Madison Ho and Carlton Capella became the first American co-champions at the prestigious British Junior Open in the GU17 and BU13 divisions, respectively, capping off what was a record-setting tournament for Team USA, January 4-8, in Birmingham England.
Team USA ends its ninth trip to the BJO with a number of new records set including its first title double and first boys champion, and new highs of five semifinalists and fifteen quarterfinalists–including a quarterfinalist in all ten divisions. The BJO is considered to be akin to the World Junior Championships with the world’s top players competing in all age divisions, while the World Juniors fields just the U19 division.
Carlton Capella entered the BU13 as the division’s top seed and backed up the seeding with a five-game quarterfinal win against Pakistan’s 5/8 seed, and a four-game semifinal win against U.S. teammate and 3/4 seed Aiden Yun, who made an impressive surprise run to the semifinals.
After dropping the opening game 7-11 in Sunday’s final against Pakistan’s 5/8 seed Nauman Khan, Capella came back to become Team USA’s first BJO boys champion 7-11, 14-12, 11-9, 11-9 in thirty-six minutes.
“I can’t believe that for the rest of my life I will always hold the title of being the first male to win the BJO,” said Capella, a two-time U.S. Junior Champion. “I was really pumped to play, but to be honest it was a whole different level of pressure, especially on the glass court even though I have been seeded No. 1 in other major tournaments.”
Of Team USA’s record five semifinalists, Alexander Dartnell and Aiden Chiang put together noteworthy runs as unseeded players. Dartnell knocked out the BU17 two seed in the third round and upset a 5/8 seed in the quarterfinals to reach the semis. Chiang upset a 3/4 seed in the third round and edged a five-game quarterfinal win over a 9/16 seed to reach the semifinals.
“I told the players that each day is an opportunity to raise their own bar and they really did that,” said Luke Butterworth, U.S. Junior Men’s Head Coach. “On the boys side, unseeded Alex Dartnell’s U17 4th place and fellow unseeded player Aiden Chiang U15 3rd place finishes were nothing short of amazing only to be topped off by Carlton becoming the first U.S. male to lift the title.”
Ho, a 3/4 seed, defeated U.S. teammate and 5/8 seed Riya Navani in the quarterfinals. Ho opened up her semifinal against Egypt’s top seed Barb Sameh by losing the first game 11-0. The American then clawed back to reach the finals 0-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-3 in forty-five minutes.
“It took believing that at any given point in the match, I could still win,” Ho said of her semifinal comeback. “After the first two games, I did my best to reset and enter the third game with the mentality that this was still my match to win. I knew I couldn’t take any point for granted and would have to dig in deeper than my opponent. I tried to treat each point like it was the entire match itself.
In the final against Egypt’s 3/4 seed Nour Khafagy, Ho stormed to the title 11-8, 11-8, 14-12 in thirty-eight minutes.
“It feels completely surreal, winning the BJO is the ultimate dream as a junior and not one that I honestly thought going into the tournament I was going to achieve,” Ho said. “I remember watching Christian Capella’s and Marina Stefanoni’s incredible semifinal and final runs in my earlier BJOs and being so inspired by them. Right at the start of the tournament, in our GU17 group chat, coach Charlie Johnson sent us a motivational message that ended with, ‘Tomorrow you can stay in bed with your dreams or wake up and go get them.’ That mindset stuck with me throughout the entire tournament.”
“Madison was down 13-0, and you could tell she was nervous and it was more of the occasion,” said Scott Devoy, U.S. Junior Women’s Head Coach. “It speaks to her personality that she knows exactly what she’s trying to do. She has a demeanor about her where she can look at a situation like that and knows exactly why that’s happened, and can be in control of changing it because she trusts her game. She knew all along that the opportunity in front of her was a big one and that she was more than good enough to do it. Not everyone can do that, but I think that’s why she ended up winning it because she’s so good being able to compartmentalize it and not making it bigger than it was. As soon as she regained the momentum the game changed and she knew it. Madison’s a great kid, she works hard, and really good to see her succeed.”
Ho and Capella are now the fourth and fifth American BJO champions, joining the likes of Michelle Quibell (GU17), Olivia Blatchford Clyne (GU15) and Marina Stefanoni (GU17) who won in 2001, 2007 and 2019, respectively.
Both Capella and Ho credit their teammates, coaches and families for their successes.
“I really enjoyed the team cheering, they motivated me to keep pushing,” Capella added. “The coaches did a great job at making sure that I was on task with the plan and helped me stay focused. Watching my brother Christian almost win the 2019 BJO in the BU11s made me realize that it was possible to win. I train a lot with Christian and my older brother Lucas, and they are constantly pushing me to play my best.”
“It was really special to have the team’s support,” Ho said. “My absolute favorite thing about the BJO is the team aspect. Traveling together, training together, and cheering each other on creates such an incredible atmosphere and allows you to play your best on court knowing you have such strong support around you. I’m especially grateful for all the coaches and players I got to meet through the trip and my parents for their constant encouragement.”
The 2023 BJO marks the first edition of the tournament to feature U11, U13, U15, U17 and U19 age divisions fielding the world’s top ranked juniors since 2020, and the ninth annual Team USA trip.
“The vibe among the team USA players was out of this world with their togetherness and collective belief that we could cause some big upsets,” Butterworth said. “Year on year our results are getting better and now we have clinched these titles we are hungry for more. The gap between US and Egypt is still vast, however with the collective desire to be the best this gap will close year by year until we aim to takeover.”
“After the tournament we told the players and families ‘the results this week shouldn’t be a surprise to you, everyone’s seen this coming for a while,” Devoy said. “All of the hard work that’s been put in over the years has started to translate into results across the board, and into quarterfinalists and semifinalists, and to walk away with two titles is really special. It’s really motivating for U.S. squash in general. It sends the message that even though we’re not winning a ton of titles, the gap is closing and everyone’s starting to take notice. Credit to the coaching and national team system across the board. I’m looking forward to the World Juniors coming up this summer and to see how the Junior Women’s team is made up. If they keep building on last summer and the BJO, I think the results shouldn’t be a surprise. It just speaks volumes to the work they’ve done. Players and parents aside, credit to the BJO coaching staff and the experience and passion that they brought to the team, and the different approaches we all take. It was fun to be around and really motivating. There are exciting things to come and this is just the beginning.”
The U.S. delegation boasted fifty-one players led by an experienced group of eleven coaches. View the entire U.S. roster below:
[5/8] Brendon Chan
[5/8] Eric Tang
[5/8] Amelia Rutherford
[3/4] Aiden Yun
 Carlton Capella
 Isabella Tang
Aiden Chi-Ren Chiang
[3/4] Jack Elriani
Rohan Arya Gondi
[5/8] Caroline Eielson
[3/4] Madison Ho
[5/8] Riya Navani
[5/8] Caroline Fouts
US Squash: Linda Elriani
BU11: Ollie Holland
BU13: Laurent Elriani
BU15: Ronny Vlassaks
BU17: Chris Longman
BU19: Luke Butterworth
GU11: Min Jie Teh
GU13: Chris Brownell
GU15: Nick Taylor
GU17: Charlie Johnson
GU19: Scott Devoy