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Janet Sairsingh, Cayman Islands Chef de Mission talks Commonwealth squash.

Janet Sairsingh, a member of the WSF Governance and Audit Commission and former president of the Caribbean Area Squash Association, is a well-known figure in Cayman Islands sport. As the Cayman Islands chef de mission for the Tokyo Olympic Games and the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Sairsingh has been at the forefront of ensuring a smooth and safe experience for athletes and officials.

The Cayman Islander says that her experience as chef de mission can also be a huge benefit to the Cayman Islands National Squash Association, where as president she oversaw the 2012 Women’s Open Squash Championships and the PanAmerican Championships, as well as serving as the Cayman Islands squash manager in the 2018 Gold Coast and 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Sairsingh says: “I was always one of those who thought ‘Anything the men can do in sports, we can do it as well.’ So I grew up playing volleyball, squash, rugby, all sports really. I was always a jack of all trades, master of none!

“I think it’s the experience that I bring can benefit squash and the overall Cayman team, because I’ve held so many different position. I’ve been to so many Commonwealth Games and of course Tokyo, where we were having to deal with all the protocols with COVID and everything else that’s normally done, too. As a chef de mission, I’m in it from the ground up from preparation to departure after the Games, so I think that experience in managing a team in different sports can assist squash and the other Commonwealth sports as they prepare for Birmingham.”

Sairsingh adds that preparation has been going well for the Cayman Islands squash players ahead of Birmingham 2022. “Initially things were slow with the lockdowns when sporting facilities were closed. But now everything has opened back up. We recently hired a new coach, Sadar Ali Khan, in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. We were able to restart serious training last year and things are going well. We’re seeing improvement in everything and we’re pleased with that.”

With squash yet to be included in the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games represents a career highlight for the country’s players, with Sairsingh describing the Games as the “pinnacle” of a squash player’s career.

Birmingham, England, will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games [Photo by Chris Dack]

Since the 2010 Games in Delhi, Sairsingh says there has been sustained improvement in squash across the country. “2010 in India was a sort of eye opener to that level of squash. We have seen in every Commonwealth Games since then an improvement in the team, particularly at the last Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast.”

It was at the last Commonwealth Games that the Cayman Islands’ growing reputation as a specialist doubles nation was strengthened, when a mixed doubles pairing of Marlene West and Cameron Stafford gave hosts Australia a fright by taking a one game lead before Australia rallied to a 2-1 win.

“They really came out of the box last time, it was very exciting. We were the underdogs and Australia had such a strong team, and I think they went in thinking ‘Oh, it’s the Cayman Islands and therefore not strong,’ but they were in for a rude awakening!

“Seeing that gradual improvement of our team, it gives us hope that we’ll be able to medal, and that’s something we are working towards.”

While Sairsingh says she would be delighted to see a Commonwealth Games squash medal for the Cayman Islands, she is already as proud as she can be of her team, and that her favourite part of her job is seeing the athletes across all sports progress.

“What I enjoy most is watching the athletes prepare, being there with them and seeing them achieve the goals they have set up and their personal bests. It’s great just to see that, because it’s all about the preparation and giving everything. It’s nice to medal, the icing on the cake as I consider it, but it’s about the dedication, the preparation, the passion and the achievement once you’re out there.

“The joy I see on the see on the athletes’ faces when they’ve done that, and knowing I played a part, makes it all so worth it.”

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