Highlight of 2014 for Pontefract Squash Club’s James Willstrop was the outstanding final at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he faced long term rival and the then World Champion Nick Matthew.
Matthew won 3-2 after a match that was acclaimed by two top newpapers as the contest of the Games.
BBC televised it live and the squash arena was full to capacity of 2,500 throughout the Games. Sporting greats Sir Stephen Redgrave, Daley Thompson, Kelly Holmes, Matthew Pinsent and Victoria Pendleton all attended the final which did much for the profile of the sport.
From there, with a hip operatipon pending, Willstrop headed for Shanghai for the inaugural men’s China Open which he won with a series of outstanding performances.
With the hip operation behind him he is well on course to resume at the Tournament of Champions in New York in January.
Saurav Ghosal, India’s best ever player and Pontefract based for eight years, has been back recently and he led India to their first ever Asian Team Championship in Korea, winning the crucial match in the final against Malaysia.
International players who have trained on a regular basis at Pontefract in 2014 include Emma Beddoes, a member of the England Women’s team which won the World Championship in Canada recently, Sarah Kippax, Madeline Perry, Amanda Landers-Murphy and Aqeel Rehman. Players from 16 countries have been at Pontefract for training purposes, enhancing the international reputation of the club.
Former Pontefract playerr and England coach David Campion led England women to their success in Canada and another former Pontefract player Andrew Cross was named Malaysian young coach of the year.
Pontefract’s junior players continue to thrive and three, Elliot Ridge (under 15), Sam Todd (under 13) and Ellen Cooper (under 15) all achieved an England ranking of number one, besides representing their country. Todd won the British Under 13 championship a year early. Ben Sockett reached number two at under 13 and Layla Johnson is currently three at under 11.
In the final match of the first half of the Yorkshire League season, Pontefract fourth-team beat Barnsley seconds 3-2, with wins from 13-year-old Harry Anderson and Sockett and a first Yorkshire League win for the talented Malaysian player Min Jie, currently in training at Pontefract.
The Pontefract Junior Open begins on December 27 and is followed by the world class British Junior Open in Sheffield on January 2.