‘No pain, no gain’: Fernandes pulls on experience to win elusive Pan Am gold

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By Akeem Greene

akeem@newsroom.gy

At 38, winning a squash title at an international tournament is by no means an easy task. Guyanese Nicolette Fernandes took up the challenge and passed with flying colours.

Playing in Guatemala means there was the issue of altitude (less oxygen), which exacerbates the fatigue in a competitive arena.

However, despite a ton of aches and pains, in her cabinet is the elusive Pan American gold medal.

“It was really challenging; the scoreline might not reflect it, but it was a tough match. I think I have a lot of experience underneath me,” Fernandes related to News Room Sport in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

Fernandes clashed with the 25-year-old Colombian Laura Tovar, who was the tournament’s number-one seed and is ranked 104 in the world.

More so, in getting to the final which she won quite emphatically 11-9, 11-4, 11-5, Fernandes had to defeat the tournament’s number-two seed, Hannah Blatt of Canada, a clear show of the pedigree of the Guyanese.

Squash player Nicolette Fernandes won her first Pan American gold medal on Wednesday evening

“I have been enjoying squash with no pressure and that also has a part of how I played this tournament…it is just crazy; I still can’t believe I won it. It has been an exclusive title for me in my professional career, and the fact that I am now retired and this happens, I still can’t wrap my head around it because I did not expect it.”

Emotional and still stunned over the success, Fernandes added, “That is the funny thing about sport and life, it is all about timing…I just wanted to come and enjoy squash in this competitive environment.”

Small built, but a giant in her own rights, Nicolette further revealed an astonishing fact- she did not own a racquet since retiring professionally in 2017, and it was former teammates, Deja Dias and Regan Pollard who loaned her racquets for this tournament.

She is grateful for their support, along with members of the Guyana team and key members of the Guyana Squash Association who made the trip to Latin America a reality despite the issues with funding.

“This week has been really physically hard, quite painful…with each match, my body deteriorated, and as I get older that would be even worse. It was hard to get out of bed this morning…it is always nice when you feel sore and you think it is worth it…I am just going play as long as I enjoy and I am able to,” she envisioned her future in the sport.

There is still the team segment and Nicolette is confident they can do well there and push for a place at the Central American and Caribbean Games or next year’s Pan American Games.

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