Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

Canada, you've produced some of the best racquetball players in history: Kane Waselenchuk, Christie Van Hees, Heather Stupp, Sherman Greenfeld and by adoption Heather McKay. Yes, you've definitely been the second best racquetball nation on the planet.

Indeed, you won the team competition at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships in 2000, and Greenfeld and Van Hees won both individual World Championship singles titles in 1998, making Canada the only country other than the USA to do so.

But lately you've been challenged. You finished 3rd overall in the team competition at the World Championships last year in Ireland, which was your lowest finish ever. You've still got good players, but they're finding themselves challenged in every match now as other countries improve.

Waselenchuk is still the #1 men's player, but it's unlikely he will play for you in any future international competitions given the suspension for a doping violation he had to endure after playing in your National Championships in 2006.

Also, Van Hees is still a good player, but she didn't play for Canada in last year's Worlds because she failed to satisfy the criteria to qualify for the team. Van Hees only played in two tournaments this past season, which was the fewest since coming out of her hiatus in 2003. Whether she'll be interested in playing in next year's Worlds is an open question.

Add to this the facts that the #1 women's player is a Mexican and the quality of the US players hasn't dropped off, and you can see how it's become harder for one of your players to reach the podium.

But there aren't just concerns at the Natioanl Team level. You've been losing courts all over the country and few news ones have been built to replace those lost.

There are some positive signs. Your Junior National Championships remain big events, and many people are committed to attending Nationals year in and year out. Also, your high level coaching program has expanded, which should help further develop elite players.

So to all the people of the Great White North, Happy Canada Day! Here's to your great racquetball history, and hoping that continues for many years to come.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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