In winning the squash men’s singles gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, England’s Nick Matthew repeated the feat he had first achieved at the 2010 Games in Delhi. The Delhi final was Matthew’s first as it had been for his opponent, fellow Englishman James Willstrop, who was also destined to finish as silver medallist in Glasgow.
Yet Matthew’s achievement in reaching two consecutive finals was not exceptional. The previous three men’s singles finals had all featured another prominent Briton and erstwhile England representative.
Scotland’s Peter Nicol.
Born in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, Nicol represented Scotland in the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur, the first in which squash made its appearance. In a tight five-game match, Nicol beat Canadian – and reigning World Open champion – Jonathon Power to the gold. By the time both players had again reached the final four years later, Nicol had switched his allegiance to England, claiming that he felt he was not receiving sufficient support from Scottish Squash, his sport’s national governing body. Unsurprisingly, many of Nicol’s compatriots resented this switch, even going so far as calling it traitorous. To the satisfaction of some, perhaps, Nicol lost 3-1 to Power in the gold medal match.
Amazingly, four years later and still representing England, Nicol reached his third consecutive men’s singles final. This time, it was in Melbourne where, once more, he met a reigning World Open Champion in the form of Australian David Palmer. In a tough four-game final, it was Nicol who outlasted the tenacious Palmer to take gold. Amongst the team-mates congratulating Nicol as he came off court in Melbourne was Nick Matthew, the newly-crowned British Open champion. Matthew was to finish outside the medals in fourth place but four years later would start his own gold collection.
Nicol himself had announced his retirement shortly after his success at the 2006 Games, a quarter-final defeat in that year’s World Open being his last competitive match.
But what of 2018 when the Games are due to be staged in and around Brisbane on the Australian Gold Coast? Well, I certainly wouldn’t bet against an Englishman reaching the men’s singles final.
After all, he might not be.
To find out more about the careers of Nick Matthew, Peter Nicol, Jonathon Power and David Palmer, see Wikipedia. Details of all Commonwealth Games squash competitors can be found at the Commonwealth Games Federation website.