Former Barbados squash champion Karen Meakins finished fifth in the recently concluded 2016 World Masters in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Competing in the women’s over 40 event, Barbados’ most decorated female squash player failed to better her fourth place finish of two years ago in the same competition, but said she was still pleased with her performance against a very competitive field of experienced players from around the world.
The tournament has a reputation of attracting some of the world’s best masters players and had over 950 participants this year with six countries from the Caribbean being represented.
After losing the quarterfinal to Karen Schultz from South Africa, Meakins said: “It was an extremely tough loss for me as I have been training for this tournament for the past two years. I knew coming in that the South African players were going to be strong and a lot of them I had never heard of before this tournament so I was playing the unknown.
“Johannesburg is six thousand feet above sea level but luckily the altitude didn’t affect me, probably because I have worked so hard on my fitness with my trainer Liz Foley. I think my biggest challenge was playing on the all- glass court, as the conditions are totally different to the courts that I am used to playing on. I really liked it but it’s a little harder to get your shots to go where you want them. I’ve probably played on an all-glass courts less than six times in my career.”
After losing the quarterfinal to Schultz, Meakins went into a consolation tournament and she didn’t lose another match. In the final she defeated number three seed Janet Byrnes of South Africa 3-1.
“I think the last match was my best and it was nice to be back on a normal court. I am really glad that I finished fifth which is the highest that I could finish after losing the quarterfinal. I’ve played some great squash over the last week but the South Africans were just a bit better. I guess home advantage played a part. Although fifth isn’t the finish I had hoped for I guess fifth in the world isn’t bad,” the 44-year-old Meakins said.
She added: “I would like to say a big thanks to all my sponsors as without them I wouldn’t have been able to travel to this tournament. Getting sponsorship as an older athlete is challenging so thanks to everyone who was kind enough to help me.”
This year South Africa introduced the Nations and the Small Nations Cup. Meakins said the idea behind this was that everyone who entered had a chance to get points for their country based on where they finished in the tournament. The Caribbean took part in the Small Nations Cup and finished third which was a great achievement.