Commonwealth Games: Nearly man no more as James Willstrop enjoys golden moment

Paul Coll of New Zealand competes against James Willstrop of England in the Men's Singles Final at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. (Picture: Anthony Au-Yeung/www.photosport.nz/SWpix.com)
Paul Coll of New Zealand competes against James Willstrop of England in the Men's Singles Final at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. (Picture: Anthony Au-Yeung/www.photosport.nz/SWpix.com)
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The Gold Coast is famed for its rollercoasters – the perfect metaphor for the career of squash star James Willstrop.

There have been dizzying highs but plenty of plunging lows too - including defeats to arch-rival Nick Matthew in the last two Commonwealth Games squash singles finals.

I’ve heard it said that I’ve not quite achieved the things that I should have done but now I’m here with a gold medal, it’s very hard to process.

James Willstrop

But Willstrop – who had lost in his previous six major finals - produced arguably the best 50 minutes of his squash in his career to finally claim gold here.

New Zealand’s Paul Coll is one of squash’s rising stars – earning the nickname Superman for his trademark flying dives around the court.

If Matthew proved Willstrop’s kryptonite during a long-standing and often bitter rivalry, this time there was no stopping the 34-year-old. Matthew was even among the first to congratulate him after he’d collapsed to his knees in exhaustion and relief.

“That’s got to be best title of my life, I’m not sure anything could live up to this. It’s just the most wonderful moment of my career,” he said, after winning 11-9, 11-4, 11-6.

“I’ve heard it said that I’ve not quite achieved the things that I should have done but now I’m here with a gold medal, it’s very hard to process.

“It just clicked, it’s the stuff you dream of. Perhaps all the hours I’ve put in training finally paid off with the perfect match. I hadn’t given up the idea of winning a big one but I had no expectation of it. Everything in the lead up went well, I had a great win against last year’s world champion and that was a great boost.”

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and Willstrop’s experience certainly proved decisive in the one-sided final. Coll admitted afterwards that it was like playing an ‘unstoppable force’.

“I think that all those defeats helped in a way,” added Willstrop.

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