[jbutton size=”large” color=”blue” link=”https://www.ussquash.com/teamusa/2015-pan-ams/” newpage=”yes”]Pan American Games Page[/jbutton]
The U.S. women’s team capped off a record week for Team USA at the Pan American Games by defeating hosts Canada to win the team gold medal Friday night at Direct Energy Center in Toronto.
Two, three-game victories by Olivia Blatchford, individual silver medalist, and Amanda Sobhy, individual and doubles gold medalist, denied Canada two gold medal teams in front of a packed arena.
“I was just in the zone, ” Sobhy said, “I feel like I couldn’t feel my legs tonight and I was going to do whatever came to mind and play instinctively.”
Blatchford first defeated Hollie Naughton 11-4, 12-10, 11-8 in twenty-five minutes. Sobhy followed on court to clinch her third gold medal this week against Samantha Cornett, 11-3, 11-2, 11-8, in twenty-three minutes.
The team gold medal means the U.S. finishes on top of the overall squash medal standings with six, which also breaks the previous Team USA record of four total medals in 2011.
“I could not be happier for our players, ” said Paul Assaiante, women’s head coach and Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach. “Amanda was the star of the event with three Gold medals, Olivia a Gold and Silver and Nat two Golds. All in all a shining success for those who competed here and for their families and for those back home in the U.S. who supported us.”
2015 is the first edition of the Pan American Games in which each Team USA player brings home a medal. A men’s team bronze, and doubles bronze for Chris Hanson & Chris Gordon add to the women’s four medals.
Amanda Sobhy’s three gold medals are a U.S. and tournament record, making the Harvard graduate the first woman to win three gold medals in one year since doubles was added to the Pan American program in 2011.
The 2015 Games were the first for Sobhy, Chris Hanson, and Todd Harrity, all of whom are recent college graduates turned squash professionals.
Blatchford, Harrity, and Hanson are the first Team USA players to compete in the Pan American Games with the support of the US Squash Elite Athlete Program.
Rich Wade, Team Manager and Director of National Teams and Certifications, reports on day six of match play from Toronto:
There was a certain amount of pressure on the women’s team today knowing that on paper they were favorites to win, playing in front of a boisterous Canadian crowd and with a desire to get the clean sweep of Gold medals.
Olivia Blatchford was first on court for Team USA at No. 2 and got us off to the best start possible. The potential of this match was great, if it went Team Canada’s way then the crowd would no doubt energize the numbers No. 1 and No. 3 who were up next, if it went Team USA’s way then the atmospheric bubble would burst and be difficult to come back from.
A lightning quick start from Olivia, and some nerves from her opponent Hollie Naughton lead to an 11-4 first game before Canada could settle in to the stride. The second would be different however with some longer rallies, pulling each other front to back and side to side, the crowd fully engaged. Point for point through 10-all before a great hold-boast from Olivia and a perfect straight drop clinched what would be a crucial game for Team USA.
The third would be close again and after getting to an 8-5 lead, Hollie fought back to 8-8 and would test Olivia’s nerve at a crucial stage of the match. In an assured fashion however, Olivia pulled away again with great changes of pace and direction and closed to the match out 11-8 to give Team USA a 1-0 lead.
Next up, already two time Gold medalist Amanda Sobhy. Having played eleven matches in six days, tonight would be yet another test both physically and mentally, but one that Amanda was prepared to stand up to. Coming up against her semifinal opponent from the Individual event in Sam Cornett, Amanda thrived in being back in the spotlight for one last night in this event. The worrying thing for the other countries was that Amanda actually looked better and better with every match she played and tonight she would go on to claim a record third Gold medal this week.
Finding her flow, Amanda chopped the ball quickly, lifted out of trouble perfectly and held her opponent running to an 11-3 first game win. More of the same in the second, scarily good on the glass court and 11-2 to Amanda.
The third would be a little different though with Samantha not willing to lay down for Team USA. Point for point through 8-all, Sam able to lengthen the rallies a little more and force a few errors from the racket of the usually accurate Sobhy. The crowd was in to it, setting the stage for what they hoped would be a comeback for Team Canada, but Amanda wasn’t having any of it. Three great rallies, everything we’ve come to expect from Amanda and Gold was ours, 11-8 in the third and 6 medals total this week, 3 Golds, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze’s.
A proud week to be a part of Team USA and the start of what we hope is a Golden Era with many very talented athletes, a team of great coaches and the desire to succeed.
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) July 18, 2015
— Team USA Squash (@TeamUSASquash) July 18, 2015
— Chris Hanson (@Chris_R_Hanson) July 18, 2015
— Natalie Grainger (@Natgno1) July 18, 2015
— Christopher Gordon (@gordosquash) July 19, 2015
What a great way to end an unforgettable PanAmerican Games! 3 golds, 1 silver, and 2 bronzes for Team… https://t.co/I6q7K8tG7l
— Amanda Sobhy (@itssobhytime) July 17, 2015