The six men and women representing the United States in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, have been selected.
Amanda Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford, Natalie Grainger, Chris Gordon, Todd Harrity, and Chris Hanson will compete on the singles and doubles-convertible ASB GlassCourt—the same court on which the 2014 Commonwealth Games were contested—in Pan Am Park this July.
Two U.S. men and women will be selected to compete in the individual event, July 11-13. The doubles portion then takes place July 14, and the squash portion of the Games culminates in the three-player team competition July 15-18.
The U.S. squad includes the top three men’s and women’s finishers at the recent National Singles in Charlottesville, and will be the first time Sobhy, Harrity, and Hanson compete in the Games. The U.S. women are led by the Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach, Paul Assaiante, while the men are led by former world No. 46, Gilly Lane.
“Because this event happens every four years, and is recognized and funded by the United States Olympic Committee, this is a top-level event for us, ” said Assaiante. “Our players are going to be introduced in front of 80, 000 people in the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium, so it’s very exciting. It’s also exciting because squash is so big in Canada, and with it being up in Toronto, it really makes the challenge even greater.”
Four of the six Team USA members competed in September’s Pan American Olympic Festival in Toluca, Mexico, where the women earned a gold medal, and the men bronze.
“Our junior girls are second in the world right now and we have two women who came through that system recently, ” Assaiante said of the women’s squad. “World No. 10 Amanda Sobhy, who is twenty-one years old, went through four years of college squash without losing a match, and just won the national singles championship. We have world. No 39 Olivia Blatchford, who is twenty-two, and is playing and training extremely well. And then we have the senior veteran in Natalie Grainger, former world No. 1, bringing with her an incredible wealth of experience and knowledge.”
The Pan American Games team competition differs from that of September’s Pan American Olympic Festival in that it is a three-player competition, rather than a four-player team with three competitive spots each match in the Olympic Festival format.
“The challenge for us is that it’s a three-person team rather than a four-person team, ” Assaiante said. “With four players, you can use a bit of strategy and rotate players, but with a three-person system, they have to play every single match, and that’s going to be demanding.”
In the 2011 Pan Am Games, both the U.S. men and women placed third in the team competition. For Lane, the 2015 Games are the first that the University of Pennsylvania coach has been involved in as either a player or coach.
“I’m really excited about the three men that are going, ” Lane said of his squad. “It’s the same team that won a bronze medal in Mexico last September, and they’re the three guys who are most successful right now on the men’s tour, and training full-time. Chris Gordon is going to bring a wealth of experience to these games. He’s been playing on the national team since he was seventeen years old. He’s a seasoned veteran on the PSA tour, and a top-fifty caliber player. We’ll be looking to him to lead the group with Todd and Chris competing in their first Games. We have our current national Champion in Todd, who I think is going to play a pivotal role in these Games. Chris Hanson has been developing really well over the past year and has solidified himself as the country’s No. 3 player over the past few months. I’m looking forward to having these three together again.”
“This is the tournament for the national team program that’s the pinnacle of our sport, and what we work toward every four years, ” Lane continued. “I can’t wait to lead these three guys. It’s an absolute honor to be a part of the Games. I know the team is extremely excited to pull on the red, white, and blue, and aim for as many medals as possible. I think we have a really good shot at improving our bronze medals in the 2011 Games, and September’s Pan American Olympic Festival.”
Assaiante says the team is targeting as many medals for Team USA as possible throughout the various squash competitions.
“We’re going up there to win as many medals as we can for the United States, and we have a fantastic team positioned to make every effort to accomplish that, ” Assaiante continued. “We’re really excited to start hitting together and training as a team. We’re ready to go up to Canada and send a message.”
For more information on the 2015 Pan Am Games, visit the official website.