By Jay D. Prince
Since squash joined the Pan Am Games as a medal sport in 1995, the American teams have performed well, including individual gold medals by women in 2007 (Natalie Grainger) and 2003 (Latasha Khan), and team gold by the women in 2003. The U.S. team took home four medals in 2011 to establish a record.
This year, with the Pan Ams taking place in Toronto, the Americans shined. The U.S. women swept the gold medals, taking the individual (Amanda Sobhy), the doubles (Sobhy and Grainger), and the teams (Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford, and Grainger). And the American men came away with bronze in the doubles (Chris Gordon and Chris Hanson) and team event (Gordon, Hanson and Todd Harrity). It was a record haul of six medals for the U.S.
Like the Olympic Games, medal counts are huge. For the U.S. Olympic Committee, medals are indicators of what is possible for a sport if it were in the Olympics. With squash once again staring at an opportunity to gain medal standing in the 2020 Olympics, securing medals at the Pan Am Games can only help the cause.
Amanda Sobhy, just two months removed from her Harvard graduation and now focusing solely on squash as her profession, could very well be standing atop the podium in Tokyo five years from now and leading the American contingent in their quest for Olympic gold.