Willstrop’s Hong Kong missions

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IT is a big week for James Willstrop, who is in Hong Kong defending his Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open title.

The IOC are in attendance and he will be heavily involved in trying to convince them that squash should be in the Olympics.

Vanessa Atkinson will also play a leading role as she is the presenter for the long established and prestigious championship.

Willstrop (pictured), meanwhile, was unable to attend the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2012 presentation at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly, London. Although he did not win the ultimate award he can take pleasure from the fact that in the 24 years of the award’s existence his book Shot and a Ghost was the first ever book about squash to make the shortlist and more significantly the first self published book to make the shortlist.

Both broadcaster Jon Inverdale and famous journalist Hugh Mcillvaney were quick to praise Willstrop’s book, which has done much to publicise a sport played in 150 countries.

Willstrop had previously led AJP Pontefract to a convincing 4-1 win over local rivals Chapel Allerton in the National League, a win that puts Pontefract in contention for the play-offs.

On paper a 3-2 win for the Leeds team looked the more likely outcome, but Sarah Kippax put up an outstanding performance to beat England team-mate, Jenny Duncalf 3-1 and when Taminder Gata-Aura recovered from 2-0 down to beat long time rival Matt Siddaway 3-2, Pontefract led 2-0.

Lee Beachill beat Dutch international Dylan Bennett 3-2 and Willstrop made it 4-1 with another 3-2 win over Chris Simpson.

Saurav Ghosal, fresh from winning a tournament in Mumbai at the Bombay Gymkhana Club, is also in Hong Kong.

Two of the club’s outstanding youngsters, nine-year-old Sam Todd and 12-year-old Ellen Cooper won Open championships - Todd the Manchester under 13 Open and Cooper the Chapel Allerton under 13 Open following her fine performance in reaching the final of the British Under 13 Championships.

Another highly promising youngster, eight-year-old Layla Johnson, has been selected for an under 11 national squad.

Pontefract’s second Yorkshire league team recorded their seventh win from nine matches with a resounding 5-0 success over Chapel Allerton II and the fourth team had a remarkable 3-2 win over Queen’s, Halifax III, all the matches won being decided in the fifth and final game, with Ian Bateman, Chris Baird and Matthew Smith the players involved.

Jessica Beachill and Eve Perrin, two promising young squash players, have other sporting talents. Beachill recently represented England in the Pony Club Internationals in Ireland and Perrin won the coaches’ player of the year as the Yorkshire under 11 cricketer of the year.