Chance to shine again

Cayman squash gets another chance to host a major tournament next month.

After the success of the Cayman Open in May when most of the world’s best women’s players and the best Caribbean men came over, Cayman has been given a late-notice opportunity to host the Caribbean Championships from August 17-21.

Mark Hennings

Mark Hennings is the major sponsor. Photo: Ron Shillingford

The opportunity comes after Trinidad pulled out because of fears of the spread of swine flu.

There were a few countries that showed interest in hosting the event yet the governing body, Caribbean Area Squash Association, unanimously said immediately that Cayman was the best place to host it.

Dan Kneipp is a coach at the South Sound Squash club and principal organiser. He said: ‘CASA made it clear that they had total confidence that we could host it at short notice and do a wonderful job.

‘It’s great that they can see that we’re putting the time and effort into it. This means that we get to play on home soil and the juniors get to see the region’s best players here.’

Trinidad’s loss is Cayman’s gain. Yet Kneipp is puzzled by the switch. Trinidad also cancelled the inaugural Caribbean Games for the same reason.

‘We don’t think there was a great reason for Trinidad to cancel. It was their health minister who stepped in but our government is more realistic. Swine flu’s everywhere. At least we’ve got a great opportunity to host it.

The Cayman Islands National Squash Association director is Janet Sairsingh.

She said: ‘The main difficulty overall is the funding of the tournament but with the help of our major sponsor, Cayman Contractor Store and the government, we’re able to put this tournament on.

‘The Cayman Open was a tremendous success and it brought squash to the forefront for spectators and the Caribbean basically saw squash at a different level here.

‘The Cayman Open whet the appetite for a lot of players and even the older players are shining off their shoes and coming back to play. A lot of the juniors as well got a lot of exposure.’

Health and Sports Minister Mark Scotland is best known as a football fan but he was a keen junior squash player too and even represented the island.

He said: ‘The request from the squash association has come at the last minute but the government is going to do whatever we can to support this.

‘This request to host it here obviously speaks of the level of organisation within the sport’s organisation and I also commend the sponsors for stepping up at the late minute.

‘Whatever sports we’ve been hosting at the national level recently speaks of the organisations’ themselves and the on-island facilities like the availability of hotels.

‘The government does a lot to support the sporting organisations in Cayman but a lot of them are not well organised.

‘We help them with programmes and tournaments but rarely see what comes of these. But just driving in here you can see what’s going on in squash.

‘When I was in high school we only had two squash courts in George Town but this club now has seven. They’ve been doing things on their own for the past 25 years to get this facility to where it is. So government doesn’t have a problem making a donation.

‘Any sport like this is that is put on the forefront is good for the island. It trickles right down eventually to young people and it’s an incentive for them to get involved in sports.’

Mark Hennings is the Cayman Contractor Store managing director. His daughter Samantha will be in the Cayman team.

He said: ‘Being a Trinidadian myself and my daughter Samantha being part of the team, plus Dan did such a great job with the Cayman Open, I know he’s going to make everybody look good.

‘The fact that Samantha is such a well rounded individual is probably due to playing squash. She’s disciplined and I appreciate that and I feel that I need to put money back into the sport.

‘Hopefully, I’ll get in the over-40s team!’

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