The Spa Total Fitness Centre, located at the Charlottetown Mall, will be the host venue this weekend for Squash P.E.I.’s Rust Remover Tournament.
The annual kickoff event makes its return this year and registration is up from previous years.
It is a promising start for P.E.I.'s first leg in the Maritime squash circuit. Leading the charge in the highly competitive men's A division is Nathan Phillips of Cornwall, who is coming off the best season of his young career. Phillips won a number of events last year including the 2017 P.E.I. Open, and capped off his season by being named the 2016-17 Squash P.E.I. Male Athlete of the Year. Phillips is fully aware that expectations are higher in the upcoming season and is up for the challenge.
"It was a tremendous honour being named athlete of the year," said Phillips. "I hope (this year) to make a run at the top and solidify my spot as one of the top players in Atlantic Canada. I hope to once again represent P.E.I. at the men's national teams event in January, and I also hope to attend the national championships."
Phillips also will be working towards hopefully playing in his first professional squash event and he will also have his eye on a new U23 national championship event introduced this year by Squash Canada.
While it was a fantastic season for the 20-year-old, he knows how tough the competition is on P.E.I. alone.
Emma Jinks, 17, of Stratford is one of Canada's top female athletes in the sport today and has been a major threat in the men's A division since gaining status in 2015. Jinks represented Canada in July as top ranked on her team at the world junior teams event, and prior to that last April won her third consecutive Canadian Junior Squash Championship and fourth since 2013. She has also been recognized by both Squash P.E.I. and Sport P.E.I. in back to back years (2016 and 2017) as Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
Her younger brother, Liam, the youngest Islander to ever reach men's A, is getting better every season and had a good off season training. He will miss this weekend’s kick off tournament as he is in Windsor, Ont., competition in a Squash Canada Junior Gold event.
Mitch Chaisson is the reigning Spa club champion and will have a shot at coming out on top this weekend.
Unavailable this weekend due to recovering from off-season surgery is Mike Buchanan. He is Squash P.E.I.'s long time No. 1 ranked athlete. Buchanan was 3-for-3 in 2016-17 tournaments, winning the Aspin Cup, UPEI Open and Mill River Open events. Buchanan should be back to 100 per cent very soon and will be in contention for another Atlantic championship come spring.
"Everyone mentioned are great players and it will never be easy to beat them,’’ Phillips said. “I've been training with Mitch Chaisson over the last year and I'm sure we will have some battles this season. Liam Jinks has been training hard and he's hungry! There's no more Ietting off the gas with him like when he was 12. I hope to show all the hard work I put in this summer has paid off."
GOOD TURNOUT EXPECTED
The Rust Remover event also has a large draw for the men's B division with many athletes hoping to work up the ranks and achieve men's A status by end of season.
In total, more than 50 athletes will be competing in eight divisions and the event also has great representation from off-Island squash clubs in Moncton and Halifax.
Tournament matches will get underway on Friday starting at 5 p.m. and admission is free.
For more information on draw schedules and results, visit www.squashpei.org.
FROM THE PAST, AND NOW THE PRESENT
After many years away from the Squash P.E.I. executive, Lester Jinks is back as president of Squash P.E.I., taking over from retiring Kelly MacWilliams, 2014-17.
Squash P.E.I. tournament director Andrew Avery has only the highest of praises for what Jinks brings to the game and what lies ahead for the organization as he returns.
"I've been working in the field of sport and recreation for more than 15 years, and through all the sports, events and organizations I've ever been involved with, I've never met an ambassador to any sport like Lester has been to squash," said Avery. "Anyone who plays tournaments across the Maritimes knows who Lester is. He is always approachable, he encourages you to keep going, to improve regularly, and he is possibly one of the most positive and enthusiastic individuals I've ever met."
While Jinks will be taking on the additional administrative roles that comes with being president, he will still be competing regularly in the men's A division and is always in the contender conversation every tournament.
"He's the Jaromir Jagr of squash," says Avery. "He's a bit older than his competition, his opponents are fast and tough, but when he gets going all you can say is wow. Every year at every event he continues to impress."
Jinks’ goals for the 2017-18 are to engage and promote a strong and sustainable Maritime squash circuit and tournament schedule in partnership with Squash N.B. and Squash N.S., as well as work towards growing the sport by recruiting new players and members across the province.
Jinks has also set out a President's Challenge for the season to encourage all current, former and beginner players to participate in at least one tournament this season. By participating, he is confident all participants will have fun, experience the social atmosphere provided in the squash community, and receive the incredible heath benefits associated with squash, the world's healthiest sport.
2019 CANADA GAMES - CALL FOR ATHLETES
Recruiting has begun in preparation for the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
Squash P.E.I. is calling on male and female junior athletes of all skill levels (including new players) across Prince Edward Island interested in representing Team P.E.I. in February 2019. An information session for parents and practice for athletes will be held on Sunday, Nov. 5 from 1-3 p.m. at the Spa Total Fitness Centre in Charlottetown. For more information, contact Shara Cody at 902-314-1338 or John Power at 902-330-9572.