Climbing the squash ranks
A week after clinching the world individual title, Egypt's women's junior squash team added the World Teams' title to their record. Inas Mazhar was at the Cairo Stadium watching the play
The Egyptians outclassed third seeds Australia 3-0 in the final of the 15 -day event that ended last week at Cairo Stadium's indoor complex. The top seeded Egyptian team needed 70 minutes to knock down their opponents 3-0 and win the world title.
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Egypt's junior women's team celebrates its world title with the federation's officials
Sara Badr, runner-up of the individual championship, opened the account for Egypt taking only 39 minutes to beat Donna Urquhart 3-0 (9-6, 9-6, 9-4), to give her country a 1-0 lead before Omneya Abdel- Qawi clinched the title with a 24-minute whitewash.
Individual champion Abdel-Qawi sealed a historic team championship for hosts Egypt with a crushing 3-0 win over Australia's Kasey Brown. Brown was seeded two in the individuals, and had beaten European junior champion Susie Pierrepont 3-2 the day before to give Australia a place in the final, ahead of defending champions England. Abdel- Qawi overpowered Brown 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 in just 24 minutes without conceding any point, and confirming Egypt's win of the world trophy.
Despite the guaranteed win, the third match had to be played -- but a best of three rather than five. In just 11 minutes, Raneem El-Weileili finished the job off with a 9-0, 9-2 win over Georgina Davis in the dead rubber.
Head coach of the Egyptian women's juniors team Ahmed Taher, said that the team deserved the double win -- the individual and teams' world titles.
"We have been preparing for this event for two years," Taher said. "Right after the last World Juniors Championships in Malaysia in 2001 where we were runner-ups. We went through a lot of tournaments the last two years, winning the British juniors Open -- the biggest tournament for the juniors -- three out of four times. We also won the French, German and African juniors championships for four years in a row."
The head coach -- a former national and international champion -- said that "serious" training had started 13 months before the beginning of the championship.
"We started focusing intensely 13 months ago," Taher said. "The plan comprised participating in international events in addition to three intensive training camps. The first was in Sharm El-Sheikh for 13 days, where we invited two senior international players to play with the juniors. The second camp took place in Alexandria for nine days, which was very hard; we trained six hours a day for two sessions. The third was held in Cairo and we invited the former number one Fiona Genes to train with the girls for 17 days. It was beneficial in every way, for their physical conditioning too. All this training is why there is now a big gap between our players and the others," Taher explained of his team's stellar play.
The future of the Egyptian team in the coming world championship is not something Taher now worries about. Taher said he is 90 per cent prepared for the next championships in two years. "Though we'll be losing the efforts of 18-year-old Omneya Abdel-Qawi who'll be over the age by 2005, we have three other players from this team who will continue playing in the juniors championship," Taher said. "That's how it is in sports -- young players grow up and are replaced by others. I have three young players who have already reached the semifinals in this championship, Sara Badr, Raneem El- Weileili and Nihal Yehia, so these three can play in 2005 and I can say that they are prepared to win in 2005."
On the other hand, former number one and head coach of the Australian team Michelle Martin said that the Egyptian team was playing exceptionally that day.
"They've got a lot of talent. Besides, they were playing at home court, had no fault in serves. These girls played exceptionally well. Their achievement is great for Egyptian squash," Martin said. One of the big names in the history of squash, Martin -- recently retired as a player -- has taken over as head coach of the Australian team shortly before the championship.
"I'm not a full-time coach, we don't have that in Australia," she said. "Some of these girls didn't have coaches for a long time, so it's great that we reached the finals -- but the Egyptians were very strong today. We had a long way to go today but it didn't go our way and it wasn't our day," Martin said.
England, the defending champions who lost to Australia in the semifinals, clinched third place with a 2-1 win over India.
Australia had stunned the title-holders England to reach the final with Egypt, who had overcome India 3-0 in the semis. The third seeds Australia crushed second seeds England 3-0 to consign the title- holders to the play-off for third place for only the second time in the event's 18-year history.
In the semifinals, five-time champions England got off to a bad start when Australia's second string Donna Urquhart beat England's number two Emma Beddoes 10-8, 9-4, 5-9, 9-2, in 32 minutes. It was the second upset for Beddoes, who also failed to reach her anticipated quarter-final berth in the earlier individual event.
The second match was a rollercoaster affair between Australia's Kasey Brown and England's Suzie Pierrepont. Both players had failed to live up to their seeded expectations in the world individual event due to illness -- the second-seeded Australian and 3/4 seed Pierrepont crashing out at the last-16 stage. Pierrepont, the European Junior Champion, squandered a 2-1 lead as Kasey's fighting spirit ultimately clinched the match 9-7, 2-9, 8-10, 9-4, 9-7. The battle lasted a remarkable 78 minutes and took three-times winners Australia into their first final since winning the title on home soil in 1995.
England, who only failed to reach the final in Malaysia in 1993 when they finished in fourth place, were unable to gain a consolation point in the dead rubber. Lauren Siddall, the defending champions' sole representative in the individual quarter-finals, retired with injury after the first game to give Australia's Georgina Davis victory after just six minutes.
India's brave run in their first-ever appearance in the semifinals came to an expected end against hot favourites Egypt. India had cruised into the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over the USA in the quarter-finals. The hosts, led for the fifth successive time in the team event by newly-crowned World Champion Omneya Abdel-Qawi, cruised to a 3-0 win as Sara Badr, Abdel-Qawi and Raneem El- Weileili conceded just 14 points in their straight- game wins over Supriya Balsekar, Vaidehi Reddy and Alisha Mashruwala, respectively.
Seeded four, India have competed in the biennial event only twice before, finishing in eighth place in their last appearance in 2001 in Malaysia. Fielding the same squad as in Penang, India took just 61 minutes to claim their semi-final place; with second string Vaidehi Reddy beating USA's Claire Rein- Weston 9-2, 9-5, 9-4, then top string Joshna Chinappa overcoming a first game loss to Lily Lorentzen to win 6-9, 9-2, 9-1, 9-4. Tenth seeds USA gained a consolation point in the 'dead' third string rubber when Audrey Duboc beat India's No3 Supriya Balsekar 9-3, 9-3.
In the 5/6 play-off, Malaysia beat Canada 3-0, Hong Kong beat USA 3-0 in the 7/8 play-off, while New Zealand upset Spain 3-0 in the 9/10 playoff. In the 11/12 play-off, Wales defeated Scotland 2-1, Germany beat Ireland 3-0 in the 13/14 play-off, and Switzerland beat Mexico 2-1 in the 15/16 play-off.
Following the medal distribution, Jackie Robinson addressed the audience on behalf of the president of the WSPA, thanking the organisers for an outstanding organisation and a successful event. Robinson spoke not only of the nation's future as a tournament organiser, but also of its place as a leader in the future of global squash.