World Juniors: US aim for two Podiums!

Fram Gommendy reports – thanks TeamUSASquash

“Our goal is for both the junior men and women to finish on the podium together, which would be unprecedented.”

A bold statement from Karim Ibrahim, brother of Youssef Ibrahim and for a few months already, Director of the US Junior Teams.

Meet Karim Ibrahim, Team USA Junior National Director

The USA is aiming high, very high. I remember a conversation with Karim a while ago, before the Olympics finally recognised the value of our sport. “The USA have very high ambitions, which includes getting Squash to the Olympics, and getting to the World number one Squash Nation.”

Olympics, check. World number one ranking, working on it!

And that work starts, of course, by the U.S. Junior National Team just completing a rigorous weekend of training and team building in their final training squad before the Pan American Junior Champs and World Junior Champs at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia last weekend.

The training squad incorporated a joint approach, with the World Juniors and Pan Ams teams training alongside each other for the first time ahead of the summer’s international competitions.

Juniors at the US Nationals

In another first for the program, the training squad culminated with the players gaining top-level match experience by competing in the 2024 U.S. Women’s and S.L. Green U.S. Men’s Champs, who started yesterday.

“It lined up perfectly for everyone to play in the U.S. Championships and be inspired playing alongside the likes of Olivia Weaver and Timmy Brownell”, explained Karim Ibrahim.

Off to the Pan Am!

No rest for the weaked, after the training, the Nationals, the Pan Am Juniors team will travel directly to Quito, Ecuador, for the competition from June 16 to 22.

“This weekend was really special, it felt that we brought in a mix of youth and experience with both teams here for the first time,” said Karim Ibrahim.

“It’s been great to see the World Juniors team, some of which are playing in their third championship, working with the Pan Ams team, who are in contention for next year’s worlds teams.

The 2024 PanAm Juniors team, L-R: Coach Karim Ibrahim, Colten McLaughlin, Reaghan McLaughlin, Will Newman, Elise Kang, Hart Robertson, Charlotte Sze, Yaseen Shalaby (not pictured: Coach Nayelly Hernandez-Walker, Ava Lin)

“It’s great for the Pan Ams players to work with the older World Champs players, to see what it looks like to be on a World Championship team. We have high expectations for our Pan Ams squad–especially on the junior women’s team–and want both teams to bring home medals in different competitions.”

The World’s are coming home!

The 2024 World Juniors Championships, held in Houston July 12-23, will feature the World Junior Men’s Team Championship and World Junior Women’s Team Championship–previously held on an alternating biennial basis–being held alongside each other for the first time in tournament history.

Team USA’s coaching staff believe the team-building element of the weekend will serve the U.S. players well in the new competitive team environment.

Ibrahim continued: “We’re excited to be competing at home for the World Juniors and with players as strong as Caroline Fouts and Riya Navani who could go all the way.

“Our goal is for both the junior men and women to finish on the podium together, which would be unprecedented.”

Having personally seen Caroline’s energy, dedication and talent de visu, I can vouch for that ambition!

“The junior women’s team is in a really good spot” said Scott Devoy, U.S. Junior Women’s Head Coach.

“They’ve done a lot of really hard work, and now they just need to maintain the work that they’ve done and look forward to competing,”

“I think the biggest thing for us watching the group this weekend is that both the boys and girls teams work together well. Both teams will be in the same place and that’s going to add the extra bit of motivation they need to push each other on. It’s home-court advantage and strength in numbers and we’re in a good position.”

“On behalf of the junior men’s team, we’re ready to head back to our teams to work hard and prepare the best we can for the next four weeks to truly show the world what we’re capable of in Houston,” said Luke Butterworth, U.S. Junior Men’s Head Coach.