Commonwealth Games: Squash: England's double joy

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The Independent Online
SOMETHING WAS clearly wrong. The English flag was rising steadily at the Commonwealth squash venue to mark the doubles victory of Cassie Jackman and Sue Wright. They were standing on top of the podium, gold medals round their necks. But Land of Hope and Glory had never been less glorious - it sounded as if someone was playing Elgar's great anthem somewhere next door on a transistor radio.

As the crowd stood in obedient silence, the shoulders of one of the Australian silver medallists began to heave with suppressed mirth. The British pair, it seemed, would have something extra to remember their triumph by. "It was bloody disgusting to have that happen at what is supposed to be one of the proudest moments of your life," Wright said. "We had put in so much hard work to get there. But there you go, it was one of those things."

Not enough to spoil the warm feeling of beating Australians, though. It was Jackman and Wright's second competition in what is a new category within the sport.

Last December, at the inaugural world doubles tournament in Hong Kong, they took the silver medal. Here they went one better, defeating Robyn Cooper and Rachel Grinham, 15-10, 15-12 with a demonstration of dogged patience. "It's all about who makes fewer mistakes," Wright said. "We were prepared to stay out there all night to grind out a win."

The English pair's determination had been solidified by their performance in the semi-final, where they had saved a match ball against the Australian pairing of Carol Owens and Sarah Fitz-Gerald.

"We said to each other that we had not won that match to come and lose today," Wright added. "It's always special to beat the Australians - there's a friendly rivalry between us."

The rivalry was not so friendly in the concluding final of a sport making its Commonwealth Games debut, where England's Paul Johnson and Mark Chaloner overcame the often irascible challenge of Byron Davis and Rodney Eyles, last year's World Open champion.

Eyles did more than his fair share of jostling and several times delayed play during the 15-8, 15-4 defeat to query the umpire over lets. "Rodney was trying all his old tricks," Chaloner, a 26-year-old from Hertford, said. "He kept on coming up to us and making little comments. I didn't say anything to him. When they started doing that, we knew we'd got them."

Johnson added: "They were trying to find the chink in our armour, but we knew what to expect. We had a game plan, and it was all in our own hands."

There was fortuitous assistance, however, as the Australians appeared ready to wipe out the English pair's early lead in the first game. In walked the Duke of Edinburgh.