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How A Mentorship Led To A Partnership And A Pan Ams Squash Gold Medal

By Daniel Kramer | July 15, 2015, 12:36 a.m. (ET)

Natalie Grainger (L) and Amanda Sobhy pose after winning the women's doubles squash final at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games on July 14, 2015 in Toronto.

TORONTO -- Amanda Sobhy is the first U.S.-born squash player to rank in the top 10 in the men’s or women’s world tour and the first American to win a world singles title, yet she notes that she wouldn’t have enjoyed her renowned success if it weren’t for her doubles partner, Natalie Grainger.

The two won the gold medal at the Pan American Games on Tuesday against host Canada’s Sam Cornett and Nikole Todd, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6.

“Thrilled to win tonight, especially against a team that had the entire crowd behind them,” said Sobhy, who claimed her second gold in as many days after winning the singles title on Monday over teammate Olivia Blatchford.

Grainger, 38, and Sobhy, 22, teamed up in 2010, but first met a decade ago when Sobhy was a 12-year-old pupil of Grainger’s at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. Grainger was a U.S. junior national coach and Sobhy was an apprehensive adolescent, new to the sport and thronged by her parents to attend.

“She’s watched me blossom. When I first arrived, I told my mom, ‘Take me home. I don’t like this,’” Sobhy said. “Then I came home, and I was like, ‘Can I go back for a second week?’

“So it’s nice to be able to play with her after all these years. She knows me so well and we get along. It’s nice to play on the doubles tour together.”

Under Grainger’s guidance, Sobhy has emerged as one of the world’s best. In addition to her pair of golds won in Toronto, she recently capped a 62-0 record over a four-year career at Harvard while becoming just the second woman to win four collegiate national titles.

“I’ve watched her basically to the point where she now beats me. It’s been pretty cool,” Grainger said of Sobhy.

“She has a tenacity about her and a great sort of mental strength and ability to overcome a lot of things. She’s always been a really strong and powerful player. You could put her through a lot of hard sessions and she’s always ready to front up and do more.”

Such was the case on Tuesday, when the Canadians gave Sobhy and Grainger their closest match in Toronto.

“We were trying to break their rhythm to create openings and in the end we did that just about,” said Grainger, a 2007 Pan American Games singles gold medalist.

The U.S. squash team has claimed medals in women’s doubles (gold), women’s singles (gold and silver) and men’s doubles (bronze), with the team event still to be determined over the next three days.

“Now we turn our attention to the team event, and we would love to claim a clean sweep of gold medals for squash in the U.S.,” Sobhy said.

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Amanda Sobhy

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Natalie Grainger