In a few weeks’ time, Richard Andrew Chin will be celebrating his 50th birthday and along with that milestone, 40 years of squash service to Guyana
and the broader squash community. Richard was born on September 11, 1969, on what is now considered an inauspicious birthday in US history. Yet his squash career ultimately began in the most auspicious of ways. As a complete unknown in the inaugural Junior CASA held in St. Vincent in 1981, he won his first junior Caribbean title as a diminutive and unpolished 11-year-old, by beating both vaunted Cyrus brothers, Mark and Paul in the semi-finals and finals respectively in the boys U14 category. In the most dramatic but unusual of contests, Richard won the title over Paul Cyrus 8-10, 9-0, 8-10, 9-0, 9-7. This win would launch perhaps the greatest junior squash career in Caribbean history to date.
Richard would go on to win every single match he played individual or team leading into his swan song match – the last he would ever play as a junior player – in the finals of the Boys U19 in Guyana in 1988 where he was aiming for his 7th junior title (it would have been 8th had the 1985 event not been cancelled). While he narrowly fell at that last hurdle, his career as a junior was unprecedented and will unlikely ever be matched, much less surpassed. A legacy cemented by the age when most people are yet to cast their first vote, is a truly remarkable achievement and it was the perfect start in what continues to be a lifetime of contribution to Guyana squash.
Richard service to the National Senior Men’s team also began in St. Vincent in 1984, at the age of 14 and reached his first Men’s finals in Barbados in 1989, losing to the great John McRury of Cayman. As a US citizen by then, and fresh off a remarkable collegiate squash career at Cornell University where he was a four-time First Team All American (he would later be inducted into the Cornell Hall of Fame), Richard moved on to play for the US between 1992 and 2007. For the next fifteen years, he was a reliable member on the men’s team representing the US at the Pan American Games and the World Championships.
He eventually made his much-anticipated return to the Guyana Men’s National team in 2010 where he won the Men’s final over Chris Binne at the age of 41. This match had a personal and special significance in his career as it was his first men’s title, won 30 years after his first junior title, and won in the very same country where it all began for him – St. Vincent, and poignantly watched by many of the same people who witnessed his first win in 1981 including several members of the decorated Cyrus family.
Ever since, he has been a loyal servant to the call of national duty. Over the years, to have a consistent number one or someone who, by virtue of their skill, experience and grind, is almost guaranteed to deliver that all important team point is a luxury many teams crave, but few enjoy. And this, all while playing his own unique brand of squash. His style is easy on the eye; text-book strokes, balanced footwork, efficiency of movement, effective shot selection. And oh, add in the purest lob since Peter Nicol. But he is more than these visual attributes on the court. Richard plays the game the right way; play hard, play fair, be competitive on every point, and have total respect for the opponent and more importantly for the game. Moreover, he plays with a true love for the sport. His passion can be seen not only from the way he plays, but in any conversation, you have with him about the game. This passion is intrinsic to who he is as a squash player. It defines who he is as a competitor. And it humanizes who he is as a person. This passion is contagious to the spectator as we can all identify with it, and more so, with him.
Over the past ten years Richard has increasingly played players half his age, and now, regrettably, and with increasingly regularity, three times his age. . . While the clichés of old versus young, youth versus experience can tritely describe these encounters, it is the lesson on how this game should be played which he imparts on his younger opponents that bemuses his teammates, flummoxes his opponents and leaves the hungry spectator yearning for more. The discipline of a good length, the timeliness of a well-executed lob, the precision of the volley drop, the beauty of the attack, the art of the defence all encompasses his game. Indeed, for any purist of the sport, there may be nothing more fulfilling, even sublime, than watching a hapless opponent ensnared in the elegant entrapment between the Scylla of his lob and the Charybdis of his drop. Many have played him at some point over the years. Whether it was only once or many times, win or lose, close or lop-sided, tournament play or Sunday afternoon run around, only few walk away without the sense that it was a privilege to have shared a court with him: A master of the game, in complete command of his craft.
And it is these talents, passion and dedication which stands Richard as a current top five payer in the world in his age category. We all eagerly await the day in the not too distant future when he brings that elusive world title home.
Yet, perhaps his greatest contributions to Guyana squash are those made off the court. The relationships he has forged and fostered over the years are deep and expansive. As he travels the world perfecting his craft, he is the consummate ambassador for us as a nation within the squash community. As a small country, Guyana is not well known in many circles and sometimes not for the right reasons. However, his ability, by virtue of the skill of his game and the power of his personality, to shape a more favorable impression is truly immeasurable. More locally, as his contemporaries have faded from the sport with time, Richard has become a mentor to the younger generation. His counsel and friendship to so many has been valued over the years. He has become a role model for the younger generation on how to comport oneself on and off the court. For those on the national team a generation below him, men and women, he is affectionately referred to as Uncle, Dad or Grandpa, sometimes even Chauffeur or/and Tour Guide. They say the greatest accomplishment an athlete can have is not the titles or championships won, but the respect and admiration of one’s peers. He is the epitome of this truism.
We are lucky to be able to still enjoy watching him play at this stage of his career, especially at his continued high level of squash. We are thankful for all he has given the game, the country and to us as individuals. As such, if you see him around the courts over the next week or so, please congratulate Richard, or Gibbo, or Champ or Chinner or Houdini or Uncle or Gramps or whatever moniker he has picked up over the past fifty years and wish the old geezer a Happy Birthday. Maybe even give him some Ben Gay, Rogaine or even Preparation H as a most welcome and much needed present.
And if you get a chance to watch him play, please do. The court is his easel the racket is his paint brush. Just watch quietly and absorb – maybe even marvel – but definitely appreciate an artist at work.
We are all grateful for the past forty years for his contributions, not only to Guyana squash, but to all of us as a squash community, and we look forward to the next forty.
His body of work is not complete, nor has it been fully crafted, but there can be no doubt that it has already been judged.
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