A familiar face is back in the New Zealand squash team named for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year.
Shelley Kitchen has been selected in the six-strong squad named by the New Zealand Olympic Committee today. The former world number six gave birth to her first child in February, but has returned to the court with renewed enthusiasm and is looking to add to the silver and bronze medals she won in Melbourne four years ago.
Kitchen will team up with world number 14 Jaclyn Hawkes in the women’s doubles, and Campbell Grayson in the mixed event. Both combinations claimed gold at last year’s Australian Doubles Championships in Melbourne.
There is also a second women’s pairing, Joelle King and Tamsyn Leevey, two players at opposite ends of their careers. King is the rising star of New Zealand squash and is fast making a name for herself on the international circuit. The 21-year-old is already ranked number 20 in the world, climbing more than 30 places in the last 12 months. She has claimed four titles on the WISPA world tour in that time, picking up some impressive victories along the way including two against Australian Rachael Grinham, one of the world’s top five ranked players at the time.
In contrast, Leevey has flown under the radar in recent years, retiring from the international circuit in 2006 for family and business reasons. However, she has never been far from the court and is back with a vengeance looking to add to the silver medal she won in the women’s doubles with Shelley Kitchen at the Melbourne Games four years ago.
Meanwhile, King will also play the mixed doubles with world number 42 Martin Knight, while Knight and Grayson will be playing partners in the men’s doubles. New Zealand’s top two ranked men’s players have established a great understanding in doubles squash, winning silver at last year’s Australian Doubles Champs in Melbourne and fourth in the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Five of the six New Zealand team will also line up in the singles in Delhi this year, with Tamsyn Leevey the exception.
New Zealand Olympic Committee Secretary General says the team to Delhi is building rapidly with squash the fifth of an estimated sixteen teams to be named. “The Commonwealth Games are a wonderful celebration of elite sport and a shared Commonwealth history. I’m delighted we have been able to name a strong squash team on top of the exciting New Zealand athletes already selected,” he said. “We’re looking forward to honouring the memory of Sir Ed and Tenzing at Delhi in October.”