The USA’s Marina Stefanoni and Mexico’s Leonel Cardenas have won squash singles golds at the Junior Pan American Games in Cali-Valle, Colombia.
The pair, both highly ranked on the PSA World Tour, dominated their respective competitions, with Stefanoni securing a comprehensive 3-0 win over Mexico’s Dina Anguiano and Cardenas overcoming Colombia’s Matias Knudsen by the same scoreline.
The Games, held every four years for athletes between the ages of 17-22, feature 315 events across 28 sports, including squash singles, doubles and team events. This year’s event is being held in the west Colombian city of Cali, with squash being played in Club Campestre de Cali.
Stefanoni had been in dominant form throughout her singles run, knocking out Canada’s Iman Shaheen, Ecuador’s Maria Buenaño and Colombia’s Lucia Sarmiento without dropping a game.
In the final, against Anguiano, Stefanoni completed her flawless run. The 18-year-old World No.66 attacked from the first moment, taking the first game 11-4, the second 11-5 and the third 11-4 to secure a memorable gold, just three days before her 19th birthday.
Speaking after the match, Stefanoni said: “I thought I played well and I was happy to have made it through in three games. Dina was a tough opponent and I was very excited to win gold here. I sincerely hope that squash remains in the Pan American Youth Games for many years to come. I’d like to thank my parents and all the coaches that have worked with me throughout my junior career.”
In the men’s final, Cardenas broke home hearts with a 3-0 win over Knudsen.
As with Stefanoni, Cardenas completed the rare feat of making it through the entire tournament without dropping a game.
En route to the final, the 21-year-old World No.49 bested Argentina’s Jeremias Azaña, Peru’s Rafael Galvez and Guatemala’s Junior Enriquez, and went into the final favourite to claim the title.
Knudsen caused Cardenas problems in the first game, and the Mexican was made to work hard for an 11-8 win. After this victory, though, Cardenas pressed his advantage, wrapping up the title with an 11-6 win in the second game and a crushing 11-3 win in the decisive third.
“It was a tough match and the crowd was cheering for the other side. In the first game, Matias played awesome and I had to use my experience from playing on the PSA World Tour to keep up with him and stay focused. I played solid in the second and third games and managed to win. I am very thankful to Team Mexico , my family and friends for their continued support,” Cardenas said afterwards.
With those victories, both Marina Stefanoni and Leonel Cardenas have secured a berth in the 2023 Pan American Games Individual events in Santiago, Chile.
Learn more about the Pan American Junior Games on the official Games website.