The World Juniors has to be the highlight of most squash careers. Out of the dozens, hundreds, possibly thousands of players who compete in each squash playing nation’s junior circuit, only the select few get the opportunity to represent their country at world level. And, if we’re being honest, for the majority of those who reach this pinnacle, it will be the highlight of their careers.
Only a very few will progress to a long-term career on the professional circuit, following in the footsteps of the famous champions of this event, so for the majority of the players here in Doha this July, this is as good as it gets.
In the old biennial days most probably only got one shot at it. The welcome advent of annual events means that in the individual championship at least no-one needs miss out on the opportunity to perform in their best year. This is now the fourth year of the standalone individual events, so it’s beginning to feel ‘proper’, but there’s no doubt that the combined individual and team experience is the one that those lucky enough to be selected look forward to the most.
The first time the boys and girls performed together was in Chennai in 2009, where after the individuals the boys departed and, after a rest day to make sure they’d gone, the girls moved on to their team event. This time it’s the other way around with the boys staying for the duration, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there’s the small matter of two individual world champions to be crowned before we reach that parting of the waves.
The seedings predict another double Egyptian celebration – three out of the top four in each event hail from the land of the Pharaohs – and chances are not many would put a lot of money on a different outcome, even if the engraver isn’t about to take any risks with the actual names just yet.
That’s all to come though. Tonight was the opening ceremony – more of a mingle than a ceremony, but very enjoyable nonetheless, with all the teams togged up in their tracksuits ready for the off at 1pm tomorrow.
For now the only advice we’re going to offer to those players lucky enough to be here is “enjoy it” – there may be better to come for some of you, but not for many, not by much, and not very often.