Commonwealth GamesSport

Kennedy’s squash glory brings more gold south of the river

By Max Hall

Bromley squash ace Gina Kennedy continued her meteoric rise by turning the rankings on their head to become the first British woman to win individual gold at the Commonwealth Games.

Her stunning victory came on a night which brought the agony and ecstasy of competing on the world stage home to South London’s finest.

With triathlete Alex Yee having bagged two golds in the early days of the games, Kennedy – who trains at the Parklangley Club – brought another gold south of the river, dropping only two sets in the entire singles competition despite being seeded third.

She sprinted around the Birmingham University arena draped in a Union Jack after beating Canadian Hollie Naughton in the final 11-6, 11-5, 12-14, 11-5.

“I’m a bit lost for words really,” she said after her lap of honour on Wednesday. “When I won the semi-final I was filled with emotion, at the moment I’m just in shock a little bit.

“Right now I wish I could put into words what this means to me but I honestly can’t. It’s a dream and this dream has become reality.”

Across town at the Alexander Stadium, Peckham’s Imani-Lara Lansiquot experienced the cruellest of cuts as she missed out on qualification for the women’s 100m final by the thinnest of margins.

The sprinter placed third in her heat with a time of 11.18 seconds only to see a stacked heat three edge her out as Tynia Gaither, of the Bahamas, and Jamaican Natalliah Whyte ran 11.17 to place third and fourth in their qualifier.

There was one medal heading to South London from the women’s sprint showpiece, however, with Camberwell’s Daryll Neita recovering from a slow start to eat up the metres and claim bronze in a time of 11.07 seconds.

Having posted a PB of 10.90 to win her semi-final earlier in the evening, Neita tried to be positive afterwards.

“I feel like I messed up in the final,” she told the South London Press. “I didn’t execute a very good race, my start wasn’t great. I think I had a decent finish to climb back to third place. It was a stacked field, there were girls running sub-11 in there.

“I think the end of my race was good but it just wasn’t good enough tonight. But to get a medal at the Commonwealth Games is a great achievement.”

Greenwich’s Divine Oladipo also pronounced herself content after finishing fifth in the shot put with a second throw of 17.28m.

“I’m happy with my performance, I think I had a really good throw, in the end,” she said. “I know it’s in there and I know I’ve got so much more to give. I’m happy with my performance overall.

“The stadium is amazing, the crowd was going wild, it was a really nice atmosphere to be in.”

Paralympian Thomas Young, of Croydon, spoke to the SLP about the frustration of being forced to watch from the sidelines as the men’s T38 100m sprint unfolded.

Young, who fractured his tibia a month ago in a meet in Dagenham, said: “I’ve waited four years for this race and to be watching from the stands it’s hard, you know, but congratulations to Evan [O’Hanlon] who ran a great race and defended his title.”

Earlier in the day, at Birmingham University, Wimbledon Hockey Club players Ben Francis and new signing Rhys Bradshaw were part of the Wales team which avoided an embarrassing defeat to pool B whipping boys Ghana.

Wales had made heavy weather of it until the final quarter after falling behind to a Benjamin Kwofie strike in the second period but Gareth Furlong eventually completed a hat-trick in a 6-1 win in which Wimbledon’s Francis also got on the scoresheet.

That left Wales having to beat group leaders India today in their final round robin game to reach the semi-finals, which will be played on Saturday.

Pictured top:  Gina Kennedy (Picture: Team England)

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