Nicol and Raneem’s Excellent Adventure Story

I heard an absolutely amazing story the other day. A friend had told me about it after we had played a few hours of doubles squash and I was wringing out my sweatbands and trying to muster the energy to walk to the locker room. The story was about two women. The first one owned something very valuable, even priceless. And the second woman wanted it very badly. She had the opportunity to take it—completely legally, this isn’t a tale of crime—but in order to do so, she had to be smarter and more tenacious than the first one. Could she do it??

Raneem El Welily and Nicol David at World Squash Champions final in Cairo, 2014

Raneem El Welily and Nicol David at World Squash Champions final in Cairo, 2014

I love stories like this one. Especially about women. Especially about squash. The story had already been told a few weeks earlier, a few thousand miles away in Cairo, Egypt at the Women’s World Championship Final. However, I might be able to find it online, my friend said, on Squash TV. A few hours later, I tapped the full screen tab and there they were, World #1 Nicol David and World #2 Raneem El Welily in the flesh. Well, in pixelated flesh.

Everyone who pays even a smidge of attention to pro squash knows that Nicol David is the Steffi Graf of squash. The reigning queen for eight years, with seven world titles to her name (this would be her eighth, if she prevailed), I’ve seen her play a few times and she just exudes confidence—not the flashy kind, but the calm and cool kind. Want to learn from a master? Watch Nicol David.

As for Raneem El Welily, I’d heard about her prowess more than seen it. Friends kept telling me about amazing matches they’d witnessed, but I’ve always seemed to have missed her. However, I knew she was someone Nicol had to watch out for—one of the grittily determined and fiercely physical Egyptians who were all but ready to clamber up Nicol’s throne and take the crown for themselves. So when Raneem strode onto the court to the din of her countrymen’s cheers, I knew this story would be good. I just didn’t know how good. Continue reading

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A Night of New York Women…and Squash

Women's Squash Night in New York always brings out a little craziness!

Women’s Squash Night in New York always brings out a little craziness!

Over an Oktoberfest beer the other evening, a friend remarked to me, “we’re the only women I know who still play the sport we played in college.” My friend plays tennis and I play squash, and I feel incredibly fortunate I couldn’t say the same thing. She lives out west in a place where there aren’t that many organized sports for women. Whereas I live in a city with New York Squash—an organization that has facilitated competitive squash long before I moved here, and increasingly encouraged and supported women’s squash. So I have lots of friends who play squash….and every year I seem to find a few more.

Jessica Green & Emily Stieff

Jessica Green & Emily Stieff, Women’s Squash Week founders

Autumn is often the best time. Thanks to two New York women, Emily Stieff and Jessica Green, Women’s Squash Week was born in 2008 and has hosted an evening of female squash camaraderie at the beginning of squash season every year since. And it’s spread to other cities and countries. Why do we need Women’s Squash Week, you may ask? Continue reading

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It’s a Good Day in the Badlands . . . if you can keep your bike upright

Maah Daah Hey trail between Magpie and Bennett camps

Maah Daah Hey trail between Magpie and Bennett camps

The front wheel wobbled in front of me in the narrow dirt and rock track. There was only an inch or two of clearance—or so it seemed—between the thick rubber tire and the sides of the track. The wheel in front of mine steadily moved straight ahead, and further away from me, but every time I tried to correct my drunken progress, I bounced from one edge to the other. How was I ever going to keep up with my friends or keep from falling over?

My tire rammed into the grass embankment and over I went. Bike and all. I wasn’t. Continue reading

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The Here and Now: a little skiing/squash zen

snowyskidayFluffy flakes of snow fell all around me—in the evergreens, on my red ski jacket, and over the field of moguls just beyond the tips of my skis. I took a breath, tightened the grip on my poles, and slid over the edge into a foot of powdery paradise.

It wasn’t supposed to snow more than a few flurries the night before, but on our way to the Prohibition Pig for some local brews and bbq, the flakes started falling. When we left a few hours later, we had to dust the truck and put it in four wheel drive for the winding road back to the b&b. And then that morning, we were supposed to head south and home, but while we ate our cinnamon scones fresh from the oven and sipped our coffee, we looked out into the world of white and I knew I couldn’t leave without one last dip. Continue reading

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Snow, Beer, Nick Matthew & Amr: An Evening at the ToC

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A Snowy Grand Central on 42nd Street: site of the ToC

The snow was falling thickly outside my office window all day. A curtain of white had been pulled over my usual view of downtown Manhattan—the Freedom Tower, the ferries on the Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty—so that only a stately water tower a few blocks away was visible in the blue-gray air. Here on the 15th floor, it looked as if it was snowing up, the flakes swirling in circles.

Around mid-afternoon, the emails started, suggesting that we head for home. I looked at the MTA website and it warned that the storm was getting worse; commuters should aim to finish travel by early evening. So I did what any squash lover would do at this time of year in NYC, I got on the train and headed to Grand Central and the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.

The glass court in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central during the Tournament of Champions

The glass court in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station

Continue reading

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Louder than Lions – Howe Cup Roars with Women

I got the eye of the ti-ger,
The music is blaring.
a figh-ter, dancing through the fi-re
The floor is shaking.
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roarrrr
And the dance floor is full . . .
of women.

howe cup dancin

Saturday Night Partyers at Howe Cup 2013
photo credit: Beth Rasin

Women of all ages, from teenagers to grandmothers, more than one hundred of them . . . and all waving their arms in the air and shouting out the lyrics to Katy Perry’s Roar. This is Howe Cup Women’s Team Championships Saturday Night, and while I love seeing a sports club full of women playing very competitive squash and cheering very loudly for their teams, it’s a dance floor full of these same women that makes me even happier. When one of Howe Cup’s theme songs—Dancing Queen—comes on and everyone belts out, You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, I’m in girl-power heaven. Continue reading

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A very good, bad day : cycling through the Olympic decision

shadow bikeAt twelve noon a Sunday or so ago, I was in Flushing, Queens. And, no, not at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The Serena and Victoria slugfest would not start until later. No, I was slugging it out against a stiff headwind as I slowly made my way toward the JFK Triborough Bridge. I think you have to have three names for something to be named after you in Queens….

Meanwhile, an organization with three names—the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was whittling down its selection of three contenders in consideration for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Games to one. Squash, the sport I spend much of my non-working life playing, was one of them. Continue reading

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