James Willstrop admitted Wednesday may be his last dance at the Commonwealth Games, as the 2018 men’s squash singles champion was condemned to the bronze medal match by Wales’ Joel Makin.
The 38-year-old was well-beaten by world no. 2 Makin, who simply had too much power for a clearly fatigued Willstrop as he won 3-0 (11-5, 11-5, 11-9).
Willstrop reflected that he was simply beaten by the better player on the day in front of a packed-out crowd at the University of Birmingham but revealed he was simply glad to be able to play at a home Games.
“I don’t like putting limits on anything, but you’d have to say it’s pretty likely,” said Willstrop when asked whether this would be his last Games.
“I’d have bitten your hand off four years ago just to be here.
“Being on that podium there, there’s no way I would have thought I’d be getting to the semis playing against Joel four years later.”
It was a step too far for Willstrop, who was valiant in defeat as he fought for every ball against 27-year-old Makin, who now faces world no.1 Paul Coll in the gold medal match.
And the English athlete admitted that there was little he could have done to defeat the Welshman.
“I gave it everything I had, it’s what you’ve got to do,” said Willstrop.
“You must give every inch of yourself on a big occasion like that. I gave it all I could but not enough, not enough in the tank really.
“He’s an outrageous athlete, incredibly physical, my squash up until now has sometimes broken him down but not today, it wasn’t going to be enough.
“He was at the top of his game, he’s improving every month, every year.
“It’s a challenge for me to keep up to that level of physicality after all these years.
“He was excellent, hardly hit an error – and I could do with a few errors from him, and he didn’t give me them.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
The match played out amidst an electric atmosphere, with both men well-supported by English and Welsh fans alike.
Willstrop has now competed in five Games, dating back to Melbourne 2006, but reflected that nothing compared to playing in front of a home crowd.
“I can’t keep rolling out the superlatives, but they are really sincere – it’s been the most magical week,” added Willstrop.
“The emotion that came out last night – it’s not really what I usually do on a squash court – but I think it’s because I had two more chances to play here.
“You don’t get crowds of 1600 people turning up to squash events that often.”
There will be one chance at an English gold medal in squash on Wednesday, as Gina Kennedy faces Canada’s Hollie Naughton.
And Willstrop admitted he will enjoy the match between compatriot Kennedy and pupil Naughton, whom he coaches in Pontefract.
“It’ll be a great final for me to watch,” he said.
“Gina is just flying isn’t she. She’s an awesome athlete, what an incredible performance.”
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