Squashers stay busy

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Even as squash has been delisted from the SEA Games calendar in Hanoi this May and theres no certainty if the national team, known as Kayod Pilipinas, will be given the green light to represent the country in the next Asian Games, the athletespool isnt sitting around idly. SEA Squash Federation and Philippine Squash Academy president Bob Bachmann said yesterday the squashers are doing exactly what theyre known to do – “kayod lang ng kayod.” The players are training in a private Muntinlupa court, staying fit, sharp and competitive.

The Philippines marked a breakthrough in squash at the 2019 SEA Games, taking second overall with a gold, two silvers and two bronzes behind Malaysia. The mixed team of Robert Garcia, MacMac Begornia, Myca Aribado and David Pelino struck paydirt in delivering the countrys first-ever SEA Games gold medal in the sport. Garcia took the silver in mens singles and anchored the mens squad to a runner-up finish. Garcias teammates were Begornia, Pelino and Christopher Buraga. Aribado pocketed a bronze in the womens singles and joined Aysah Dalida and Jimmie Avila to finish third in the team event. Despite losing the chance to capitalize on the momentum gained from the SEA Games, Bachmann said Kayod isnt taking a step back.

Morale is fine,” said Bachmann. “We have many other tournaments besides the SEA Games. As SEA Squash Federation president, one of my initiatives is to have more SEA championshipsindividuals, juniors, team, doubles, jumbo doubles and Squash 57 for both men and women. As for the 2022 Asian Games, Im hopeful well make it to China. If not, we still have our world and Asian federation-sanctioned tournaments and the Professional Squash Association World Tour.” Before the year ends, Bachmann said Kayod will battle at the Asian Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 30-Dec. 4, the World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 7-12, the Thailand International Individual Championships on Dec. 15-17 and the SEA Team Championships in Bangkok on Dec. 18-21.

In the mens roster are Garcia, Pelino, Begornia and Drexel University varsity player Matt Lucente while the womens lineup is composed of Aribado, Dalida and Lizette Reyes. Lucente, 21, played for New Zealand at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires and has been cleared to represent the Philippines by World Squash Federation operations manager Carol Hackett after a mandatory three-year wait to effect the transfer. Born in Manila to Filipino parents, Lucente migrated to New Zealand with his family at an early age. Reyes, 21, is making her national team debut and has a brother Jonathan who is in Kayods youth program. Bachmann said the future is bright for Kayod with Reyes and Asias No. 1 U17 player Buraga, both 15.  The plan is to send Buraga and Reyes to the British Juniors Open next year. Another reason to be upbeat is the installation of the countrys first public squash courts at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. Bachmann said the PSC and IATF recently gave the go-signal for the installation by M. E. Construction. “The courts will be installed under close supervision of Courtech Germany and Singapore via video teleconferencing,” he said.

Bachmann said a new event Squash 57 is gaining in popularity. “Its played by two players on a regular squash court using racketball rackets and a specific Squash 57 ball which is slightly larger and more bouncy than a typical double yellow dot squash ball,” he said. “The livelier ball allows for added time to reach your opponents shot and means Squash 57 doesnt require the same intense deep lunging movement that can be taxing on the knees, hips and feet. Its ideal for older players or those with less racket sport experience and provides a great workout in a social setting.”

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