The 16th staging of the Women's World Team Squash Championship earlier this month in Cairo has been declared "a great success" by Assem Khalifa, the newly-elected President of the Egyptian Squash Federation.
Featuring teams from 19 nations, including China for the first time, the biennial World Squash Federation event boasted a high-class field including eight of the world's top ten players. Staged at the Egyptian capital's National Stadium, the 2008 championship came to a dramatic climax when second-seeded hosts Egypt beat favourites and title-holders England to lift the trophy for the first time.
"It has been a magnificent week of squash. To have all the top players from around the world compete in the world team championship here in Egypt is something very special," explained Khalifa. "Since this federation has only been elected for eight weeks, it is a great start for us to host such an important tournament. As a Federation, we thought this event was a great success. During the tournament, everything was smooth and there were no major issues. We did our best, in a short period of time, to satisfy everyone and to come up with a great event.
"Moreover, it has been a great result for us. When you look at Egypt’s performance during the tournament, you will see how they have improved day after day. This was very clear on and off the court. They knew that this is something very important for them, and they fought hard to get it," added the ESF President.
"When I talked to them during the past period, I realised how much they have dreamed of winning this championship. They knew that this time, they were very close to their dream, having reached the final for the first time in 2006. That's why they gave it all they can last Saturday in the final.
"From my point of view, the final was perfect - it was an amazing game of squash with the host country beating the world champions in a replay of the final two years ago. This is just what you need to motivate and inspire young squash players in Egypt. This tournament and the result will have a lasting effect on squash girls in Egypt for a long time," concluded Khalifa.
Egyptian IOC member Dr Rania Elwany - who presented the trophy to the Egyptian team - was also full of praise for the event and the win by her home country: "It's really amazing - it’s been an excellent competition. Squash is a really competitive sport - one in which the people at the top are often changing, which is good for the sport."
WSF Vice President Chris Stahl also paid tribute to the organisers of the tournament: "I was privileged to attend the 16th Women’s World Team Championships in Cairo last week. The whole event was organised very well at short notice by the Egyptian Squash Federation at the National Stadium with a glass court erected within the complex. There was tremendous local support with live TV and partisan, yet knowledgeable, crowds giving the Egyptian women’s team every encouragement.
"China entered the event for the first time and will be encouraged to grow the sport in China and come back stronger in New Zealand in 2010. Hong Kong, Japan and Italy achieved their highest final positions – 8th, 12th and 15th, respectively," added Stahl.
"The big story and memorable experience for everyone present was the breakthrough of the domestic team who won the event beating the holders England 12-10 in the 5th game of the final match after their number two player saved a Championship point at 9-10. The crowd went wild and there were tears all round – a victory for a young team that built on previous experience gained in winning the World Junior Women’s Team Championships in 1999, 2003 and 2007.
"From a WSF point of view this was a win for squash and a wonderful exhibition for the IOC representative present of highly competitive sport played by great athletes in the best of spirits," concluded the WSF VP. "Well done Egypt!"
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images