St Andrew’s at the World Junior Squash Championships

John Kuhn represented St Andrew's.

Team South Africa, spearheaded by John Kuhn of St Andrew’s, enjoyed a strong showing at the recent World Junior Squash Championships in Poland under the management of Saints’ coach, Calvin Deutschmann.
After making a slow start to the individual competition following a punishing travel schedule, Kuhn, ranked the top junior squash player in the country, found his footing in the consolation plate and made it all the way to the final.
Having seen off opponents from Switzerland, Germany and Argentina on his way to the title-decider, he finally fell to Jordan’s Hamza Alzubaidi, who took the win 11-9, 3-11, 11-9, 3-11, 15-13.
South Africa were seeded 17th for the team competition but, after a loss to the USA, who went on to finish third, they scored a big upset in their pool clash with Malaysia, the seventh seeded team.
Kuhn had gone down to the Malaysian number three in the individual competition after a late arrival at the event, which had led to the confident Far East side resting their number one, Yow Ng, the junior world champion. Instead, the Saint’s star outlasted Malaysia’s number two Ong Sai Hung 5-11, 11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7 to set SA on their way to a crucial win.
A further victory followed over Spain, which led to South Africa facing Australia in the playoffs. They went 2-1, but earned plaudits from their opposition for their spirit and performance. Two other narrow defeats followed, both by 2-1 to Jordan and Canada, leaving South Africa in 12th position, just one place lower than their best ever finish. They could move up one place to match their best ever should the winners, Pakistan, lose their title for playing over age players.
That left the team in 12th position, just one place below its best ever finish of 11th, and should Pakistan lose their title for playing overage players it could move up to 11th.
“It was a huge help,” Kuhn said of having the experienced Deutschmann in Bielsko-Biala. “I wouldn’t have won half of my matches and I wouldn’t have made the final without him. He has always been an inspiration to me, so to have him there watching my games helped me more than I can explain.”
On his return to school this week, Kuhn, to loud cheers from his fellow pupils, was presented with his Proteas blazer by headmaster Chris Thomas.
Representing South Africa was an amazing feeling, he said. “In the individual competition, you feel like you have to do well for yourself, but as soon as you get into the team event you know that you are playing for your country. So you have to do well for your team because if you can do well for them, you have basically won it for your country.”
Deutschmann, who has been central to Saints’ ascension to the status of a national powerhouse in squash, said the SA juniors did the country proud.
“We got a lot of good comments from the officials and other managers, about how well the kids fought, and the Australians, especially, were telling their kids South Africa is always tough. ‘These guys fight, they don’t give up. We have to be up for this, they are battlers. That is their culture. They are fighters’.”