Commonwealth Games: Boxers, Squash players bank on experience for success
With hopes of a spot on the podium, Guyana’s squash players and boxers will be heading into action at the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Friday.
While the country has never won a squash medal at the Commonwealth Games, the last time Guyana won a boxing medal at the former British Empire Games, was at the 1990 event in Auckland, Australia, when Wesley Christmas claimed bronze in the bantamweight division.
In fact, of the 16 medals won by Guyana since the 1930 Commonwealth Games, 11 are split between Track and Field and Boxing.
The country’s other medals at the games came from Rowing (Bronze – 1930), Swimming (bronze – 1938) and Weightlifting (Bronze – 1954, 1962 and Silver – 1966).
Youth Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist and Olympian Keevin Allicock, along with Colin Lewis and Desmond Amsterdam, are Guyana’s representatives in the disciplines of Boxing.
While both Allicock and Lewis are making a return to the Games for the second time, Amsterdam will be making his debut.
Much is expected of Amsterdam at the Games, given the fact that only recently, he capped his participation at this year’s American Boxing Confederation (AMBC) Elite Championships with a bronze medal.
Amsterdam’s achievement was the first time a Guyanese boxer had claimed a medal at an Elite AMBC Championships.
Coach Terrence Poole, speaking on the sidelines of Guyana’s training session on Wednesday at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, said he’s expecting Amsterdam to replicate his AMBC Championships performance.
“I expect great things from him; I expect a podium finish, because he has shown a lot of improvement, he has shown hunger and fight, so I expect a podium finish from him,” Poole said.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Allicock and Lewis were on the wrong side of some questionable decisions.
Nonetheless, Poole, who along with Sebert Blake will be overlooking the team, believes that the two boxers’ experience will help see them through the rounds in Birmingham.
“Keevin would’ve gone to the highest level, which is the Olympics, and I think he should’ve learned a lot. So coming against these boxers now, with that kind of exposure, he should, or both of them should be doing well,” the Medal of Service awardee stated. (L-R) Shomari Wiltshire, Ashley Khalil, Jason-Ray Khalil and Coach Garfield Wiltshire. Missing is Mary Fung-A-Fat who will join the team before the start of the tournament
With a blend of youth and experience, Guyana’s squash team at the Commonwealth Games, will be eying more than just improved performance.
Former National Champion, Ashley Khalil, and reigning Junior Caribbean Champion, Shomari Wiltshire, are optimistic of a successful campaign in Birmingham.
Joined by Jason-Ray Khalil and Mary Fung-A-Fat, the Guyanese team represents arguably the best squash players, not just from Guyana, but the Caribbean. Buoyed by his recent success at this year’s Junior Caribbean Championship where he eased to another title, Wiltshire aims to take it one game at a time in England.
Wiltshire said he intends to soak up as much experience as possible from his first Commonwealth Games, which he hopes will translate to long-term success as he transitions to the senior competitions.
“I’m not really expected to do that much,” the usually humble Wiltshire said, adding “they’re some top players at this tournament, so I just want to see how I can do against them and give my best.” “I want to win my first round match and hopefully I can win one of my doubles matches because that would be good for morale,” Wiltshire said.
Understanding that all eyes from around the Region will be on him when he takes to the courts at the University of Birmingham Squash facility on Friday, Wiltshire pointed out “I just want to improve my game. They’re a lot of things I can work on. So I want to do very well at these games and the Senior Caribbean Championship coming up.”
Meanwhile, the 22nd hosting of the event will be Ashley Khalil’s second time at the Commonwealth Games, dating back to her showing at the 2010 games in India.
At the games in Delhi, Khalil was the country’s lone representative in Squash. Though still a junior and just 17, she managed to reach the round of 32 in the singles event.
“This is such a high-level Games. My main goal is to obviously better my last time in 2010. I was a junior in 2010 so it has been quite a few years, but for me, it’s just to come out and play some good squash and make Guyana proud,” Khalil said. Looking ahead to the competition, Khalil said the team is bracing themselves for a battle individually but will be relying on their collective talent in the team competition.
“For us (Team Guyana), singles is going to be tough because most of the players here are ranked in the top 50, but I think our best chance would probably be in the doubles or mixed doubles events, so that’s where we expect to do well,” Khalil noted.
Guyana has never won a medal in Squash at the Commonwealth Games, but Khalil said the team intends to leave it all on the court.