Bermuda men’s squash team of Micah Franklin, Noah Browne and Nick Kyme have qualified for the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, next summer.
It will be the first time the island has competed in squash at the multisport event, which is held among athletes from nations of the Americas.
The trio qualified at the Pan American Squash Championships in Cayman Islands this month, where they had to finish in the top 12. They claimed the final berth with a 2-0 win over British Virgin Islands.
Bermuda women’s team of Alex Furtado, Emma Keane and Laura Robinson needed to finish in the top eight to qualify, but placed eleventh.
Patrick Foster, the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association director of squash, believes having another top event to prepare will be a huge incentive for the men’s players.
“Looking at the other sports on a four-year cycle, preparing for Olympics and Commonwealth Games, this now give us a chance to work a bit more like them.
“We now have another pinnacle event as opposed to being a bit of an outlier and just looking to have someone going to the Commonwealths every four years.”
With countries having to qualify as a team rather than individuals, Bermuda has only now been blessed with a men’s team strong enough to reach the Pan Am Games, which will run from July 26 to August 11.
“Having Nick behind Micah and Noah gives the team some real strength in depth,” Foster said.
“We’re playing against some really tough countries like Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Canada and the United States.
“To be able to compete against that level of excellence will be really special. It’s probably a goal reached just to get [to Lima].
Foster said qualifying for the competition has given 37-year-old Kyme a new lease of life. Kyme had competed in five successive Commonwealth Games since squash was first included in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but missed this year’s event on the Gold Coast, Australia, in April, because of injury.
“Nick tore a calf muscle and it just took for ever to heal,” Foster said. “It seemed like a fairly innocuous tear and we just thought he would need to rest it for a few weeks.
“He came back too quickly and he lost two years to what was seemingly not a big injury.
“He’s very happy to be back. This is what he did [as a professional] for a long time and he’s happy to be able to do it with a team that’s competitive.”
Foster said he takes personal pride in the development of Franklin, 26, and Browne, who turns 25 tomorrow, having coached the pair since they were children.
“They were about 11 when I first got here,” he said. “They really are both products of our junior programme. It’s definitely a feel-good thing to see the kids I worked with for many years doing so well.”
Franklin and Browne will team up in the doubles in Lima, having won a bronze medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cali, Colombia, in July.
“We’re all pretty chuffed about qualifying for the Pan Ams,” said Franklin, who is set to relocate to Toronto for six months to immerse himself in the sport full time.
“We’ve got a year to prepare and let’s see what we can make happen.”
Franklin said qualifying for Lima has given him even more reason to step up his training.
“If we hadn’t have qualified, it might have hurt our motivation to continue to train and get up for it,” said Franklin, who has competed at two Commonwealth Games.
“Now, all of us boys are looking at each other and saying, ‘OK, let’s do it. Let’s get up for this’.
Franklin, who ranked 218th in the world, said he was delighted to have helped Kyme, the “team captain”, reach his first Pan Am Games.
“We’ve always wanted him to compete in the quadruple of competitions [the Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games, CAC Games and Caribbean Championships].
“Me and Noah spoke together before the competition and said, ‘Let’s do it for Nick’.”