Squash: Schurmann will be missed and not just for her graft and efficiency – Willstrop

Karim Darwish.
Karim Darwish.
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The Professional Squash Association said goodbye last week to Claudia Schurmann, who has been the tour director for the last two years, and involved with the association for the last five.

Originally from Switzerland, Claudia moved over from New York in 2010 after working at the Tournament of Champions for several years. Making lots of friends as is her custom, she took a big interest in the game and eventually decided to make her home Leeds.

Her efficiency and work ethic were obvious and she began to assist some players with logistical issues such as travel; before long, and through her growing connection with the game, she found herself involved at the PSA. In 2012 she became the tour director and has run the office impeccably since, with the help of a growing new workforce.

Claudia had been at the centre of perhaps the biggest period of transition the PSA has ever seen. As Claudia took over, the offices moved from Cardiff to a space at the Calls in Leeds, where the administrative headquarters of the world game are now established.

Television and web-streaming advancements followed, and as the association became more financially secure more staff were employed, and a more modern and self-sustaining working situation became evident. Claudia now leaves the association in fine shape and, as she heads back to the affluent environs of her home city of Zurich, the PSA and the WSA (the women’s professional association) are embarking on a merger which will soon come into effect.

Claudia’s presence in the PSA office will be missed. The players had great respect for her efforts on behalf of them. She could be relied upon at almost any time of day to speak and players and promoters would often find her picking up the phone – having expected to leave a message for reply on return – at the most ungodly hours. She wouldn’t think to not answer emails or see to tournament logistics on days off. Additionally, I can’t think of a language she can’t speak, which made her a communication supremo, and enabled her to make some non-English speaking players all over the globe feel comfortable.

It was very lucky for PSA to happen upon such an accomplished administrator who genuinely loved the game, and who would come to many tournaments and often voluntarily do such good to impact the sport. You can often find one, not with the other.

It goes without saying all those in squash, certainly in PSA, wish her well on her return to Zurich and thank her for all she has done.

Meanwhile, in round two of the Premier Squash League Pontefract lost 5-0 to Duffield but from all accounts there was a packed house and an exciting evening of squash culminated with the women’s tie going to five, with world champion Laura Massaro beating Sarah Kippax to ensure the clean sweep for the Derbyshire outfit.

Earlier that day Laura had done the rounds at the BBC, and gave a good interview on BBC Breakfast regarding equality in sport. Women’s prize money is shockingly short of men’s in most sports, but the balance in squash has started to be redressed somewhat. We all hope the merging of the two tours will help to improve the women’s prize funds, and put them where they belong.

Karim Darwish, Egypt’s former world number one player, has announced his retirement from the professional game. A compatriot since our junior days, I have played many battles against Karim on massive occasions. Quite a jolt to think of players of your own era retiring. I can’t speak for Karim but apart from the body creaks, being 18 seems hardly that long ago. In reality I suppose it is.

Karim was one of the most classic of players, and his forehand front court play was at times exquisite and absolutely artistic.

Across the pond, Peter Barker won the Bluenose Classic in Nova Scotia beating England’s Daryl Selby in the semi-finals and Miguel Rodriguez in three games in the final.

The British Junior Championships took place in Manchester at the weekend. There were two Yorkshire winners in Sam Todd, son of Pontefract owner Mick, at Under-13, and Nick Wall, son of Yorkshire League stalwart Nick, at Under-15. It was my first junior tournament for a while and it took me right back to those heady days. Practically the first sight I clapped eyes on was a young girl, followed by harassed father, crying her eyes out after a loss. I remember it well. Tears and tantrums.

For more detail on any of the above, visit squashsite.co.uk or www.psaworldtour.com

James Willstrop, lefvt, in action against Mohamed ElShorbagy in Dubai. Picture courtesy of PSA

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