Carrie Hallam and Richard Hollins head to Samoa next week aiming to secure Scotland’s first Commonwealth medal for 17 years, albeit in the Youth version of the event. Squash makes a return to the Commonwealth Youth Games after featuring in the inaugural event, held in Edinburgh in 2000. Since then it has been excluded from the programme of the three subsequent Games but makes a welcome return in Apia, Samoa from 5-11 September.
Competition for places was fierce, with five Scottish players achieving the selection criteria of being ranked in the top 20 for their respective age in the European Squash Federation junior rankings. Unfortunately only two places were available for squash due to the overall quota allocated to Scotland of 28 athletes across all 8 sports.
Carrie and Richard were eventually selected due to their achievement of the selection criteria at an older age-group. Emma Fitzsimmons, Alasdair Prott and Georgia Adderley were the unlucky trio who missed out despite achieving top 10 rankings.
Carrie reached a high of No.5 in Europe at U17 in 2014 before consolidating her ranking with some excellent performances after she moved up to U19, including a quarter-final appearance at the French Junior Open – her highest finish at an ESF Super Series event.
Richard won two titles on the European circuit in 2014/15 to secure his place. He retained his U17 Irish Junior Open title in November before becoming the first home winner of the U17 Scottish Junior Open since Peter Nicol in 1988. Nicol was also the last player to win a Commonwealth medal for Scotland when he claimed Gold in the Men’s Singles when squash made its debut appearance in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur back in 1998.
Since having their selection confirmed at the end of May, both players have been working hard over the summer in preparation for the biggest event of their young careers. Carrie has been training with the Scottish Squash Performance Programme, based at the National Squash Centre at Heriot-Watt University, where she has been training twice a day with the rest of the full-time members of the squad since she finished high school back in June. She will start her Neuroscience degree at the University of Edinburgh within 24 hours of returning from Samoa!
The past 3 weeks have seen Carrie increase her training even further under the supervision of SSRL’s Sports Scientist and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Kate Perry, who has been putting her through a series of exhausting training sessions in a Heat Chamber – essentially a room that’s been heated to between 30-35°C – in order to prepare for the conditions expected in Samoa.
Richard has mostly been working at his home club in Aberdeen with his coach Dave Ireson but has made several trips to Edinburgh to train with Carrie and the rest of the Performance Programme. The pair have also made regular use of the International Doubles courts at Scotstoun in Glasgow, the squash venue for Glasgow 2014.
As was the case in Glasgow, the Doubles event looks likely to be Scotland’s best chance of a medal with Richard and Carrie showing signs that they will be a very difficult team to beat in the Mixed Doubles. Both players will be looking to take advantage of the rare opportunity to compete in this event and demonstrate their potential to progress to the full Commonwealth Games in the coming years, with hopes of appearing in the Gold Coast in 2018 or Durban in 2022.