AUSSIE AND WORLD CHAMP LOOKS TO EXPLORE NEW HORIZONS
It was February
2003 when I met Sarah Fitz-Gerald for the first time. She had recently
announced her retirement from the WISPA Tour and decision to forge ahead
on a new career path. You see, the 5 times World Champ and Women’s
#1 squash player had accomplished all of her goals. She said a change
was necessary and it was time to open a new chapter in her life. Well,
that’s what she said then. How about now? Arriving in Calgary for
the Canadian Thanksgiving Day holiday I had a sit down with Fitz prior
to her embarking on a 3-day turkey feast.
|Sarah Fitz-Gerald – fitter than ever
– in exhibition action at the US Open, topping world #5 Natalie Grainger.
photo © Stephen J Line
“ What have I been up to? Well after talking with you about 2 years
ago I spent the remainder of 2003 doing exhibitions and promoting my sponsors,”
she announced “It has carried over into 2004 and has taken me to
some interesting places. Dubai, Luxemburg, Alaska recently. I was in Phoenix
awhile back doing my thing and now low and behold WISPA has a new tour
Time has been kind to Fitz-Gerald. She hasn’t aged a day. Any regrets
about leaving the tour? Miss the gals?
“I don’t miss the tour whatsoever. I made the decision at
the right time for me. Most people get forced to retire through injury
or whatever. I left satisfied on my own terms. I have no regrets. If anything
I wish I were 10yrs younger and you know I’d do it all over again.
(She then chuckles) Maybe be a little smarter the 2nd time around.”
What if you were to attempt a comeback right now how do you think you’d
“If I were to comeback right now I’d be top ten. No doubt
whatsoever” she states then adds, “Although I have no intention
of returning. In my mind there’s nothing worse then losing to someone
who I used to beat 3-0 on the tour”
|Sarah Fitz-Gerald – graceful covering
the court. photo © Stephen J Line
Speaking of beating…this is a great lead into my next question.
It looks like another Aussie has been doing her share. Rachael Grinham
is perched atop the Women’s rankings. I think back and there was
Michelle Martin, yourself, then Carol Owens all ranked #1 as well. What’s
the secret? It’s like Australians have dominated women’s pro
squash for practically the last 10yrs or so. It’s something in the
“I think part of it is we have to live our life, our squash life
out of Australia. There is lots of traveling and that forces you to be
both mentally and physically tough from the early stages in your career.
When you are “finding your feet” or building a ranking you
are away months at a time. Sport is huge in Australia. Sport is a main
part of the Australian culture. So to use a local saying, the Australian
attitude is to “have a go ya mug.” Meaning the crowd or population
expect you to be giving 100% effort at all times because that’s
part, a main part, of being an athlete from Australia. Once you become
established and your ranking improves then you look at establishing a
base in Europe. For example Rachael is in Egypt, and her younger sister
is in Amsterdam. I also must mention that it’s hard to achieve success
without support. In Australia we have excellent government support. For
me the VIS (Victorian Institute Sport) is great in every aspect.
Let’s talk about some of the changes that have occurred in pro squash.
First, what are your thoughts about the new 11-point scoring system implemented
by the PSA and do you think WISPA should jump on the bandwagon?
|Sarah Fitz-Gerald – WISPA ambassador
in Bankok . photo © WISPA
“Even if WISPA decided to come onboard you have the WSF (World Squash
Federation) still using standard scoring to 9. Tournaments like the World
Teams, European Closed all still use standard. Personally I still prefer
for the women to use standard. The 11-point-a-rally scoring in the men’s
game is exciting but I feel it takes away the element of fitness. Fitness
being one of the traditional facets of the sport of squash. On the positive
side it will be great for television if/when squash gets more coverage.”
Recent announcement of squash on the “short list” if you will
for inclusion in the 2012 Olympics. Yes/No/We’ll see?
“Fantastic…(Long pause) Not holding my breath.”
then thinks some more and continues.
does happen it’s a shame it didn’t happen during my squash
tour days. I plan to remain involved with squash and obviously any opportunity
to promote the game in any part of the world that will aid this cause
is something I’m up for. I’ll do my utmost to be there and
do what I can.
my turn to pause, I just had a vision. Fitz-Gerald and Jahangir traveling
the globe together, spreading the word and promoting the sport. Can you
think of two better ambassadors? Anyways back to reality..
Any improvements made in squash now that you’ve had a chance to
view things from the other side of the glass?
“WISPA has continued to develop the women’s tour “ she
proudly states. “They are on the verge of breaking the $1 million
dollar mark for total tournament prize money so we’re slowly getting
there. I would say from a technical perspective that some of the new courts
that are now being manufactured are truly a pleasure to play on. They’re
sturdy, colorful, and have great lines. New players from new countries
are emerging and are holding high-ranking positions. The Egyptian girls
come to mind and are making great strides”
Last question. What does the future hold for Sarah Fitz-Gerald?
“I’m still enjoying playing the game and being involved. I
have 2 or 3 doors open to me that I can walk through so I must decide
which path to take. Here’s something new. I’m now in Masters.
I played a Masters tournament already back home and there’s talk
of me returning to your area and attending the World Masters being held
in Edmonton, July of next year. Short term, I will be in England at the
British Open in Nottingham and look forward to seeing some friends and
familiar faces. I’m enjoying myself. I’m enjoying life and
that’s what living is all about.”
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