THREE U.S. SQUASH ATHLETES COMBINE TO MAKE HISTORY IN SANTIAGO
NOV. 2, 2023, 09:24 A.M. (ET)
BY BRENDAN ROURKE
SANTIAGO, Chile — U.S. Squash received the message that their sport is on the program for the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 loud and clear.
Team USA’s Olivia Weaver (nee Fiechter), Amanda Sobhy and Marina Stefanoni finished with gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, after the conclusion of the women’s singles squash tournament at the Pan American Games Santiago 2023.
For the first time in Pan American Games history, three athletes from the same country finished with gold, silver and bronze medals in the women’s singles tournament. It is the highest level of performance that can be achieved, as a complete “medal sweep” is impossible due to the tournament’s format. Similar to combat sports, two bronze medals are given out to highlight the four athletes who make it to the semifinals.
Overall, the last time this happened was in 1995, when a trio of players representing Canada finished with gold, silver and bronze medals on the men’s side. It is the highest level of performance that can be achieved, as a complete “medal sweep” is impossible due to the tournament’s format. Similar to combat sports, two bronze medals are given out to highlight the four athletes who make it to the semifinals, yet only three athletes per country can potentially qualify for the Pan Am Games.
In the thrilling, all-US final, the No. 9 ranked women’s player in the world, Olivia Weaver (née Fichter) defeated her teammate, training partner and PSA World Tour rival, Amanda Sobhy, to secure gold at the Pan American Games Santiago 2023. After dropping the first two games to Sobhy, Weaver won the final three games by scores of 11-6, 11-5 and 11-6, to pull off the comeback victory.
“It feels absolutely incredible,” Weaver said of her win. “One of my goals when I went pro was to make it on this team. The women’s U.S. team is so strong. So just to simply make the team is an achievement for me.
“I put in a lot of work this summer … So I was coming into this week feeling pretty confident. But I was also going up against probably the most successful player in Pan American history.”
Weaver went on to explain her shift in play as she entered the court for game three, trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five match.
“I think I was just playing a bit into her game in the first two (sets). And I just came out in that third game and said, ‘If (Sobhy’s) going to beat me, this game is going to take all night long.’ So I tried to lengthen the rallies and work my way back into the match.
“I think with that, my targets grew, my accuracy, my movement improved, and from there I really found my game.”
Sobhy, currently the No. 5 ranked women’s squash player in the world, earned the silver medal for her fantastic tournament performance. Before her match against Weaver, the two-time Pan American Games gold medalist had not dropped a game over the entire tournament.
In the semifinals, Sobhy bested another teammate, 20-year-old Marina Stefanoni, to move on to the finals. Due to the tournament’s format, Stefanoni earned the bronze medal. This is the Stamford, Connecticut native’s first Pan American Games experience, after earning the right to compete in Santiago when she won gold in the Junior Pan American Games in 2021.
“I’m super happy to come away with a medal, and I’m glad I could do it for the U.S.,” she said.
USA Squash’s total performance on the women’s side can act as the catalyst for the growth of the sport as it nears its Olympic debut. The announcement in early October became a joyous moment for so many squash veterans of the sport, who have seen prior bidding attempts fall short for four straight Olympics dating back to the Olympic Games London 2012.
“I’m super excited for squash to be in the LA 2028 Olympics,” Stefanoni said. “We were trying to get into the Olympics for a few bids now and it’s incredible we finally made it. Our sport has been growing internationally, and especially in the U.S.”
“Our men are getting stronger by the day,” Weaver added on USA Squash’s growth. “But our women’s lineup is just so strong with five players, I think, in the top 45 or 50.”
Weaver noted that this tournament is a prime example of just how strong the U.S. women’s squash players are right now.
“We are constantly pushing each other to be better,” Weaver said.
“Amanda (Sobhy) and I train together all the time. We’re all training together in Philadelphia, pushing each other constantly to improve.
“And Now that the Olympics is on the horizon, it’s only going to do the same.”
After battling each other, Weaver and Sobhy will now team up for the women’s doubles tournament, and Stefanoni will join the duo in the women’s team tournament. The squad will be favored to pick up another medal in both of those events.
Source: TEAM USA