By Georgia Griffith for Commonwealth Games Australia.
Australia is the most successful Squash nation at the Commonwealth Games and will look to add new chapters to the storied history in Birmingham.
Gold Coast 2018 team member Rex Hedrick believes the opportunity to compete at the Commonwealth Games is among the highest honours for squash players across the nation.
“The Commonwealth Games is our absolute pinnacle,” Hedrick said as part of Commonwealth Games Australia’s ‘300 Days to Go Show’.
“The Games are something we all look forward to for four years.”
“It’s our biggest rush and it’s our biggest achievement in Australian squash.
“Being part of the Australian team… it is what we really look forward to and it’s great when we get there.”
While Birmingham will be only the seventh time squash has been included on the Commonwealth Games sport program, Australian squash stars have quickly established a defining legacy of success.
When the sport was introduced at the Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games, the Australian Team featured a trio of female stars, including Michelle Martin OAM and Sarah Fitz-Gerald AM, two of the greatest female players in the history of the sport and future Sport Australia Hall of Fame members, but also a then 21-year-old youngster in Rachael Grinham, who would go on to become the most successful female squash player in Commonwealth Games history.
The 1998 Games squad would finish with two gold, three silver and one bronze for a total haul of six medals, just behind England’s seven medals including two gold.
Craig Rowland and Michelle Martin won gold in the mixed doubles at the Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games. (CGA Archive)
At the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, the Australian team would welcome another Australian squash icon in David Palmer OAM who won bronze medals in the men’s singles and with Paul Price in the men’s doubles.
The 2002 Games squad would finish with eight medals, including gold for Fitz-Gerald in the women’s singles, edging out the host nation of England that finished with seven medals.
Home soil proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Australian team with the Melbourne 2006 Games resulting in the best Games haul to date with eight medals, three gold, three silver and two bronze, powered by Natalie Grinham‘s history making three gold Games.
The younger Grinham sister won gold in the women’s singles defeating older sister Rachael, then paired with her sister to win gold in the women’s doubles, then paired with Joe Kneipp to win gold in the mixed doubles in a stunning campaign.
Sisters Rachel and Natalie Grinham won gold in the women’s doubles at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. (CGA Archive)
Delhi 2010 Games saw England wrestle back the title of the best squash nation in the Commonwealth finishing with six medals to Australia’s five, with the highlight for the green and gold was victory in the mixed doubles thanks to the partnership between Cameron Pilley and Kasey Brown.
The mixed doubles winning streak continued for the third straight Games at the Glasgow 2014 Games, with Australian squash stalwarts David Palmer and Rachael Grinham pairing to claim gold, while Palmer and Pilley paired to win gold in the men’s doubles.
In continuing the back-and-forth trend, the English squad took back the mantle of the top squash nation with nine total medals, to Australia’s three, after Pilley and Brown returned to claim bronze in the mixed doubles.
On the Gold Coast in 2018, a new nation entered the mix with New Zealand finishing atop of the medal tally with four medals, while Palmer paired with Zac Alexander to defend the men’s doubles crown.
While cousins Pilley and Donna Lobban (Urquhart) paired to win gold in the mixed doubles, the fourth straight Games that an Australian pair has been crowned champions.
A golden streak the team will be hoping to continue in Birmingham and a streak Hedrick acknowledges has been made all the harder due to the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc to the sports world over the last few years.
“We haven’t really had the chance to pair up and mix up pairings and stuff with what we might be doing in Birmingham,” said Hedrick.
“I think it might be a bit of a rush come the first six months of 2022 to try and sort that out because we’ve got a few players from overseas as well.
“We’re going to have to try and do some pretty quick meetups and form our pairs pretty quickly to try and have the best opportunity to medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.”
A sport that requires a remarkable combination of decision-making, racket skills, speed, power, agility, flexibility and reflexes, but the main element of squash is outstanding endurance both cardiovascular and muscular.
Hedrick has been working towards being in prime condition for next year and is buoyed by the fact that his motivations to succeed are just as strong across the entire Squash Australia player landscape.
“We are all really looking forward to getting back together as a team and trying to achieve something big,” Hedrick said.
England have proved to be one of Australia’s biggest competitors in squash, who have the next highest overall gold medal count.
The Aussie squash team will be wanting to prove themselves again and will be doing everything they can to be at the top of their game when they match up against England on their home turf.
It will no doubt be an exciting battle as the Aussies try to make a statement about who the superior squash nation in the Commonwealth.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place from 28 July to 8 August.
Next year’s Commonwealth Games will make global sport history by being the first-ever major multi-sport event to award more medals to women than men. There will be 136 medal events for women and 134 for men; at the 2018 Commonwealth Games there were an equal number of medals for women and men.
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To be in the stands in Birmingham supporting the Australian squash Team Members and the rest of the Australian team, for the first time Australian families and fans will be able to access group tickets for all events at the Commonwealth Games.
The Family & Fans Tour ensures Australian families and fans can sit and cheer together, stay together and play together at the Birmingham Games.
Tour packages are available for all sports; however, numbers are limited.
Bookings are now open, learn more about the Family & Fans Tour below.