If there is one thing that all teams in the World junior squash championships beginning here on Wednesday, agree is that Egypt is the overwhelming favourite to stake claim for all three gold medals — individual boys and girls and the boys’ team events. The individual event will be held from July 18 to 23 and the boys’ team competition will be from July 24 to 29.
“Egypt players have lot of role models, have no fear and play aggressive squash,” said World No.7 women’s player, Laura Massaro, coaching the England girls here, told The Hindu here on Tuesday. “They are super attacking,” said George Crowne, a player representing Canada. Elaborating further, he said: “It is because in junior tournaments in Egypt, nearly 400 players take part whereas we have hardly 40 players max.”
The main challenge for Egypt will come from Malaysia, England, Hong Kong and USA.
Pakistan, the defending champion in boys’ has come into the tournament with a young squad, but it hopes to defend the title, if the National coach Mohd. Yasin is to be believed. “We have trained hard, and believe we can retain the crown.”
Pakistan is led by its No.1 player, Abbas Zeb with Uzair Shoukat, Asad Ullah Khan, Muhammed Farhan Hashmi, Haris Qasim, Muhammad Uzair completing the squad.
Malaysia can count itself as one of the challengers. The Asian team’s best finish in the boys’ section in the World juniors has been a third place finish in 2006 (Palmerston, New Zealand).
“Ours is a youngish side. For some of our players it is the first time in Chennai and for the rest it is the first Worlds. Egypt is a strong favourite, but England, USA, Czech Republic, Canada, India, France and Hong Kong will put up a strong fight,” remarked Andrew Cross, head coach of Malaysia.
Darren Rahul Pragasam, the fifth seed, will be keen to do well and help get Malaysia a medal in the boys’ singles. In the girls’ Malaysia has Lucy Turmel and Aifa Azman, who are both seeded third.
Ong Beng Hee, one of Malaysia’s greatest players, is now the head coach of Qatar. The former World No.7 in men’s has arrived with a bunch of players who are experiencing it all for the first time. “We are not looking at medals, for us it is about gaining exposure,” he said.
Though it’s a cliche, one cannot help but state it will be very difficult to look beyond Egypt.