Squash to the masses

• Cathay Pacific •  Sun Hung Kai Financial •  Hong Kong Open 2012 • 25 Nov - 02 Dec  • 

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01-Nov-12:
Hong Kong takes squash to the masses


Hong Kong squash is committed to bringing the world’s best players to Hong Kong for the annual festival of squash that is the Hong Kong Open, but also to bringing the sport to the masses, by ensuring the greatest possible exposure not only in the period surrounding the Open and throughout the year.

 















All Glass Court

The Hong Kong Open naturally provides a great opportunity for promoting the sport to a wider audience, particularly in the later stages when the tournament moves to the all-glass portable court.

Kowloon’s Plaza Hollywood shopping mall has hosted the event four times, its three-tier atrium providing access for thousands of shoppers and passers-by to witness world class sport first hand and close up.

And of course, the iconic harbour front alongside the Cultural Centre, venue for this year’s event, provides an even more splendid opportunity for residents and visitors to catch some of the action.

At both venues ample free viewing areas are provided, and many hundreds of spectators take the opportunity of watching some of the action during the semi-final and finals.

“The first time we took the tournament to the Plaza Hollywood, in 2006, it was a bit of an experiment for us,” said Karl Mak, Executive Director of HK Squash, “but it seemed to create a real buzz with the visitors, and the viewing at all of the levels was packed out during every match.

“The players really appreciate playing in front of such a large, and increasingly knowledgeable crowd, at the Plaza and on the Harbour,” added Mak.

And some of those who see the sport for the first time in one of these iconic locations are surely destined to become part of the future of squash as they are drawn into Hong Kong’s extensive development programme.

Nurturing young stars

While the Hong Kong Open is one of the regular stops for all of the world’s best senior squash players, HK Squash also prides itself on its commitment to developing future top echelon players through its own renowned junior development programme and a host of other activities aimed at nurturing the future generation of players.

The programme started in its present form in late nineties, and it has since grown exponentially, currently featuring mini-squash, a feeder system, school and community programmes and award schemes encompassing 10,000 junior players.

The most significant fruits of the programme can be seen in the success of the Junior Girls team, who were World Champions in 2005 and medallists in 2009 and 2011. In individual terms, Annie Au and Joey Chan are the most prominent products of the programme, currently ranked #6 and #18 in the senior world rankings.

“We’re so pleased with the success of the junior programme,” said Head Coach Tony Choi. “We now travel to major junior events across the world with realistic hopes of success in most categories, and our strength in depth is such that we often have to leave players at home who could do well, simply because of limits on numbers.”

“And of course we’re all so proud of Annie who reached the semi-finals of last year’s Hong Kong Open and of course Joey Chan, Max Lee and Leo Au, Annie’s younger brother, also products of the development programme who are performing well on the World Tour.”

There’s more where they came from too - one of the most popular junior squash events in the world, the Hong Kong Junior Open has just completed its 44th year, with a record 560 entries from all over the world.

It’s a fun event, as reflected in the innovative poster designs, but also a valuable training and proving ground for many local promising players.

This year’s event saw home players take four of the ten available titles, with Malaysia collecting five and India one.

World Squash Day

The whole squash community gets involved too - Sat 20th October, saw World Squash Day aiming to demonstrate global support for the sport’s 2020 Olympic Bid by staging ‘the biggest squash match in history’.

Hong Kong was naturally at the forefront of this initiative as hundreds of players at all of its squash centres took the side of “Team Squash” or “Team 2020”, each result counting towards the overall global total, expected to be around 20,000 players a side!

“We had a great time for the last World Squash Day which had an Olympic theme,” said Heather Deayton, Vice-President of the World Squash Federation and the former Executive Director of Hong Kong Squash - pictured here during this year's "FlashMob".

“This year’s theme had really struck a chord with the local squash community and we saw some fun events at many of the centres.”
 
By the time the IOC inspectors arrive for this year’s Hong Kong Open, many more people will have been exposed to the game through the various activities and programmes surrounding the event.

And who knows, perhaps some of them will be competing for squash medals in the 2020 Olympics.

We can but dream...
   

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Squash to the masses

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