Squash players Cameron Stafford and Marlene West etched their names in Cayman Islands history by winning gold in the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games in Mexico.
The duo won the squash mixed doubles gold medal in Veracruz on Wednesday night when they defeated the Mexican tandem of Diana Garcia and Alfredo Avila in three sets: 11-10, 7-11, 11-10.
CAC Games organizers said in a press release that it was a thrilling match, stating, “Cameron and Marlene achieved the first gold medal for their country. The 2-1 final was extremely surprising for fans who could not believe what happened but ultimately (they) ended up giving warm applause for the gold medalists, especially so in the final set, where they came back, tied the score and then took the 11th point representing their victory after 35 minutes.
“Since squash came into the program of the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2002, the Cayman Islands have just a bronze in the men’s doubles (Mayaguez, Puerto Rico 2010), so this gold is historic.”
The Cayman players made a dazzling run through a field of eight countries, which featured Barbados, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana and Jamaica. They beat Jamaican duo Tracy Binnie and Lewis Walters in straight sets (11-5, 11-5) in their opening match. Cayman defeated the top-ranked Colombian pair of Catalina Pelaez and Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the semifinals in three sets (10-11, 11-6, 11-10).
It should be noted that en route to victory, the local duo took down some of the tournament’s best singles players as Mr. Rodriguez won gold and Ms. Garcia and Ms. Pelaez nabbed bronze.
Mr. Stafford, 22, and Ms. West, 42, have played together multiple times over the years, with their most recent showing at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland this summer.
The Cayman Islands Olympic Committee noted its pleasure with the result, saying, “Congratulations, Cameron and Marlene, on winning the gold medal. The Caymanian pair become the first to medal at the Veracruz Games for the Cayman Islands. The pair truly showed determination and fight to win the first medal for Cayman. Cameron continues his impressive form tomorrow competing in the men’s team competition with Alex (Frazer, 21) and Julian (Jervis, 17). They face a tough El Salvador team.”
The squash medal is in stark contrast to Cayman’s results in the Games thus far. In athletics, high jumper Ashleigh Nalty finished eighth out of eight competitors in the Women’s High Jump with a leap of 1.70 meters. Carlos Morgan had a Did Not Start result in the Men’s Long Jump. Ronald Forbes finished fifth out of six hurdlers in his heat for the Men’s 110m Hurdles, posting a time of 14.51 seconds. The beach volleyball duo of Olney Thompson and Keith Higgins lost their opening matches to Mexico and Cuba.
Cayman continues to compete in other sports at the CAC Games, which wrap up on Sunday. The sailing contingent tackle their final races on Friday with 16-year-old Florence Allan taking part in the Women’s Laser Radial; Jesse Jackson, 15, contesting the Men’s Laser event and Shane McDermot, 16, competing in the Sunfish category. The sailors were ranked outside of the top 10 heading their final races.
The men’s and women’s national rugby 7s teams, which feature 23 players, play on Friday. The women’s team takes on Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia, while the men challenge Barbados, Colombia and Bermuda.