US SQUASH

King and Willstrop Strike Commonwealth Gold for New Zealand and England

(l-r): silver medalists Sarah-Jane Perry and Paul Coll, gold medalists Joelle King and James Willstrop, bronze medalists Tesni Evans and Nafiizwan Adnan (image: GC Squash)

New Zealand’s Joelle King and England’s James Willstrop earned singles squash gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games Squash when King became New Zealand’s first singles gold medalist and Willstrop earned his first in his third final Monday at Oxenford Studios in Gold Coast, Australia.

King, a gold medalist in the Women’s Doubles in 2010, defeated England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in the women’s final.

Fourth seed Perry had two games balls in the first, but it was King who closed out her fourth game ball to win the opener 16-14. The New Zealander opened up a two-game lead – but Perry drew level to force a decider. From eight-all in the fifth, King moved ahead to clinch the match 16-14, 11-8, 6-11, 11-13, 11-8 after seventy-eight minutes take gold.

“Yes, it feels pretty good,” King said. “We’ve had some great names that have come through the squash community from New Zealand and no-one’s managed to do it yet–so it’s a privilege, to be honest, to be the first one to do it and I’m just looking forward to celebrating with my teammates. Today was typical final squash—a big occasion and both players wanting to give it everything they have. All I can say is she played really well—she just did not go away, she didn’t let me have it all my own way, that’s for sure.”

King, twenty-nine years old, will move straight on to the doubles court with the doubles competitions set to take place April 10-15.

“Yes, I’m back on court tomorrow—11am, I’ve heard—so there’s no rest for the wicked really,” King said. “You’ve just got to go back, recover and be ready to go again. Doubles is a completely different format. I think I’ll be a bit rusty in my first round!”

England gained revenge in the two nations’ battle in the men’s final when Willstrop, the fourth seed, prevailed in straight games over in-form Kiwi Paul Coll, the number two seed ranked nine in the world.

Both players had had arduous routes to the final—Willstrop denying home interest in the later stages by beating top Australian Cameron Pilley in ninety-five-minute quarterfinal battle and Coll surviving a 106-minute semi-final clash with Welsh outsider Joel Makin less than twenty-four hours before the final.

In the final, Willstrop was in dominant form, claiming his first 3-0 win since the opening round by beating Coll 11-9, 11-4, 11-6 in forty-seven minutes.

“It just clicked for me today,” admitted the thirty-four-year-old. “It’s stuff you dream of. It’s one of the most brilliant performances I’ve had in my career. It just worked and it clicked – that’s happened today. I don’t know why, maybe the hours of solo practice I’ve put in on my own on court, in Harrogate and Ponte, all my life.”

Willstrop previously lost in two Commonwealth finals in 2010 and 2014.

“It’s an incredible thing—and to make it happen on a big day like today—it’s one of the best performances,” Willstrop said. “Whatever happened today, it’s an achievement. I love playing the game —and four years ago there were some doubts about that—and to think I’m now here with a gold medal in the singles, I can’t really process it to be honest.”

Held every four years, the Commonwealth Games are one of the most prestigious international competitions in world squash, in addition to the Asian Games and Pan American Games.

The ensuing doubles competitions include three gold medals for women’s, men’s and mixed divisions. For more information, visit gc2018.com.

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