Squash on the up­swing

The Philippine Star - - SPORTS - By JOAQUIN M. HEN­SON

Squash is com­ing on strong in the coun­try as the sport gets a big shot in the arm from the PSC and POC in sup­port­ing the pro­mo­tion of what in­flu­en­tial busi­ness mag­a­zine Forbes calls the health­i­est game in the world.

Philip­pine Squash Academy (PSA) pres­i­dent Bob Bach­mann and sec­re­tary- gen­eral Vince Abad San­tos are at the fore­front of the cam­paign to push the sport. The NSA for squash used to be known as the Squash Rack­ets As­so­ci­a­tion of the Philip­pines (SRAP) but Bach­mann re­cently got the nod of both the World Squash Fed­er­a­tion and the POC to agree to the name change be­cause of pend­ing ac­count­abil­i­ties re­lated to the SRAP.

In 2003, Forbes made a rank­ing of the health­i­est sports based on the four phys­i­o­log­i­cal com­po­nents of car­dio en­durance, strength, mus­cle en­durance and flex­i­bil­ity plus in­jury risk and en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture. “30 min­utes on the squash court pro­vides an im­pres­sive car­dio res­pi­ra­tor work­out,” said Forbes. “Ex­tended ral­lies and al­most con­stant run­ning builds mus­cu­lar strength and en­durance in the lower body while lunges, twists and turns in­crease flex­i­bil­ity in the back and ab­domen. For peo­ple just get­ting into the game, it’s al­most too much to sus­tain but once you get there, squash is tremen­dous. Scores were tal­lied to ar­rive at an in­di­vid­ual rating for each sport. Of course, phys­i­o­log­i­cal ben­e­fits, in­jury risk and calo­rie burn can vary widely de­pend­ing upon the tech­nique, vigor, care and en­thu­si­asm with which you pur­sue a sport.”

For the record, Forbes’ top 10 rank­ing of the world’s health­i­est sports are squash, row­ing, rock-climb­ing, swimming, cross-coun­try ski­ing, bas­ket­ball, cy­cling, run­ning, mod­ern pentathlon and box­ing.

**** Things be­gan to roll for the PSA when the PSC ap­proved a bud­get of P6.1 Mil­lion for the year from P3.4 Mil­lion pre­vi­ously. Then, the PSC gave its go-sig­nal for the construction of a squash hub at the Rizal Me­mo­rial Sports Com­plex. The hub will be fin­ished by October and fea­tures two air-con­di­tioned squash courts with a mov­able side wall for in­ter­na­tional dou­bles, show­ers, dress­ing rooms and an of­fice. There is also a pro­vi­sion for a jumbo dou­bles squash court on the sec­ond floor of the new bowl­ing cen­ter, also un­der construction.

At the South­east Asian ( SEA) Games in Sin­ga­pore last year, the Philip­pines brought home three bronze medals from the men’s team, men’s jumbo dou­bles and women’s sin­gles. It was the first-ever women’s medal for the Philip­pines in the SEA Games. Bach­mann said when the Philip­pines hosts the 2019 SEA Games, the games will be held at the Rizal hub with the na­tional play­ers ready to go for gold.

Bach­mann said there are clear signs of a squash resur­gence since Fausto Preysler Jr. won the East Asian men’s sin­gles ti­tle in 1977. Early this month, the 12th seeded Philip­pine squad im­proved on its 14th place fin­ish two years ago to wind up 10th at the 18th Asian Team Squash Cham­pi­onships in Taipei. And last week­end, the coun­try’s No. 1 player Robert Gar­cia bagged the P25,000 first prize by up­end­ing world No. 147 and Malaysia’s No. 6 player Valentino Bong, 115, 12-10, 12-10 to cap­ture the men’s sin­gle crown of the first PSA Open at the Makati Sports Club.

In Taipei, the Philip­pines was rep­re­sented by Gar­cia, 29, David Pelino, 22, MacMac Be­gor­nia, 23 and Rafa Yam, 17. The Filipinos beat Ma­cau, 3-0, and Sri Lanka, 2-1, and lost to Ja­pan, In­dia and Qatar to take 10th spot. Against highly touted In­dia, Gar­cia snatched a set from world No. 66 Harinder Pal Singh in los­ing, 114, 11-5, 8-11, 11-7 and Yam also took Vela­van Senthilku­mar to four sets, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-1 be­fore he was ham­pered by a ham­string in­jury. The 2-1 loss to Qatar was close as Be­gor­nia beat Ha­mad Mo­hammed Al Amri, 11-5, 11-6, 7-11, 11-3 and Gar­cia ex­tended Ab­dula Al Tamimi to four sets in drop­ping an 11-0, 11-9, 9-11, 11-3 de­ci­sion. The Philip­pines not only ex­ceeded its seed­ing by two rungs but also im­proved its fin­ish by four.

**** At the first PSA Open, 85 play­ers par­tic­i­pated in 132 to­tal matches in the elite, Di­vi­sion I, Di­vi­sion II, Di­vi­sion III, ju­niors and women’s classes. A pool of seven ref­er­ees worked the three-day event that brought in play­ers from Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, In­done­sia, Pa­pua New Guinea, France and the UK. Among the par­tic­i­pants were South African Am­bas­sador Martin Slab­ber, UK Em­bassy di­rec­tor of trade and in­vest­ment Michael Moon and Olympic Coun­cil of Malaysia chief co­or­di­na­tor Aanont Wathanasin.

The first PSA Open win­ners were Gar­cia in elite, Bakti Thoy Ibahri of In­done­sia in Di­vi­sion I, Makati Sports Club pro P. J. Aus­tria in Di­vi­sion II, Fathan Adz­zkri of In­done­sia in Di­vi­sion III and ju­niors and Myca Arib­ado in women. Con­so­la­tion win­ners were Wathanasin in Di­vi­sion I plate, Romy Dona in Di­vi­sion II plate, Ali­cia Han May Jun of Sin­ga­pore in Di­vi­sion III plate and San­dro Go­tu­aco in ju­niors plate.

Bach­mann said Gar­cia’s win over Bong wasn’t a to­tal sur­prise. “Valentino was once ranked world No. 120 and he’s only 28,” he said. “But Robert played ex­cep­tion­ally well in sweep­ing the three sets. We’re reap­ing the ben­e­fits of the sup­port from the POC and PSC. Our elite play­ers prac­tice three to four hours a day, five to six days a week. Each prac­tice is su­per­vised and we track the progress of ev­ery player in the na­tional pool. Ev­ery­one is mo­ti­vated to work hard. Robert, David and Myca used to get a monthly al­lowance of P3,000 but now they’re up to P28,000. MacMac is re­ceiv­ing P15,000. Our coaches pre­vi­ously re­ceived P18,000 to P20,000 a month, now they’re earn­ing P23,000 to P35,000.”

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