By Sean Devers
Guyana’s Squash Coach Raymon Chan-a-Sue is elated with the outstanding performances of his female charges at the just concluded Caribbean Squash Championships in the Cayman Islands where they achieved their highest ranking (6th) and qualified for the first time ever for next year’s Pan American Championships to be held in Peru.
The Penultimate day of the Championships did not start as the Guyanese girls would have hoped as they faced the Colombian ladies’ in the team quarter-finals. Despite a win from their most experienced player; Nicolette Fernandes, the ladies failed win one more match to advance to the semi-finals and gain automatic qualification to Peru.
However, they were placed in the 5/8 draw for another chance to qualify, with a matchup against Brazil. Nicolette Fernandes won 3-0 before Guyana’s National Champion Mary Fung-A-Fat also registered a 3-0 win while Taylor Fernandes won 2-0 to qualify for Peru which sparked joyous celebrations.
In 2014, the Guyanese Women lost out on Pan American Championship qualification on a match ball situation and the memories of that close defeat is now behind them as they advanced for the first time ever.
The Men’s team qualified on three previous occasions; 1995, 1999 and 2015 but failed to do so this year. “The qualification was very exciting for the ladies and was great for our squash programme and its development,” declared President of the Guyana Squash Association (GSA) David Fernandes.
Fernandes added that this success is a definite motivation for the juniors that are currently coming through the system to emulate what this group has done.
“The tournament in Cayman was well organised and attracted one of the highest number of entries ever for this championships with 17 countries for the men and 15 for the women participating” informed Coach Chan-a-Sue, a former International Squash player.
Chan-a-Sue whose first love was cricket which he played at the third division level for GCC, said the standard of the Championships was extremely high, with twenty players ranked in the top 100 in the world, including three in the top ten in the world.
“Guyana did extremely well considering that most of the athletes from these countries train full time together and are funded” said Chan-a-Sue who switched to Squash as a teenager.
“We knew that our depth would be good on the women’s side, so we had a good chance of qualifying but, we did not know how our draw would pan out. As it was, the women ended up with a good draw. The men weren’t so lucky, as they drew Jamaica then El Salvador, who were some of the deeper teams in the draw” added Chan-a-Sue, who resides in Canada.
Fernandes said the GSA would have liked to have both teams qualify for the Games but was still proud of being one of three Caribbean countries to earn berths at the Games; Jamaica and Bermuda’s men being the others.
When asked what were the highs and lows in the Championship the GSA head said the Women qualifying was the high while the low was Guyana’s Men’s loss against El Salvador.
“However, our men’s team includes two promising young players in Jason Khalil and Nyron Joseph who have the tools to be really good players but need to be exposed to this level more” Fernandes stressed.
“Our players need to play on the professional circuit more, so they are exposed to this level of play more often. Also they need to train together more often, which is a challenge because many of them are based in various parts of the world and it is not always easy or feasible to get them together” Fernandes added.
When questioned about preparations for Peru, Fernandes informed that the GSA is going to have a combination of training camps, challenge matches and PSA tournaments to select and get the team ready for Lima.
“We think we have the ability to finish in the top five, so that would be our goal” the GSA President concluded.
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