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THE GBVETS IN HONG KONG
By Stuart Hardy


July 2014 and the World Masters Squash Championships in Hong Kong. Surely an event and location to entice and inspire an old Squash Player or two. And sure enough, and good number of VCGB members took the twelve hour flight, endured the plus 7hrs of time change and jet lag and arrived in the teeming, bustling, incredible city that is Hong Kong.

Hong Kong in July is hot. Lots of places are. London was hot. But with great heat and monstrous humidity you felt like you were melting after only a few minutes walk. The joy of air conditioning knows no bounds and detours into shops to cool down were frequent. But enough of the Travel Report. Thankfully the magnificent Hong Kong Footbal Club, 7 courts, and the Hong Kong Squash Centre, 16 courts were air conditioned and playing conditions very good. HK, by the way, boasts 550 squash courts. No wonder they are starting to make their mark on the world stage.

Inevitably on the first morning amongst about half a million people I bumped into Lt Colonel John Woodliffe, resplendent in plus twos with wife Terry, and in the Chinese crowd, at least average height (possibly taller), Lancelot Kinder beautifully turned out in Colonial white with Panama hat. With Jackie of course. I was reminded of the glory days of Empire!

The Squash was of a very high standard and the largest teams were Australia (140 +), South Africa (120+) and England 73. There were some fifty countries represented and some very good players from unexpected locations. There were some legends of the game competing, too. Former World Champion Sarah Fitzgerald W45, former World no. 2 Brett Martin and Irish International dynamo Willie Hosey M50, South African Craig Van der Wath, M45 to name but a few.

But of our members. In the W50 Tammy Bennett fell at the first against a seed but then put together a string of good results to win the Plate. Jackie Gregory played well and reached the main quarter finals. In the W55 Eunice Bond, Jill Campion and Lynne Davies all fell in the quarters, Lynne to Karen Hume who said no tournament would be complete if she didn't play Lynne! Karen then lost a great match to no. 1 seed Anne Richards of Australia 3/2, then another tough one to the no. 2 seed in the Bronze medal playoff.

The Womens 65+ had to England players as top two seeds in Averil Murphy and Bett Dryhurst. An injury to Bett scuppered her chances in the semis but Averil went on to power her way to the title and her fifth World Championship in imperious style. One of the legends of Masters Squash. In the 70s Norma Fulling took bronze and Barbara Sanderson won the Plate.

The Mens Championships saw some wonderful squash in the 35 and 40s events, with notable efforts from Mick Biggs of Middlesex (we can sign him up in a few years) reaching the semi final then losing the playoff 1 3/11 in the fifth! Omar El Borolossy of Egypt, the British Open o-35 Champion won the World title while former World ranked Australian Craig Rowland took the over 40s.

England and the Vets Cub had representation in the M45s in Steve McLoughlin who reached the last 16 as did National Champion Andy Cross - so a strong draw won eventually and inevitably by Van der Wath. Probably the strongest event, in my view anyway, was the Mens 50s. the top four were all former World ranked pros, and the GB National Champion Eammon Price was seeded 5/8. After a broken nose and he longest match of the tournament Eammon reached the quarters to meet former World no. 2 Brett Martin. Possibly one of the most exciting shot makers in the history of the game. 3/0 Brett. Our Club o -45 Champion Mark Hildred played well to reach the last 16. A footnote here, nothing to do with our members, but the most sublime squash match I have had the privilege of seeing for many a year - Brett Martin against Singapore's Peter Hill in the Semis. Racket skills that had to be seen to be believed. Every virtue in the game and 3/2 to Martin. It cost him the final against Hosey, though.

The Mens 55s had the UK National Champion Jeremy Goulding from Avon reach the last eight and Surrey's Chris Harland the last 16. Dermott Hurford upset the seedings by taking out a 5/8 seed in the last 16 saving five match points in the process and winning 12/10 in the fifth but the effort had its effect and he went down in the quarters in a match he could have won fresh. There was only going to be one winner here, though, and top seed Geoff Davenport of Australia added the 55 title to the two 45s and two 50s World titles he already has. An awesome player.

The Mens 60s had Peter Alexander seeded two and Stuart Hardy - both recently into the group and the finalists from the recent British Open. Alexander moved serenely through until losing unexpectedly to South African Champion Johnny Orsmond in the semis while England team mate Hardy, having beaten Scottish no. 1 Jim Dougall another club member in the last 16 lost to the defending champion and top seed John MacRury a Canadian flying under the Cayman Is flag in the semis. MacRury won the title 3/2. Peter unfortunately picked up an injury and conceded the playoff, so a Bronze to Hardy.

Former Open Champion Chris Goodbourne was seeded two for the 65s but too much sightseeing dented his challenge as he went down in five from 2/0 up in the quarters. Robert Smith lost a tight five setter that would have seen him in the last 16. The final was a real see saw contest between serial champion Brian Cook of Australia and Frikkie Bester of South Africa. Cook came from 0/2 down and saved a match point in the fifth before taking the title. It would have been great to see our own 2012 champion Phil Ayton there, or our Open and Closed Champion Barry Featherstone.

The Silver Fox, Adrian Wright was top seed for the 70s looking for his third World Title. Smooth progress to the final was made where he met second seed Gerald Poulter of Canada. In an up and down, edge of the seat cliff hanger, the Silver one managed one more blistering winner than awaful loser and stole it 12/10 in the fifth! His supporters were left as nervous wrecks. Other club stalwarts Eric Robinson and Nigel Belle made the last 16 with Nigel going on to lose in the final of the Special (needs) Plate. My brackets.

On to the elder statesmen. Brian Phillips of Wales was top seed and edged past John Woodliffe in the quarters of the 75+ only to lose to Michael Gough of the USA. Lance Kinder went out to the no. 2 seed at the same stage but Malcolm Gilham gained revenge for him and a place in the final where he went down 3/1 to Gough. Phillips took the bronze and Vincent Taylor of Canada, a regular visitor to us won the Plate. Things were looking good for us in the 80s with Dr. John Cox looking in good form as of old. But he lost the final match to New Zealand's Trevor Coulter and had to be satisfied with a Silver medal.

So, a magnificently organised tournament with some superb squash. Always wonderful to renew friendships with players you rarely see but always enjoy when you do. And of course Hong Kong is a unique experience in itself. The medal haul for England was disappointing. Two gold, two silver, two bronze. Well down on previous Championships but all of them were from VCGB members. But overall a great week of squash and camaraderie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Medallists
Averil Murphy & Adrian Wright