TORONTO -- The women’s singles squash finale at the Pan American Games on Monday in Toronto was a duel between two Americans, but more chiefly, two companions.
Amanda Sobhy defeated teammate Olivia Blatchford, 11-8, 11-3, 11-3 to claim gold as her first Pan Ams medal.
“This is huge for me,” said Sobhy, the PSA World Tour’s 10th-ranked player. “For us, this is like our little Olympics because squash isn’t an Olympic sport. To be able to represent my country and win a gold medal for myself and the U.S. is definitely up there.”
Blatchford and Sobhy soared through the two-day singles tournament, going 15-1 in sets over five combined matches leading up to the gold-medal game, with Sobhy giving up one set in the semifinal.
Not only have these two medalists trained and traveled together, but they are also roommates in Toronto’s athlete village.
“It’s obviously tough, but at the end of the day, you can’t let that interfere with how you’re playing,” said Sobhy, who will also compete with Natalie Grainger in the doubles gold-medal match against Canada’s Sam Cornett and Nikole Todd on Tuesday. “I had a game plan and just stuck to it, pulled through and won in three.”
Blatchford and Sobhy opened a 4-4 tie in the first set and went back-and-forth before Sobhy pulled away for an 11-8 win in the first set, and skyrocketed over the final two games en route to what she called one of her most monumental wins.
Much of her success, she says, was rooted in her backhand play, for which she has an international reputation as one of the most precise southpaws in the game.
“Because I’m a lefty, everybody knows that my backhand is weaker, so I have to make sure it’s really strong,” Sobhy said. “Today, my backhand felt really good. I played well in the backhand. I was able to handle the pressure that she was putting me under and mix up the pace.”
Following the gold-medal singles match, she and Blatchford turned their attention to the USA-Canada men’s doubles semifinal match in the neighboring arena, where Christopher Gordon and Chris Hanson fell, 2-0, but by just one point in the first game and five in the second. Gordon and Hanson earned the bronze medal.
“We’re a very, very tight-knit group,” Sobhy said of the U.S. team. “Teammates, we’re all just like family with each other. We always will support each other no matter what. Just being all here together, it’s great. So at the end of the day, we’re all competing for the U.S. We’re all cheering for each other.”