US SQUASH

New Zealand Tops 2018 Commonwealth Games Squash Medal Count

(l-r) India’s Joshna Chinappa & Dipika Pallikal Karthik, New Zealand’s Joelle King & Amanda Landers-Murphy, Australia’s Rachael Grinham & Donna Urquhart (image: GC Squash)

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games have come to a close following the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles competitions this weekend at Oxenford Studios on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Australia’s Donna Urquhart & Cameron Pilley earned the hosts’ first squash medal of the competition in the mixed doubles final on Saturday, April 14. Urquhart & Pilley, the four seeds, defeated India’s five seeds Dipika Pallikal Karthik & Suarav Ghosal in the gold medal match to retain the mixed doubles gold medal for Australia for the fourth time since 2006. New Zealand’s Joelle King & Paul Coll earned bronze medals.

Sunday, April 15, fielded both the men’s and women’s doubles finals on the last day of the squash competition. King, who had already won individual gold and bronze in the mixed doubles the day before, ended her phenomenal tournament by claiming the women’s gold medal with Amanda Landers-Murphy, defeating India’s Joshna Chinappa & Pallikal Karthik in the final. Over the course of the squash competitions, King played fifteen matches on course to earning her three medals. Australia’s Urquhart & Rachael Grinham defeated England’s Laura Massaro & Sarah-Jane Perry to earn bronze medals.

“When you play such a big match, on such an occasion—against a quality team—and come out on top, it’s unbelievable,” King said. “I’m on cloud nine at the moment. Probably a year ago, three medals would have been beyond my wildest dreams – but the way this year has been going, I wanted three golds to be honest. But to come away with two golds and a bronze is pretty amazing. But it’s a team effort. It’s not just me, it’s all these guys who have been watching me all the way through the singles and picking me up each day. It’s been pretty amazing and I can’t wait to share it with them.”

The Australian home crowd was treated to more home-team success in the men’s doubles final with a surprise run from two U.S.-based players, David Palmer, former world No. 1 and Cornell head coach, and Zac Alexander, a Connecticut-based SDA pro. Palmer & Alexander, the five seeds, prevailed against England’s seven seeds Daryl Selby & Adrian Waller in a close final 11-9, 3-11, 11-6 in fifty-seven minutes.

“I said from day one, a year and a half ago, when I said I wanted to play, I wasn’t just here to make the numbers up—I still felt, deep down, that if things went my way I had a chance,” Palmer said. “It’s been great with Zac. We rode under the radar a little bit this week as fifth seeds – it’s been nice not to have the pressure on us. The draw went our way. We snuck through and stepped it up when we needed to—in the quarterfinals we beat New Zealand, and last night was great as we took care of the Scottish team really well. It maybe wasn’t our best squash today—but they made it difficult for us, the way they played. But we found a way.”

Australian veterans Palmer and Rachael Grinham, both aged 41 and former world number ones, also had much to celebrate. With a successful defense of his Men’s Doubles gold medal—this time in front of a packed and partisan home crowd, and with Zac Alexander, a different partner from 2014—Palmer extended his tally over six Games to nine medals, more than any other squash athlete. Queenslander Grinham became the most decorated female athlete after a Women’s Doubles bronze took her total to eight medals, thereby maintaining her record as a medalist in each Games in which she has competed.

(l-r): Australia’s Zac Alexander, Geoff Hunt and David Palmer (image: GC Squash)

Athletes from India returned home with a best-ever two medals, while Malaysia celebrated its first men’s singles medal thanks to unexpected bronze medal success by Nafiizwan Adnan.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games squash involved 105 athletes from twenty-eight nations and twenty-seven referees from eleven Commonwealth nations presiding over 140 singles matches and 115 doubles matches. The 2018 Gold Coast marked twenty years since squash joined the Commonwealth Games program. 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.

World Squash Federation CEO Andrew Shelley summed up the sport’s Gold Coast experience: “When squash started its Commonwealth Games journey twenty years ago, the staging and presentation bar were set high in Kuala Lumpur—and it has been nothing but continued progress ever since. The spread of nations, the innovation on and around the court, superb broadcast and general sports presentation are general features that grow edition upon edition.

The next Commonwealth Games will take place in 2022 in Birmingham, England.

“Here specifically, the wonderfully ebullient atmosphere generated by the spectators has been memorable—with our athletes responding to it; and the firm, fair and consistent standard of refereeing a standout too,” Shelley said. “Squash will evolve still further and Birmingham will doubtless rise to the challenge in four years’ time—but the splendid Gold Coast Games will give them something to think about!”

For more information and coverage, visit gc2018.com.

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