3 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Hassan Steals the Show

STARLET Faisal Hassan won the boys Under-19 title at Belgravia Sports Club's end-of-the-year junior Open squash tournament on Saturday. About 45 children took part in this one-day tournament which was jointly sponsored by local insurance brokers Eaton & Youngs and a local courier company FedEx.

The tournament was open to five age-groups -- Under-11, 13, 14, 16 and 19 -- and was played on a round-robin basis, and Hassan emerged as the star of the show when he lifted the main boys Under-19 title.

Takunda Maswi came second in the boys Under-19 section ahead of Rodger Cox.

One of the country's top female junior players Yvonne Mubure was in a class of her own as she won the girls Under-19 title ahead of Carley Barton and Avina Trivedy.

Mubure is the sister of one of the country's top male squash players Ishmael Mubure.

The girls Under-16 title went to Miki Jingling Ma, who snatched it from under the noses of Kundai Nyandoro, Naomi Cohen and Kuziva Madungwe.

Callum Lawton produced some good squash as he lifted the boys Under-14 while two other promising young players Mayan Lad and Declan Veermark came second and third in this age-group.

Lawton was emulated by Jason Franklin who also did well to win the boys Under-13 title while Anesu Mlambo and Luke Mannion settled for the silver and bronze medals.

The gold medal in the boys Under-11 section went to Panashe Mlambo who took the first podium place ahead of Polite Mubure and Harry Lawton.

Mashumba Mukumba, the tournament's organiser, was impressed by the high level of squash that was displayed by the young players during the one-day event.

"Competition was stiff in all the age-groups because we had some new junior players who came from different private schools and they gave some of the established young stars a good run for their money.

"And judging from what I saw during this one-day tournament, the future of squash is bright in Zimbabwe. What we only need to do is to continue investing in these young players.

"As you know the Professional Squash Association are currently fighting for squash to be an Olympic Games sport and we might end up drawing players for future Olympic Games from some of these youngsters who took part in this tournament," Mukumba said.

Squash is hoping to make it third time lucky as it bids for a place at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Last week, the sport showcased itself to the International Olympic Organisation at the Hong Kong Open after failing to make it to London 2012 and Rio 2016.

With glow-in-the-dark courts, a global audience, some of the world's fittest athletes competing and a more television-friendly approach, there is real hope Olympic admission can finally be achieved for squash.

Seven sports -- squash, climbing, karate, roller sports, baseball/softball, wakeboard and wushu -- are competing for a place at the Games in eight years' time.

In 2009's race to Rio, squash lost out to bids from rugby sevens and golf -- a decision at that time the Professional Squash Association chief executive said was "massively disappointing".

Last week's Hong Kong Open represented a watershed moment for the sport, as it sought to demonstrate its evolution from a racquet game on the fringes of television schedules into a 21st century multi-media competition.

Under-court lighting, music, referee video reviews, HawkEye and in-play statistics were all added, after squash listened to and learned from the IOC's feedback in 2009.

Eaton and Youngs, FedEx Junior Tournament Results

Boys Under-11: 1. Panashe Mlambo; 2. Polite Mubure; 3. Harry Lawton

Boys Under-13: 1. Jason Franklin; 2. Anesu Mlambo; 3. Luke Mannion.

Boys Under-14: 1. Callum Lawton; 2. Mayan Lad; 3. Declan Veermark.

Girls Under-16: 1. Miki Jingling Ma; 2. Kundai Nyandoro; 3. Naomi Cohen and Kuziva Madungwe.

Boys Under-19: 1. Faisal Hassan; 2. Takunda Maswi; 3. Rodger Cox.

Girls Under-19: 1. Yvonne Mubure; 2. Carley Barton; Avina Trivedy.

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