Al-Ahram Weekly Online   6 - 12 August 2009
Issue No. 959
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Schoolgirl stuns squash world

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One of Egypt's juniors battling for a title

Egypt's squash players made history at the 16th World Junior Squash Championships as they collected both women and men individual titles.

On Sunday, 13-year old Nour El-Sherbini stunned the world in Chennai, India, where the event is currently taking place, when she won the women's title to become the sport's youngest ever world champion.

Seeded only to reach the last sixteen, the Egyptian schoolgirl from Alexandria despatched the sixth seed, the number two seed, Egyptian Heba El-Torky, and then the eighth seed to reach the final where she faced fourth seed, Nour El-Tayeb.

Undaunted by the historic moment that beckoned, El-Sherbini recovered from a game down to beat El Tayeb 5-11, 11-7, 11- 6, 11-5 in 31 minutes to claim the title.

"I'm so happy," the new champion told the UK squashsite online after her unique triumph -- the lowest-seeded player ever to win the world junior crown.

"After losing the first, I remembered how I came back when I was down against Heba, and that gave me the belief I could do it again. I kept telling myself I could do it, and I did!"

Incredibly, El Sherbini, who celebrates her fourteenth birthday in November, will have the chance to defend her title on a five further occasions, with the prospect of further marking squash history by becoming the first player to win a world junior title more than twice.

Mohamed El-Shorbagy made it a notable Egyptian double when he successfully defended his men's title on the first occasion that a world junior title has been contested annually. The 18-year-old favourite from Alexandria defeated second-seeded Malaysian Ivan Yuen 11-9, 12-10, 11-2 in 36 minutes.

"I'm really happy to win this world junior title," said El-Shorbagy, who became only the second player in the history of the men's championship to claim a second title, though his predecessor, compatriot Ramy Ashour, did so when the event was only contested biennially.

"This year was much harder than the last one. I can say that this was the hardest week I've ever had in my life. I couldn't sleep properly ... so I'm really glad that I won the tournament." Of Ivan, the new champion said: "He is a very good player and very fair and I'm sure he'll get to the top very quickly if he keeps training hard."

El-Shorbagy added: "I would like to thank my dad and my mum a lot; they did really a lot for me and winning this title again, it's just a small thing I can do for them. Jonah (Barrington) too is a very special man to me. He did a lot for me in the past three years and without him I would have never dreamed to do what I have done in squash. He taught me lots of things and I'm still learning every day from him something new."

This year, the World Squash Federation (WSF) implemented a new concept for the World Junior Championship: an additional individual event was introduced. Since its inception the world juniors have been held biennially -- junior men (individual and team) held one year, junior women (individual and team) the following year. A junior playing in the championship may hit his or her peak, however, with no championship scheduled.

So the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) began a campaign to have an annual individual event included in the WSF calendar. After some deliberation at the highest level in the WSF, the proposal was accepted. India was given the honour of organising the inaugural, stand-alone junior championship.

So, this year it has been the world junior women's individual and teams event whilst the junior men had an individual event only. Next year it will be the world junior men's individual and team event with an individual event only for women. The team event remains a biennial event.

With both individual events over, the 16th World Junior Women's Team Squash Championships will continue until 8 August. With all their girls featured in the top 16, the Egyptian team has secured a top billing. India attained ninth position in 2007 with Dipika, Surbhi, Anwesha and Harita all eligible this year as team members.

The SRFI will announce its final women's squad during the individual event. This year the Indian girls have been given an interim fourth seeding behind Egypt, Malaysia and Canada.

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