The darling of local squash, Meagan Best, made history yesterday when she became the first Barbadian and Caribbean national to win a squash title on American soil.
Playing at the United States Open at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, the 15-year-old squash sensation overcame the adversity of feeling unwell to claim the Under-17 Girls’ final, 4-11, 11-3, 11-5, 5-11, 11-9, in a thrilling five-game showdown against Malak Ashraf Kamal from Egypt.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY following her victory, Best said she was once told to train hard in order to win easy, a mantra that had led her to success so far in her career.
“I was very high in confidence in terms of preparation for the United States Open and I am really happy with my performances,” Best said.
“Although I was not feeling well, I was able to pull through and bring it home. It hasn’t yet sunk in because I am a bit exhausted but I am extremely proud to represent my country as well as I did.”
A student of the St Michael School, Best dropped the opening game but returned convincingly to secure the second and third games, to take a 2-1 lead in the contest.
The Egyptian levelled at 2-2 when she won the fourth to force a fifth and decisive game, which Best then rebounded to win.
“She had a very good front-court game so if any loose balls came she would put it away, so that had me under a bit of pressure,” Best said of her opponent in the final.
“I got a couple of bad calls as well but everyone has those sometimes. I just had to play through it and focus because my aim was to come away victorious.”
Best, coached by Barbados men’s number one, Shawn Simpson and junior national coach, Rhett Cumberbatch, was coming off a silver medal last week’s Junior Canadian Open.
Then, she lost to Maria Paula Moya of Ecuador in the final in another five-game marathon, edged out 12-10 in the decider.
This time around, however, Best flipped the script on Moya, defeating her South American rival in straight games, 5-11, 6-11, 9-11, in the round of 16, to exact revenge.
President of the Barbados Squash Association (BSA), Allison Smith-Padmore described Best’s performance as outstanding and one that had “brought a great deal of recognition” to the island.
She also praised Best’s parents, Gayle and Michael, for being extremely instrumental in her development.
“They have put in a lot into Meagan’s development, supporting her, sending her to various training camps overseas so that she gets the foundation and basis and skills to compete on an international level,” Smith- Padmore told Barbados Today.
She added: “We need that. All of our junior players need that support and they would go far and I could see Barbados making a mark at the upcoming Youth Olympics because we have some of the best junior squash players in the region and now we could see it internationally with Meagan winning the US Junior Open.
“Meagan performed really well and brought a great deal of recognition for Barbados. She was tremendous and her performance was really awesome which speaks well for our squash.”
Honorary Secretary of the BSA, Craig Archer, was among those congratulating Best, describing her performance as “absolutely astounding.”
“You had to fight hard in your last three matches and won them all in five games. What a talent!” Archer said. “You deserve every accolade. Well done. We are all so proud of you.”
Best made history last year when she became the youngest national and regional champion at age 14 by defeating three-time Caribbean champion and 15-time national queen, Karen Meakins.
In that same year, she won the Under-15 Girls’ Division at the Canadian Open.