Commonwealth Games: Willstrop happy to be easily distracted from Gold Coast court battles

FROM the podium to the playhouse, James Willstrop has credited his new career path as the perfect distraction from the mental grind of competitive squash.

England's Dina Asher-Smith. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA
England's Dina Asher-Smith. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

The Commonwealth Games singles champion is already back in action on Australia’s Gold Coast, returning to the court for the men’s doubles.

But while he maintains his on-court focus, his off-court time is being taken up by learning lines for his role in the upcoming production of Death and the Maiden at Harrogate’s Studio Theatre.

The June production may seem a way off but Willstrop has been practicing his lines to distract himself between matches at the Oxenford Studios.

James Willstrop

“With the intensity of the competition, you have to get yourself mentally in such an intense space and the whole day leading up to these intense matches, bouts, races, are just incredible but you’re just wasting all that energy away with your mind,” said the 34-year-old.

“So when you do get back on the bus, or to your room, you just breathe a little bit. These things, like learning lines, are so key.

“I’ve done it three or four times when I can just switch my mind on to something completely different, totally away from the game of squash.”

Back on the court Willstrop paired with Declan James to beat Pakistan’s Farhan Zaman and Tayyab Aslam in the pool phase of the men’s doubles competition, easing to an 11-7, 11-3 victory yesterday to top Pool D and reach the knockout phase.

England's Zharnel Hughes crosses the finish line to win his men's 200m semi-final at Carrara Stadium Picture: AP/Mark Schiefelbein

And there was success for fellow Harrogate player Jenny Duncalf as the 35-year-old progressed to the knockout stages of both the mixed and women’s doubles events.

Elsewhere, England’s Dina Asher-Smith denied she is under extra pressure to succeed after powering into the 200m final.

The 22-year-old easily qualified for today’s 200m shoot-out with the spotlight now on her after a number of high-profile failures by England team-mates.

“I don’t pay attention to what’s happening outside the bubble,” said Asher-Smith, who is joined in the final by team-mate Bianca Williams.

James Willstrop

Zharnel Hughes reached the men’s 200m final, winning his semi-final, but Richard Kilty missed out, coming fifth in his.

Robbie Grabarz, who won Olympic bronze at London 2012, suffered a disappointing night when he failed to clear 2.21m in the high jump final while Scotland’s Allan Smith came fifth behind Australian winner Brandon Starc.

In the men’s hockey, Doncaster-born Barry Middleton was part of the England Hockey team that qualified for the semi-finals., saying: “We could have been a little bit smarter in the way we played but it’s good it happened in the group, so we can learn from it now in the knock out games we know what to do.”

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England's Zharnel Hughes crosses the finish line to win his men's 200m semi-final at Carrara Stadium Picture: AP/Mark Schiefelbein