Squash: Forgotten heroes of White Rose - Willstrop

Jenny Duncalfe.

Jenny Duncalfe.

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Pontefract’s world number one James Willstrop gives the inside track on the competitive world of sport.

Alistair Brownlee won another gold for Yorkshire last week and his achievement with brother Jonny has added to the success for the region.

Ian Thorpe was introduced to the Yorkshire lingo in view of the fact that the county has, or at least had at one point, won more medals than Australia.

I occasionally visit the Yorkshire institution, Betty’s and did so at the weekend. At one point I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation on a nearby table, which centred around Yorkshire athletes, Jessica Ennis mostly and the Brownlees.

The exposure these athletes suddenly reap is now off the scale and even though a player of a sport that cannot gain access to the Olympic programme, these conversations are good to hear because people are generally enthused about sport – but it’s still a little frustrating all the same.

It’s in these situations that I am reminded of the 1980s TV game show Bullseye. I almost expect Jim Bowen to walk in the room exclaiming: “Let’s have a look at what you could have won.”

With Sheffield’s Nick Matthew world ranked two and Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf, pictured, three in the women’s game, we were well placed to add medals to the Yorkshire tally, in which case every table in every Betty’s in Yorkshire would be talking about us similarly.

I can’t pretend that I wouldn’t mind jumping on the bandwagon, less for my own profile than for the good it would do squash.

It is a sad indictment of the way we operate that some athletes have only received such attention because of London, but funnily enough, the Brownlees were exceptional athletes well before the games. Why have they only been a footnote until now?

I will always be baffled by the phenomenon whereby this nation, which craves sporting success, does not often see what is in front of its very eyes and fails to really salute the champions it has in a multitude of underexposed sports.

As a player of, dare I say it, a “minority” sport, I can attest to this imbalance.

If a Malaysian badminton player wins a world title, he or she will be the main sports story of the country. If an British badminton player wins a world title, we would still be talking about Kettering Town.

This, though, is where the Olympics has done its job. Because of the games, the Brownlee brothers have received the reverence they deserve and the realisation of a dream they must have always held: pressing the button on the live National Lottery draw.

Let’s hope Yorkshire doesn’t forget about them should they win more world titles very soon.