The New Zealand Herald

The agony & the ecstasy

Kiwi squash player digs deep to overcome feisty English rival while Coll claims silver

- Niall Anderson

Transgende­r weightlift­er Laurel Hubbard lost her dream of Commonweal­th Games gold as she suffered a horrific injury in her event yesterday.

But last night Joelle King, Sophie Pascoe, Tom Walsh and David Liti were triumphant as Kiwi athletes won 66 more medals in our best day so far.

All hail the King. Joelle King has become New Zealand’s first squash singles gold medallist at the Commonweal­th Games, taking down England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in a brilliant final.

It was a tense 16-14, 11-8, 6-11, 11-13, 11-8 victory for King, who battled for 72 minutes before finally triumphing.

Any hope of double gold for New Zealand died when Paul Coll was swept aside 11-9, 11-4, 11-6 by Englishman James Willstrop in the men’s singles final.

Still, the 25-year-old Coll claims his first Games medal after an impressive run to the final, while King’s gold adds to the bronze she claimed in Glasgow, as well as the doubles gold and mixed doubles silver she won in Delhi.

This will undoubtedl­y be the best medal of them all for the world No 4, who was untroubled until the final, but dug deep to overcome a stunning comeback from Perry.

King was a delighted, and relieved, figure after the match.

“I definitely did it the hard way, and that’s all credit to my opponent — she never went away, she just kept coming back. My goal today was to go out there and leave everything on the court, and that’s what we both did — it’s nice to have come out on top.”

It is a victory that continues King’s rise up the world squash ranks, as she held off an agitated Perry in a clash with several twists.

From the start, the match was a battle. It was a high-quality opening with both players hitting some sumptuous angled drop shots, before trading some fortunate moments as the game went into a tiebreaker.

Perry missed several gilt-edged chances to win games, and ended up ruing her mistakes as King charged back to claim the first two games.

But the tide turned in the third game, with Perry overcoming an injury scare to fight back. Chasing a drop shot, the world No 8 stumbled and crashed into the wall, needing an injury timeout; a “self-inflicted” injury timeout, as the umpire wryly noted.

After the break, she managed to regroup and take the third game 11-6, and continued her comeback in the fourth. Up 9-8 in the penultimat­e game, King wanted to appeal a pivotal point, but got no such luck from the umpire, with Perry rebounding to save two match points, then reeling off two more points to send the clash to a deciding game.

However, King has made great strides in tight games, and claimed her composure under pressure was the key to victory.

“That’s something this year that has improved the most for me — my composure. Even when things get tight I’m able to keep focused on playing point by point. When you’re playing squash like that, it just instinctiv­ely happens.”

Just as it looked like King was running out of steam, she refound her best form, hitting some lovely shots as she just managed to claim a captivatin­g victory. She got off to a perfect 5-0 start in the final game, but Perry — ever the fighter — crawled her way back to make it 8-8.

There, Perry had a brain explosion, picking up a ball when expecting a let. She didn’t get it, lost the point, and King clung on to clinch a historic gold.

More medals could be on the way, with King and Coll both back in action in their respective doubles today before joining forces for the mixed doubles.

 ?? Picture / Gregeg Bowker ??
Picture / Gregeg Bowker
 ?? Picture / Getty Images ?? Joelle King shows her elation and relief after beating Sarah-Jane Perry of England to the gold medal in the women’s squash singles.
Picture / Getty Images Joelle King shows her elation and relief after beating Sarah-Jane Perry of England to the gold medal in the women’s squash singles.

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