Commonwealth gold winner, James Willstrop, has double life acting in Harrogate!

Commonwealth gold medallist, James Willstrop.
Credit: Toni Van der KreekCommonwealth gold medallist, James Willstrop.
Credit: Toni Van der Kreek
Commonwealth gold medallist, James Willstrop. Credit: Toni Van der Kreek
Harrogate's Commonwealth Games gold medalist, James Willstrop, has said he is looking forward to returning to the town after his incredible win in the Gold Coast this week.

The 34-year-old squash player won the biggest singles title of his career when he beat New Zealand’s Paul Coll, to take the Commonwealth gold on Monday (April 9).

But James, who is preparing to head back home, said he couldn’t have done without everyone who has helped and supported him along the way.

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He said: “It’s been an incredible day or so and the best thing is being able to enjoy it with the many people who’ve helped me get there.

“It takes an incredible amount of effort to win a Commonwealth gold from so many people, not just me - my family, who support me every day, Vanessa, my coaches; Malcolm and David, my Physio Alison Rose and her team at CSPCC in Leeds. I couldn’t do what I’ve done without them.

He added: “I’m looking forward to coming back to Harrogate of course, I love living in this town, and want to say a big thank you to the squash clubs in Harlow and Harrogate and David Lloyd clubs in Leeds and Harrogate where I train so much and put the hours in.”

But James hasn’t just had training for the Commonwealth games to think about in the last few weeks.

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Between practising his hand at squash, James has been learning his script lines for a major part in the Harrogate Dramatic Society production, Death and the Maiden.

James said: “I’m at Harrogate Theatre in June doing Death and the Maiden with HDS. The committee there and director of the show, Rachel Conyers, have given me a part which I am really excited about.

“I love working with them, they are such very talented people. I love theatre, acting and writing and did Death of a Salesman with them last year.”

Revealing his double-life, James explained that he got into acting while injured, four years ago, after he joined the Leeds group, Adel Players.

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But added that it isn’t as unusual as it may first seem for sports players to explore a passion for drama.

He said: “I’ve been in the Gold Coast with the script and it’s been something that takes me away to something different, away from the squash court. It breaks the intensity on the court up a bit.

“People find it a bit unusual but I see lots of similarities between acting and sport and athletes have been known to move into it- Freddie Flintoff, Eric Cantona, and recently I saw Jamie Jones Buchanan has got involved. It’s maybe not as rare as people think.”