Squash down to five events
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 31, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — Squash events in the coming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games are down from nine to six to five but Philippine Squash Academy (PSA) president Bob Bachmann is optimistic the calendar shift won’t affect the mindset of the country’s players now in the last stage of preparations for the 11-nation conclave.

With the squash courts still unfinished at the Rizal Memorial, it was decided to hold the matches at the Manila Polo Club. The Rizal Memorial courts would’ve made possible the inclusion of doubles and jumbo doubles in the SEA Games but Bachmann said he’s not rushing the completion of the construction at the risk of botching the job.

There are no doubles and jumbo doubles facilities in the country. The Rizal Memorial courts would’ve been the first. Because the Rizal Memorial courts are still under construction, three events were scratched – men’s and women’s jumbo doubles and mixed doubles. Bachmann said he was able to replace the three events with the team competitions for men and women. The addition of the team event for women led to recruiting a third female player.

Initially, squash was penciled for nine events. PHISGOC, however, trimmed it to six after evaluating the entire SEA Games calendar. Named to the original Philippine cast of squashers were Robert Garcia, MacMac Begornia, David Pelino and Chris Buraga for men and Myca Aribado and Aysah Dalida for women. Since the team event for women will require three players, Bachmann brought 19-year-old Jimmie Avila of Cotabato into the lineup. The team event will feature three best-of-five encounters with the winner of the tie taking at least two of the matches.

Bachmann recently met with Mike Sicat, owner of the company that won the bid to construct the Rizal Memorial courts. “We studied the options available and decided not to rush it,” he said. “If we ordered the floor and glass back wall last Monday by air, arrival will be in two or three days then installation will take about three weeks. They can finish the structure but we don’t want to risk laying out the floor in a hurry and doing a bad job. This will be our first world-class squash facility and we’re hoping to host an international competition next year.”

Apparently, there was hemming and hawing with Sicat’s sub-contractor trying to negotiate better terms with an international squash supplier, causing a major delay. Bachmann finally stepped in and made direct contact with Sicat, the prime contractor. Singapore squash legend Zainal Abidin has been tapped as supplier and his initial delivery will be an adjustable tin of 17-19 inches for use in the SEA Games. The height of the tin on a standard court is 19 inches but men on the pro tour now play with a lower level of 17. The SEA Games will play a tin of 17 inches for men and women.

Bachmann accompanied Aribado, the country’s No. 1 female player, to Cairo for the world women’s championships last weekend. Aribado, ranked world No. 91 (her highest ranking was No. 77), drew world No. 7 Sarah-Jane Perry of England in the first round and lost, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6. It was one of 20 3-0 sweeps of 32 matches in the first round involving 64 of the world’s top female squashers. Aribado made a good account of herself and took several points off Perry in a valiant stand.

Garcia, Begornia, Pelino and Dalida left for Singapore last Tuesday to finish up their training with New Zealand coach Chad Sunde and compete in the Singapore Open on Nov. 12-19. Aribado, who arrived from Cairo yesterday, will join the team in Singapore. The players will be away for 2 1/2 weeks. Buraga and Avila will stay in Manila to train with PSA coaches.

Avila was on the top-rated squash varsity team of Epworth High School in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, under coach Sally White. She was brought to South Africa by her parents at the age of nine and the family returned home to Cotabato this year. Avila contacted Bachmann to inquire about squash facilities two weeks ago and was invited to try out for the national team. She’s now training three hours a day, six days a week at the Manila Polo Club with PSA coaches and junior players.

PHILIPPINE SQUASH ACADEMY SOUTHEAST ASIAN
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