World Junior Championships, Individual Event Wrap28 Jul 2023
The New Zealand Junior Squash Team has wrapped its individual campaign following five days of fierce competition at the 2023 World Junior Championships in Melbourne.
The New Zealand women’s squad was made up of Ella Lash (Auckland), Sophie Hodges (Waikato), Anabel Romero-Gemmell (Central) Anne Leakey (Auckland), Maiden-Lee Coe (Wellington) and Ella Hill (Tauranga).
The New Zealand men’s individual competitors included Chris Hebberd (Canterbury), Oliver Dunbar (Wellington), Apa Fatialofa Jr (Auckland), Freddie Jameson (Northland), Shane Buckle (Auckland), and Connor Hill (Waikato). Jameson, Buckle, Hebberd and Hill were debuting at the World Junior Championships, while Dunbar and Fatialofa returned to the squad following last year’s event in France.
The athletes competed across seven rounds and say the tournament was a fantastic learning experience, where they got the opportunity to compete against the best young squash player from around the world.
“The squash on display was outrageous,” said Fatialofa.
“It was amazing to see that level of squash. I learnt just how important fitness was, those boys were playing 23-minute sets whereas in New Zealand I’m used to playing 11-minute sets.”
Fatialofa was the best of the men, finished 43rd following some spirited battles.
“I was just happy I got through the first round, last year I got out first round to the guy who came runner up this year.”
“I learnt loads over there, since coming back I’m been looking to change my swing because of what I saw. It was a great tournament and it’s made me want to take my squash further.”
Fatialofa says the team gelled really well and pushed each other on through an intense week.
“We had the best time, we got along so well and really cheered each other on. I’d also like to say a massive thanks to the support team, they did a great job of looking after us and getting us ready to perform.”
Team manager Rachel McLeod says it was a fantastic campaign and one that will be really useful for the young athletes.
“The tournament was really well run and our team represented New Zealand really well. They were very respectful and well mannered in a high pressure environment and they should be proud of the way they conducted themselves,” said McLeod.
“It was a great opportunity for them to see the level of squash outside of New Zealand and the level they need to be at to compete at world’s top level. That exposure was really valuable to them and I know they’ve taken a lot from the experience.”
The World Teams event followed straight on from the individual event with Sophie Hodges, Anabel Romero Gemmell, Anne Leaky and Ella Lash representing New Zealand.
43rd – Apa Fatialofa
53rd – Oliver Dunbar
56th - Shane Buckle
75th – Freddie Jameson
97th – Chris Hebberd
98th – Connor Hill
24-32 – Ella Lash
33-48 – Sophie Hodges, Anne Leakey, Ella Hill
51-52 – Anabel Romero-Gemmell
64th – Maiden-Lee Coe