Hollie Naughton: Barnsley-born, Pontefract-based and Canada’s first Commonwealth Games squash medallist

Hollie Naughton may have represented Canada when winning silver in the women’s squash at the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday night but she admits, “I’ll always be a Barnsley girl”.

Naughton was brilliant in her four-game semi-final victory over top seed and defending champion Joelle King from New Zealand on Tuesday, but English sensation Georgina Kennedy was too much for her in Wednesday night’s gold medal match.

Naughton was born in Barnsley and lived there until her father got a job in Canada when she was 10. She began playing squash properly in Toronto but from the age of 13 she travelled back regularly to Yorkshire to stay with her aunt, squash referee Maria Santamaria, and train at Pontefract Squash Club under the legendary coach Malcolm Willstrop.

“I’m always going to be a Barnsley girl.

Hollie Naughton: Barnsley-born, Pontefract-based winner of Canada’s first squash medal. (Picture: Getty Images)

“I’m from Yorkshire but when I’m at the Commonwealth Games, I’m 100 per cent Canadian, wearing the flag and will do the best I possibly can for Canada,” said the 27-year-old.

After her 11-7, 11-5, 12-14, 11-5 defeat to Kennedy, from Bromley, Kent, in the final, Naughton said: “I’m extremely disappointed, but it has been a fantastic week. I’ve had some of the best wins of my life here and I’m really hoping I can build on this.

“Gina is a fighter, she isn’t going to give up. She just runs, runs, runs and gets everything back and I wasn’t comfortable enough with just sticking with that.”

Naughton nevertheless becomes the first Canadian woman ever to win a Commonwealth Games squash medal. “I guess I have got to look at that as a huge positive,” she reflected. “It’s like a bubble in here [points to her heart], but I’ve made history here today, something that you only dream about.

Canada's Hollie Naughton plays against England's Georgia Kennedy in the women's singles gold medal squash match on day six of the Commonwealth Games at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre in Birmingham, (Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

You dream of making these milestones for your country so to walk away as the first ever Canadian female medallist in squash is an unbelievable achievement. Hopefully in four years’ time I can make it a gold.”

Naughton now lives and trains in Pontefract and since legendary coach Malcolm’s death from cancer last May she is coached, among others, by his son James, the former world No 1.

Willstrop junior, 38, missed out on a bronze medal on Wednesday night after defeat to his former Pontefract training partner Saurav Ghosal from India, losing in disappointingly quick fashion 
11-6, 11-1, 11-4.

“I was gutted with the performance,” said Willstrop. “It just wasn’t there. It’s just gone. I was desperate to give it a go, but there was nothing in the tank.”

Saurav Ghosal of Team India interacts with James Willstrop of Team England during Men's Singles - Bronze Medal Match between India and England on day six of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games . (Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images)

On his future, the 2018 champion, said: “No idea. I’m taking it day by day. I should have been finished five or 10 years ago.

“ I had hip surgery in 2014, for God’s sake!

“If you had said to me in Glasgow [in 2014] that I would be standing here in Birmingham eight years’ later playing for a medal, I would have laughed in your face.

“I will have to look at it over the next few months. I can never take anything for granted at this age. I will definitely have a rest now and see in September.

If the body is alright – I love playing, so if I can keep playing, I will.”