Men’s world no. 6 squash player Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia arrives in Cayman Friday (24 August) just weeks after one of the biggest wins of his career at the 2018 British Open Squash Championships.
Rodriguez, 32, says, however, the road to defending his Men’s Singles title as reigning Pan Am Games champion at the XXVIII Pan AM Squash Championships starting Sunday (26 August) at the South Sound Squash Club is a thrilling encore.
“I’m very excited, it’s going to be a new destination for me. I’m pretty happy to represent my country and have some fun in the Cayman Islands who will be hosting the event for the first time in the Caribbean.”
Four-time national champion Cameron Stafford says the chance to play against the likes of Rodriguez, and men’s world no. 11, Diego Elias of Peru, on home court, is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“The British Open which is pretty much the Wimbledon of squash. These two top guys will be the one and two seeds. I’ve played both of them before so I know what to expect, their very fast and dynamic.”
In the women’s draw, world no. 18 Amanda Sobhy of the United States will also begin her Pan Am Games Women’s Singles title defense.
Sobhy, 25, says she’s looking forward to competing in a diverse event that comes with a refreshing change of pace from the professional ranks.
“Hopefully I’ll win the individual event, the doubles will be a lot of fun, plus the team event. USA is looking to going in there, and go all the way. In squash, we all want to win. At the same time, we like to make friends with players from other countries, we like to have a good time and that’s kind of that whole atmosphere. When I have the opportunity to play, I really like to do it.”
For three-time double age division junior champion Jade Pitcairn, the opportunity to share the court with a player she admires such as Sobhy will be special.
“I’ve always looked up to her when she came before. I’ll be excited to see her again.”
In a tournament that will feature 160 athletes from a record 20 countries, the XXVIII Pan Am Squash Championships is a special platform where both amateurs, like Pitcairn, and professionals, like Sobhy, occupy the same space for seven days. Something Sobhy says she understands has tremendous reach for junior athletes in attendance.
“To have the top junior Jade in the Cayman Islands to think of me as an inspiration is really touching and really nice to hear. It makes me really happy because it’s good to know what I’m doing reflects positively on other people.”
Rodriguez says, however, once all the pleasantries are done, the real work begins.
“It’s not going to be easy, there’s a lot of countries with good players like Mexico, Argentina, Canada, USA, Brazil. It’s going to be a tough week, I don’t doubt it, but I’m looking forward to it.”