2014 Commonwealth Games - Glasgow
Little is known – or cared about – in the US, regarding the Commonwealth Games. I would bet most of you (Americans that is) didn’t even realize it was that it was going on right now (as I type this article). It’s the Olympics’ forgotten red-headed stepchild international event that is restricted for countries that still bow to the Queen and have the need to etch her (much younger) image on their coins.
|Nicol David (far left) carrying the flag|
As an Aussie, the Commonwealth Games were (are) always a pretty big deal. Like the Olympics, it’s staged every 4 years. It’s an opportunity for us to feel like we own the sporting world for a couple of weeks since typically – in the absence of countries that are actually good – we win the medal count. (The last time Australia failed to win was 1986.) Also, on a personal level, squash is part of these Games and for the competing players the only real chance they have to win medals for their country and be recognized on the international stage.
Unfortunately, there has been virtually zero television coverage (that I can find on my basic cable package!). I would have specifically loved to have watched the squash event (obviously), but moreover, I would have been just as excited to watch the opening ceremonies. Why? Not just because I know some of the competing players personally and it would have been a buzz to see them walk out on such a big stage energized and thrilled to be a part of it, but also because squash had three flag bearers!
|Nick Matthew front and center!|
Current world number 1, Malaysia’s Nicol David, actually had the honor carrying the flag that represented the 8 Asian countries competing (India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh, Maldives, Brunei) and leading them all into the arena.
Three time world champion, Nick Matthew, was selected by team England’s own athletes to carry his country’s flag and Chris Simpson (world number 23) was handed the same honor to wave the Guernsey flag during the opening ceremony as well. (Guernsey is a country in the Channel Islands between England and mainland Europe.)
For squash to have three of its athletes front and center during one of the biggest international events is nothing short of a phenomenal achievement. The spotlight would have been squarely on these players as they led their respective squads into the stadium, putting the sport of squash sharply into focus to all who were watching worldwide. Pity it didn’t reach non-Commonwealth country’s living rooms.
|Guernsey's Chris Simpson|
The singles portion of the squash tournament finished on July 28. Nicol David defended her Commonwealth Games gold medal from 2010 winning the final 3-0 over England’s Laura Massaro, and Nick Matthew also managed to repeat his 2010 glory in what must have been an absolute epic encounter with fellow Brit James Willstrop in the final. Nick won 11-5 in the 5th in 99 minutes.
England completed the sweep of medals in the men’s tournament when Peter Barker won the bronze medal match 3-1 against Indian Saurav Ghosal, and New Zealander Joelle King took bronze in the women’s draw.
Next up is the doubles tournaments start which really doesn’t interest me at all, but more medals are up for grabs. It would interest the DAC members that David Palmer is representing Australia in this event and has a very decent chance of a podium finish.Crowds to watch the squash have reportedly been excellent. Stands were filled to capacity as illustrated by the photo on the right. I hope the Olympic committee is taking notice. Squash (at least at the Commonwealth Games) has put itself on the map and it demands – deserves – respect. With the debacle the IOC orchestrated last year when it chose wrestling as its ‘new’ sport to include it onto the 2020 program – a ‘new’ sport that has been around since the inception of the modern Olympiad – it should (needs to) make amends. Reports have it that the IOC are looking into changing some rules in 2020 and there is hope for more sports to be included if these rules changes come into play. Squash is holding onto slim hope I believe – but a slim hope is better than no hope at all. Keeping in mind that baseball / softball came second in the voting behind wrestling, they would be the first sport to be added if room was found for them. (Again, not a ‘new’ sport for the Olympics, but an old one being reinstated.) With any luck, enough room will be made for squash as well and finally we can take our place amongst the Olympic family and wave the flag for the sport even higher.