Demanding schedule proves fulfilling for Pontefract Squash Club hero Willstrop

James Willstrop
James Willstrop

Commonwealth Games singles champion James Willstrop came close to reaching another final at the Gold Coast event when he teamed up with Nottingham’s Declan James for the men’s doubles.

After making it through to the semi-finals, they had two match balls in the deciding game before going down by a single point 11-10 to Daryl Selby and Adrian Waller.

This meant the duo had to play another match with the bronze medal at stake and this time they came on top, beating the 2016 World Doubles champions Alan Clyne and Greg Lobban, of Scotland, 2-0.

The bronze medal match was Willstrop’s 12th match in 12 days, two over 90 minutes and two over 70 minutes – demanding in any sport let alone squash, which Forbes magazine in America lists as the toughest sport in the world.

James’ sterling efforts have been well rewarded by gold and bronze medals, bringing his Commonwealth Games tally to one gold, three silvers and two bronzes in his career.

His success in the singles has been well received and messages of congratulation have been received from notable Rugby League men Tony Smith, Rob Burrow, Francis Cummins and Richard Agar, as well as racing’s Jim McGrath and the West End actor Alex Hansen.

Willstrop will welcome a rest period, but May will be a busy month; he will represent England in the European Team Championships in Poland 2-5; play for Pontefract in the National League semi-finals at the historic RAC club in London on May 8; then to Hull for the Allam British Open. At the end of the month he will be guest of honour at North Walsham’s 40th anniversary celebrations, when he will play an exhibition with England team-mate Daryl Selby.

Two of the Pontefract club’s talented young girls, Amber Copley, 15, and Layla Johnson, 13, both playing their second Yorkshire Senior League match for Pontefract’s fourth team helped their side to a 3-2 win over Rothwell first team, Copley winning 3-1 and Johnson 3-0, recording her first win at this level on her second appearance.

At 2-2 it was left to Tom Howell to provide the win, which he did with an 11-8 in the fifth victory.

Two less experienced girls, but both showing promise, Bethany Cain and Jodie Fisher won their divisions of a graded event at Collingham.

Fisher won five matches to win the grade D Championship and Cain won the Under 13 Boys and Girls Intermediate Class. She also won the Sportsmanship Award at the tournament, much to her credit.