Article by Kristi Maroc
Donna Urquhart has confirmed that she will be playing in the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open in October.
The 25-year old Aussie beach babe, who spends her time surfing when she’s not on the squash court, grew up among a family of squash players in the small coastal town of Yamba, Australia.
Many who didn’t already know Donna for her exceptional squash ability – she’s currently world ranked #17 – have heard of her from the attention she brought to squash through a racy photo shoot for an Aussie men’s magazine in 2010.
“I kind of think I’m more known for that photo shoot now than my squash!” she laughs.
“It’s a shame, but I’m hoping that maybe I can change that and people start to recognize my squash more.”
Donna is currently in New York preparing for the British Open next week, after competing in the Texas Open last month.
“It would have been a long way to fly home in between, and I knew that I could find plenty of good people to train with here in the US. I’ve had some really good hard match practice,” she says.
“It’s a great place to be, there’s plenty of stuff to do, and I have some great friends here…that’s a few reasons that I chose to stay and train for a couple of weeks.”
Donna’s passion for squash and desire to promote the game she loves led her to participate in the Alpha magazine shoot. The goal of the article was to increase the awareness of squash, and help change the status of squash from an old men’s sport to a sport for everyone.
“That’s what the article was written about, that squash isn’t just for middle aged sweaty old men…there are young professional players out there too,” says Donna.
“I am glad I did it because the purpose was to get some exposure for squash. It did create a buzz and got people talking about squash again and that was really good.
“I’d never done anything like that before, so I was a bit nervous about how it would turn out and how it would go…but the response to it was pretty good, and I think that most people that know me realize that it was just a bit of fun and I don’t take myself too seriously like that.”
Donna is a left-handed player, and grew up among a passionate squash family. Her cousin is Australian #1 Cameron Pilley, who is also widely known for holding the world record for fastest squash ball ever hit, at 175mph – a record he made during last year’s U.S. Open.
“Cameron’s family owned the squash center in Yamba, so I was able to go and play there whenever I liked, which is a pretty big thing as a kid growing up,” says Donna.
“When I was a kid I idolized people like Sarah Fitzgerald and Michelle Martin, and I thought ‘god I’d love to do that one day’“.
At 18, after finishing school, Donna was offered a squash scholarship by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Australia's premier sports training institute.
“As a teenager I dreamt of being in the AIS and being able to train full time and become a professional player in the senior ranks.”
Donna says nowadays when travelling around the world on the professional circuit, the major difference she notices in the squash scene is the level of junior participation.
“Australia has such a rich history of good players, and when I was a kid I was idolizing people who were world number one at the time…Australians. The history goes back such a long way for Australia.
“Unfortunately now in the juniors there, there are a lot less than when I was coming through as a junior. So in comparison to somewhere like Egypt, it’s a big difference.
“The amount of kids that are playing in Egypt and the enthusiasm they have for the game is so inspiring. It’s great to see such a love for the sport.
“The kids all idolize Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana. They sit there waiting for a free court and twenty of them run on at any chance they get. It’s incredible, and I wish it was like that everywhere’” she says.
“The United States is like Egypt too, with the amount of kids that play. I find it a whole new world though, where it’s all directed at getting into college. The quality of squash here is out of sight compared to when I was a kid. US squash in the juniors is improving all the time because they’re pushing each other and there’s so much competition.”
“I think it’s hard in Australia because there seem to be so many other sports that kids want to take up, and so maybe we need to give them a reason to find squash attractive again.
“Hopefully someone like me can help to change that and get kids back into it – me and the other professional Australian players – help inspire some kids!” she says.
“Something that is different about Australian squash is the people we’ve had in the past. We now have really good quality coaches, all the past players that have been there, people like Sarah Fitzgerald…they have a lot to share.”
When asked what she would say to juniors dreaming of becoming professional players one day, Donna says that they have to make sure they enjoy themselves too.
“Train hard and enjoy it, but you’ve got to be willing to put in the hard work to get anywhere with it. It’s not an easy thing and the older you get the more your realize that.
“Make sure you get out there as often as you can and have fun and play with your friends!”
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