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Best of Barbados! Barbadian star Meagan Best on aspirations after historic Pan American Games

The Santiago 2023 Pan American Games was a historic occasion for team Barbados, with the Caribbean nation winning its first ever squash medals with bronzes in the women’s doubles and women’s team events.

21-year-old Meagan Best played a vital part in both medals – combining with Margot Prow in the doubles and with Prow and Amanda Haywood in the team event – and came close to winning Barbados’ first ever individual medal when she went down to Canadian World No.23 Hollie Naughton in a narrow 3-2 quarter final defeat.

To learn more about the rising star, we sat down for a Q+A to learn more about her career, the growth of squash in Barbados, the intensity of college squash, and the Olympic dream.

Best fought back from 0-2 down to level 2-2 with Canadian World No.23 Hollie Naughton before eventually losing 3-2 in the individual quarter finals(Photo: Nicolas Klein/Santiago 2023 via Photosport).

How did you first get involved in squash?I always like to say I started playing squash in the womb as my mum used to play when she was pregnant.

Squash was like a daycare for me. From the time I was able to walk, I would waddle onto court and start swinging. I got my first official lesson when I was seven, and from there the rest is history.

Who were your early role models in the sport?Growing up, I really liked Ramy Ashour because he always lit up the court, and was very entertaining and clean to watch. As a kid, I would always try out his latest trick shots, and even today, it’s always nice when I can throw in one of them for the crowd!

What do you enjoy most about squash?Squash has afforded me so much! The sport has provided me with an education, I’ve been able to see places all across the world, and it has given me some of my closest friends. Squash will forever be a part of my life as a result.

Barbados (left) celebrate a team bronze medal in Santiago (Photo: Diego Alvujar/Santiago 2023 via Photosport).

A big part of your recent progress has come from your time representing the University of Virginia. College squash is really on the rise in the USA, what has your college squash experience been like?College squash is intense. Growing up purely training for myself essentially made it easy for me to focus on my individual goals and priorities. However, being placed on a team, you learn to have to play with the goals of your team in mind as well, which adds another, deeper element to the passion players have when on court.

My team has become part of my family and it never really feels like it’s about solely me when I’m on court anymore. It’s nice knowing if you lose your match, the team can still have your back and win, but at the same time, there’s a lot of added pressure knowing you are not playing for yourself anymore.

The collegiate league truly does reveal character and creates bonds that last a lifetime.

And as a psychology major, does that ever give you an edge in a sport that is as much about mentality as physicality?While the psych degree does allow me to understand why people generally think and act in certain ways, I do think once the adrenaline starts flowing and tensions are high, that all goes out the window!

Having said that, I’d describe myself as a pretty practical, chill-headed person, so I do think I can handle and interpret those high intensity moments better than most.

Meagan Best takes on US No.1 Amanda Sobhy (Photo: Pablo Bigorra/Santiago 2023 via Photosport).

Before heading to Santiago, you’d already made an impact at several major tournaments. Are there any particular memories that really stand out?
There are a few!

The first one that comes to mind is winning the US Junior open in 2017. That was a historic moment for myself and my country as no one had ever done that before. So it was definitely an honour receiving that trophy that day and knowing that all the sacrifices made by my family and I were worth it.

Also, I recently defeated a top 16 player [a thrilling 3-2 win over USA’s Sabrina Sobhy in the RO16 of the 2023 Pan American Championship] which was another great accomplishment for me, and another first for someone coming from Barbados.

So that definitely ranks high in my books as well.

And then of course you played a big part in both medals won by Barbados at this year’s Pan American Games, the first in your nation’s history. What was that experience like? And what did it mean to win those medals?Yes, of course it’s an amazing feeling to be able to represent my country at these Games and wave the flag high on the podium for the first time in the sport.

It’s honestly an honour and I am just ecstatic that my training seems to be paying off and I’m reaping results along the way.

Best (right) captured early headlines at this year’s Pan American Games with an upset win over Colombia’s Lucia Bautista (Photo: Nicolas Klein/Santiago 2023 via Photosport).

And do you think Barbados’ success at Santiago will raise the profile of the sport in Barbados?I do believe that the continued success that squash continues to bring to Barbados does allow for expansion of the sport in the country.

The sport is greatly supported by our federation, so by us performing well at events as such does allow for the sport to continue to operate and hopefully produce more players and good results

Speaking of multi-sport Games, last month saw a huge moment for our sport with news that squash is to be included in the LA28 Olympic Games. While it remains to be seen what the qualification criteria will be, is competing at LA28 something you’re targeting?I definitely have my eyes set on the LA28 Olympic Games. I’m not sure how the qualification rounds will look but I definitely plan on having my name be in contention for the competition, and I will be training hard with a goal of acquiring Barbados’ first medal at the Games in the sport.

What are the plans for your future career? Will we be seeing more of you on the PSA World Tour?
Playing on tour is always in the back of my head, and is definitely an option. Squash has always been a part of my life and I can’t imagine a life without it. Having said that, my biggest concern about a future career is the financial security it will afford me, and that is my priority.

With squash entering the Olympics now, if I see a feasible future with squash I would love to have the sport be my profession, but for now, I have my eyes set on obtaining a masters degree in business with a concentration in management and marketing, and we’ll see where life takes me from there.

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Find out more about squash in Barbados on the Barbados Squash Association Facebook page.

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