Cayman hosts squash elite again

Cayman became a magnet for world-class squash players for a time as elite level tournaments were held here, including the World Open in 2012. 

There has been a lull in recent years, but later this month Cayman’s growing reputation for putting on excellent sporting events will be enhanced when the Senior Caribbean Squash Championships are held at South Sound Squash Club. 

Jamaica was initially going to host this event, but pulled out because of a lack of funds. 

Cayman stepped in and agreed to organize it, even though they are struggling on the sponsorship front too. So far, Maples, Aon, SaxonMG, Metco and Alphasoft have committed. 

There are seven full squads coming here for the championships from Aug. 15-23 with their entourages. 

Each country will enter a men’s, women’s and veterans team.  

“It’s great for the island,” Mark Chaloner, national coach, said. “We’ll get more people coming and experience Cayman and the lifestyle. We’ve got a lot of support so far, thanks to our chairwoman, Janet Sairsingh.” 

He added that top players make an effort to play here because they all love the Cayman vibe, so it will be a “great competition.” 

In recent years these tournaments have been held in a glass court at Camana Bay, but not this time. Chaloner is confident that the six courts in use at South Sound are adequate considering he played in the senior championships in Hastings, Barbados last year where they had only three. 

Marlene West is considering entering the Cayman women’s team, but Julian Jervis is off to university in upstate New York and will be missed. 

Jervis, 17, was second in the Under-19s at the Caribbean junior championships in Barbados two weeks ago, in his first year in that age bracket. There were two third-place finishes – Jade Pitcairn in the girls U-15 and Jasun Sairsingh (boys U-15). Three players in the top three out of 18, with a few fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth is quite an achievement. 

“Fifty percent of the kids came away with really good finishes,” said Chaloner. “The others really did themselves proud. None actually played that badly.” 

Chaloner emphasized to the youngsters again that to get better results, more effort in preparation has to be done, which was shown by some of the Cayman girls beating opponents they could only manage a few points off of last year. 

He was “really pleased,” because overall the whole team improved from last year. “Even though I would have liked to go further this year, we narrowly missed out on the boys’ team semifinal.” The boys finished fifth, as did the girls. 

He added that he was impressed with the commitment many players made. 

At the Caribbean championships, Chaloner will play in the men’s team with Gabe Rabess and Cameron Stafford. 

“We’re not as strong as we could be, but we’ll do our best,” Chaloner said. He expects Jamaica to be one of the strongest teams, whose best players include Lewis Walters and Chris Binnie. 

Barbados have some excellent players too, particularly the 6-foot 6-inch left-hander Shaun Simpson, who is a national volleyball player. Gavin Cumberbatch is another top Barbadian who has played here a number of times. He will arrive with at least two of his three playing brothers. 

Guyana always have a strong side too. Bermuda can boast in their side the very experienced Patrick Foster leading some excellent players. 

Chaloner, 43, used to be world-ranked No. 7. Still in superb shape, he is likely to play in the singles. He is also tournament director, so it will be an exceptionally busy time. 

Cayman is hosting the Caribbean junior championships next summer. Chaloner is hoping to get sponsors to commit for both events. 

Sponsorship for senior tournaments is harder to get than for juniors, but he feels it’s important to support the adult events too because “it’s a shop window for the kids and gives them something to aspire towards.” 

He added, “The juniors need to see what is ahead when they’re too old to play at that level. They need to see how they can improve themselves, not just on the squash court but life skills too.” 

Mark Chaloner is a player, coach and organizer. - PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

Mark Chaloner is a player, coach and organizer. – PHOTO: RON SHILLINGFORD