Against expectations, USA clinched both team gold medals in the XVIII Pan American Games Squash Championships in Peru, becoming the first country to achieve the team double since hosts Canada 20 years ago in 1995.
The 3/4 seeded US men had to put in two breakthrough performances against respective gold and silver medal favourites Mexico and Colombia at Villa Deportiva Nacional Videna in the Peruvian capital Lima.
Top-seeded Mexico earned a 1-0 semi-final lead over the US when the World No.21 Cesar Salazar defeated American No.1 Todd Harrity 11-8, 11-8, 11-7. At the No.2 position, Cesar’s twin brother Arturo earned an early advantage over Chris Hanson by taking the first game 12-10.
However, the two-time American champion then put together a three-game comeback, surmounting deficits in the third and fourth games to level the score 10-12, 11-4, 11-7, 14-12. Team debutant Andrew Douglas, a 20-year-old making his first appearance in the Games, then stepped up in the biggest match of his career to date, coming back from 2-1 down against former world No. 35 Alfredo Avila to punch Team USA’s ticket to its first ever men’s team final.
The final against second seeds Colombia had a similar rhythm as Harrity lost against 2015 gold medallist and World No.9 Miguel Angel Rodriguez in a close four games. Once again, Hanson gave the US new life with a 3-0 win over Juan Camilo Vargas to level the score at one-all. Douglas then sealed the historic result by defeating Andres Felipe Herrera 11-4, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8.
Harrity and Hanson celebrate their second unexpected gold medal run of the tournament, following up their men’s doubles success as 3/4 seeds this weekend. Hanson praised his teammate Douglas for his mature performances in high pressure situations.
“I am still in utter shock,” Hanson said. “I wish I had his composure when I was twenty. It’s just unbelievable what he did tonight and what we’ve done as a team. I’m speechless.”
Meanwhile, by leading the country to a successful defence of the women’s team title, World No.8 Amanda Sobhy clinched a third Games gold medal at this year’s event – adding to her individual and women’s doubles title triumphs – thereby replicating her historic triple gold medal success in the 2015 PanAm Games in Toronto.
The top-seeded US women opened proceedings on the final day of squash action in Lima with a 3-0 victory over 3/4 seeds Mexico to set up a repeat of the 2015 final against No.2 seeds Canada. The finals were poised with two rematches of the women’s singles semi-final match ups. Amanda Sobhy put Team USA on the scoreboard first with an 11-9, 11-8, 11-7 win over Hollie Naughton. Olivia Blatchford Clyne then sealed gold courtesy of a marathon 15-13, 21-19, 11-7 victory against Samantha Cornett.
It was with her younger sister Sabrina Sobhy that Amanda won doubles gold, and Sobhy junior would have played the third match in the team event had it been required.
“It’s pretty special for us,” said Amanda. “I mean, not many people get to say that they compete with their family members. This is Sabrina’s first Games, and we’re playing not just for us but for our family and country. It can’t get much better than that.”
Blatchford Clyne, the World No.20, joined Amanda Sobhy in earning three medals, including the team gold, women’s singles silver and mixed doubles bronze.
“We very much had a ‘pressure is a privilege’ mentality,” Blatchford Clyne said. “It was quite special to know that you’re the hunted, and, instead of fearing that, we chased after our goals. We approached this tournament with a ‘so much to gain’ rather than a ‘so much to lose’ mentality.”