The streets of historic Turin, Italy, were filled with more than 25,000 Masters Athletes processing behind the banner of their respective sports, led by marching bands, cheerleaders, and acrobats to mark the opening ceremonies of the eighth iteration of the World Masters Games in August.
The International Olympic Committee-recognized celebration of thirty Masters sports, which has been held every four years since its inception in 1985, is open to sports people of all abilities and most ages over thirty-five.
Among those marching were 127 squash players representing 22 countries and the international Masters squash fraternity in Open and Competitive-recreational division competitions.
The United States contingent included U.S. Champion Natalie Grainger (W35/40/45 Open)—whose parents also played in the 60/65+ divisions for South Africa; U.S. Masters 35+ champion Hope Prockop (W35/40/45 Open); Julie Kessler (W35/40/45 Open); U.S. 50+ champion and finalist Susan Lawrence and Beth Fedorowich (50/55+ Open); Mariza Ohlsson (W60/65/70+ Competitive-recreational); U.S. 50+ champion Richard Millman (M50/55+ Open); and Michael Gough (M70/75+).
“There were no slouches there and all had to work for the wins, although the numbers were lower overall,” Lawrence said.
“The other challenge was the heat with the balls flying and difficult to control. I had my longest rally ever in the first point of the first game against Beth. The ball refused to die!
“It was also nice to see Natalie play who is always impressive and inspiring,” Lawrence said.
The U.S. contingent went on to win six medals with Grainger, Lawrence, and Ohlsson earning gold, Fedorowich and Gough silver, and Millman bronze as focus turns to the 2014 World Masters Squash Championships in Hong Kong, held annually outside of the World Games, and the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
In many ways, the World Masters Games is just as much a celebration of life as it is sport.
“During the [opening] parade, I met a 92-year-old Japanese woman who competed in swimming which was truly inspiring,” Ohlsson said.
“The food was excellent, the company enjoyable, and we had time to go sightseeing around the city of Turin, the Alps and the Italian Riviera,” Lawrence said.
“I’m looking forward to the next games in New Zealand as I’m sure there will be a lot more matches there, and I will have to make time for the sightseeing afterward!”
Millman, chairman of the US SQUASH Masters Committee, hopes to see a rise in masters participation in both international and domestic events.
“International masters squash events have enjoyed this enormous growth because someone who is 38-years-old, who was never good enough to play for their country, suddenly realizes that if they train, they can represent their flag,” Millman said.
“I think there is going to be a new heyday of masters squash in the United States. I think we lost traction when we split between hardball and softball, but there is the opportunity now to have a wonderful new era between the cohesive working together of masters players towards national teams, going to world events, and supporting the U.S. and Canadian Masters.”