Canada, South Africa, USA, and Latin America could throw at Moises, Moises handled elegantly and with good humor and sportsmanship. He was also around to root for his compatriots, who populated every draw.
Meanwhile, a number of other competitors in the 50-strong draw in the U19 struggled. To progress through the "feed-in" consolation event, players were faced with 3 matches a day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. With many matches lasting an hour or longer, often with less than two hours rest between rounds, conditions were rigorous at best, dangerous at worst. The very success of this event will force the USSRA organizers to re-think the schedule and feed-in format, especially in the U19s. Either an extra day or a traditional plate-type format, will be the likely outcome.
One of the consequence of the grueling draw, was the withdrawal of both Julian Illingworth, who defaulted to Galves in the finals and Will Broadbent, who defaulted the third place playoff. Earlier on Monday, Illingsworth defeated Broadbent in one semi-final, consolidating his position as the top USA male junior. The stated reasons for these finals defaults were "injury" though the injuries, if present, could not be ascertained by SquashTalk.
In the girls U19, Ruchika Kumar of Ontario, Canada, glided through the draw in impressive fashion. Though the draw was missing USA luminary, Atlanta's Michelle Quibell, who evidently decided to focus instead on the upcoming UK events, Kumar was fated to face both Latin American junior stars - Guyana's Nicolette Fernandes and Mexico's Diana Huerta. Both Latino's were dominant up until the point that they met Kumar --- but Kumar, playing steadily but determinedly, soundly trounced both rivals --- Huerta in four games in the semis and Fernandes in straight games in the finals. The game that Kumar surrendered to Huerta, was the only blemish on her weekend's record.
In the boys U17, Mauricio Sanchez. also of Mexico, dominated that draw. Sanchez ripped through America's brightest rising star, Nick Churls, giving up a miserly 4 points to Churls. Not satisfied with that dominating performance, Sanchez gave up one less point to finalist Brian Ernst from Canada! Of note in the U17 draw was the play of Pakistani junior, Jahanzeb Khan, who showed superior racquet-work and style in advancing to the quarters before barely falling to finalist Ernst. Khan was playing in the event completely on his own, with no coaching and only some friends of the family providing some support.
To complete the Mexican sweep of the boys divisions, Arturo Salazar took the U15s and Antonio Diaz took the U13s.
On the girls side, Canadian World Team Player, Jennifer Blumberg, overturned top seed Lily Lorentzen to help Canada take three of four girls titles, U15 player Alisha Turner taking the other. Also of note was the strong play of Canadian U17 entrant, Radhika Ahluwalia, who showed calm and style on court, while Ruchika's sister, Neha Kumar, took the girls' U17 feed-in consolation prize.
The brightest light, for American fans, was the scintillating performance by precocious Emily Park of New York City in the girls U13. Emily, who is by far the strongest American player in her age group at present, has also made waves in the past 6 months among women's squash circles by pressing a number of players in senior events in the New York area. Emily outclasses her age group through her effective use of the court and her court movement and presence.
Several coaches interviewed by SquashTalk at the event, pointed to the steady and noticeable increase in the quality of play and skills on court that the event continues to showcase year-on-year.
Also of especial note this year, was the Saturday night buffet provided to the players this year, set up on spacious round tables in the Princeton Basketball lobby. This effort at providing at least a minimal social backdrop to the event appeared particularly successful and welcome. In recent years, USA junior events have become, quite inexplicably, 100% sports competition affairs, with no accompanying social events. This small change, at Princeton, was according to the USSRA's Mike Hymer, made possible by the anonymous donation of a supporting parent.
USSRA Junior Olympics, Princeton NJ USA, Results: