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World-class squash takes centre stage

Squashing the competition. Photo supplied

At the end of the month, some of the world’s best squash players will meet at Dalhousie for the first time ever. But not in a location you might expect.

Rather than a familiar sports venue such as the Dalplex, the fast-paced and action-packed sport will host its annual Bluenose Squash Classic from March 28-31 at Dal’s arts facility, the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. Two days of preliminary round play will take place beforehand at the Saint Mary’s Tower.

So, how is that going to work, you may ask? Well, a regulation squash court made entirely of plexiglass panels will be constructed on the Rebecca Cohn stage. There will be three one sided windows which the athletes can’t see out of, but the fans who are sitting comfortably in the padded theatre seats will be able to see all the action.

“We’ve already sold more tickets for each day than we have for the entire tournament last year,” said Tony Hall, the tournament sponsor responsible for bringing the glass court to the Cohn.

The theatre stage will be expanded from its usual size to allow more room for the glass court. It will be constructed by American contractors early next week.

This is the seventh year the Bluenose Squash Classic has been held in Nova Scotia. In prior years, the tournament was held at the Saint Mary’s Tower, but this year the Tower will only see the two days of qualification rounds.

“This shift in venue elevates the Bluenose Squash Classic to the top echelon of sporting events in Atlantic Canada,” said Zal Davar, Bluenose Squash Classic chair and founder in the news release.

The Bluenose Squash Classic is not the local tournament one might expect it to be—it actually attracts the world’s top players with a total pot of $55,000 in prize money. Ten countries will be represented in this year’s tournament. The No. 1 seed in this tournament is Amr Shabana from Egypt. Shabana is a four-time world champion and is currently ranked sixth in the world.

Representing Canada will be former junior national champion Andrew Schnell and Shahier Razik, who is currently the top Canadian. In opening round play, Schnell will face Stephen Coppinger from Russia, and Razik will compete against third-ranked Hisham Mohd Ashour of Egypt.

Daver encourages all sports fans to give watching squash a try.

“It’s very exciting to watch. The players are extremely athletic and the matches are often suspenseful,” Daver said. “Six out of the top 20 in the world will be competing in the same place.”

There’s no doubt that next week will be one of the most unique on the university sports calendar this year. It is also a great opportunity for general sports fans to learn about an untraditional sport.

 

To watch the games, tickets cost $9.50 for first round action, $19.50 for the quarter-finals, $29.50 for the semi-finals and $39.50 for championship play. You can also buy an event pass for $75. You can contact the box office at 494-3820 for more information.

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Graeme Benjamin

Graeme is the Gazette's Sports Editor. He was the Assistant Sports Editor for Volume 145.

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