While some of world’s sport most recognisable stars gear up for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio, squash once again watches on from the sidelines with envy after missing out on selection for the 2020 Games.
To find out just what it means for a player to compete in a major event like the Olympic Games, we went into the SquashXtra archives and found this article from Daryl Selby, who shares his experience of competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
I was playing with James in the men’s doubles and Sarah Kippax in the mixed doubles. We (English players) only play doubles squash once every four years for these Games. It is a completely different game to singles, shots that work in singles don’t necessarily work in doubles and players that are good doubles players might not be so good at singles and vice versa.
The tin was also lowered from 17 inches to 13 inches which led to more attacking squash and when the competition got underway, it was pretty hectic for players who, like myself, were competing in two categories as sometimes the breaks between matches was as little as five minutes.
In the mixed doubles Sarah and I won our opening matches against pairs from Trinidad, Mauritius and Wales before beating Canadians Samantha Cornett and Shawn Delierre, which saw us through the quarter-finals where we would face our teammates Peter (Barker) and Alison (Waters).
We were disappointed to lose 11-5, 11-7 to Peter and Alison as they were too good for us, and it was very disappointing to miss out on the chance of getting a medal in the event. We had a good run and gave everything we had but I was proud of how far we came with limited preparation.
There wasn’t much time to dwell on the defeat as I was back into action with James in the men’s doubles competition, where we had also reached the quarter-finals stage where we faced Lance Beddoes and Paul Coll of New Zealand.
We managed to come through a tough match against them before taking on David Palmer and Cameron Pilley in the semi-finals. Again we just weren’t good enough in the match which meant we missed out on a guaranteed medal and my hopes of leaving Glasgow with a medal lay with our bronze- medal play-off match against Scotland’s Alan Clyne and Harry Leitch.
England's Daryl Selby (second from right) and teammate James Willstrop (second from left) take on Scottish duo Alan Clyne (right) and Harry Leitch (left) in the 2014 Commonwealth Games
The match against the Scots was a really tough battle – going on for almost 80 minutes. After a long week of competition, it was a bruising game and we were all desperate not to leave empty handed.
Thankfully James and I managed to sneak the win and the euphoria that I experienced is hard to explain. To work so hard for something and finally see it rewarded was a huge relief to both of us and I was delighted to step onto the podium to receive my bronze medal. It’s something that I will treasure for a long time and the memories of Glasgow will be ones that I take with me long after my career has finished.
The Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony was a spectacular occasion. In the past I have watched opening ceremonies and rarely been truly entertained, but this was different. This time I was part of the ceremony… I was in the ceremony! For us athletes it is a long evening with a lot of queuing and patience needed. We waited in the athletes’ village which is conveniently across the road from the infamous Celtic Park Stadium. The other teams passed us in many differing outfits, some singing, some chanting, some quietly chatting between themselves. Being from Team England, a lot of the smaller nations were desperate to either have a picture taken with some of us or swap team pins, which seems to be a bit of a craze in the village. Not quite World Cup panini stickers in my book!
The atmosphere ‘backstage’ was simply electric. Every single athlete was buzzing to walk out as a sporting representative from their beloved nation. We as squash players are rarely in any sort of limelight, so having Nick Matthew as our flag bearer was fantastic for the sport. It was an honour he thoroughly deserved for his record in the sport and despite some technique issues at the start, he did a grand job!
So we were in the tunnel about to walk in and that’s when it really hit me; the noise was deafening. It really hadn’t come into my head that we could get booed, and luckily we didn’t. As we entered the arena, the crowd started to go wild, and so did we! As Nick was carrying the flag us squashies had commandeered the front row behind him, so we leapt forward into the space and waved, danced and jigged for the crowd. Their response was filled with so much energy that we bounded around the track in the blink of an eye and before we knew it, we were seated next to the stage housing the biggest TV I’d ever seen!
The rest of the evening was thoroughly enjoyable and the noise the Scots received made our cheer seem like whispering mice. The Queen declared the Games open (eventually, after there were some serious problems getting the baton open!) and then the athletes proceeded to take as many ‘selfies’ as possible in the centre of the stadium.