Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking on the World - Olivia's Dream

By JOHN NASH Wilton Villager Sports Editor

As the seventh ranked junior squash player in the entire world, Olivia Blatchford dreams big.

She does not just yearn for more victories on her resume or for more trophies to fill the empty spaces inside her family's Wilton home. Instead, she dreams even bigger than that, imagining a future that is better for her friends, her teammates, and her sport.

On Thursday afternoon, the 16-year-old Blatchford, the eldest daughter of Peter and Elizabeth Blatchford, left for the faraway land of Chennai, India, where she will take part in the 2009 World Junior Squash Championships. But, she'll tell you before she takes flight, this isn't just about her.

It's all about the future.

The Smashing Pumpkins is one of Blatchford's favorite bands and one of her favorite songs, "Today," from the 1993 album "Siamese Dreams," tells the listener to focus on the here and now:

"Today is the greatest
Day I've ever known,
Can't live for tomorrow,
Tomorrow's much too long"

Blatchford, however, seems to have a foot in both worlds -- today and tomorrow.

As she speeds through life at 100 miles per hour, bubbly and effervescent, she relishes her todays as she works toward her World Juniors appearance. Yet she also longs for a tomorrow that could very well leave her as the second Wilton resident, following soccer's Kristine Lilly, to take part in the Olympic Games, if not becoming the world's best squash player somewhere down the road.

Organizers of the Olympics could be adding two sports to its roster in 2016 and squash is one of the serious candidates. A decision is expected by August or September.

"What an honor it would be to play in the Olympics," Blatchford said, "to be able to represent your country in the biggest and most honorable event ever. It'd be stellar, it'd be magnificent, it'd be awesome."

Blatchford, the No. 1 ranked Under-19 player in the country, is already an ambassador for her sport as well as one of its best players.

"There are 127 countries that play squash. You'd be surprised," Blatchford tells a reporter who knows literally very little about the game. "I really hope and pray we get in (to the Olympics). It's such a deserving sport. It's physical chess. You're trying to anticipate somebody's moves and you're trying to get them to do something all while running. It's such a deserving sport."

And Blatchford, it seems, is as deserving of becoming an Olympian as anyone who has worn the red, white and blue before her.

* * *

The Blatchford family is a squash family.

Her parents, Peter and Elizabeth, who learned the game when she was younger, both still play as adults. It was while tagging along with her father during one of his weekend matches that Olivia, then just 5 years old, first picked up a squash racquet.

"I was really into playing and I was in an amateur tournament on a winter Sunday while we were living in lower Manhattan," Peter Blatchford recalled. "She was about five and I guilted her into coming with me. She was sitting behind the glass while I played. I never really had thought about her playing, but after I was finished she asked, 'When do I get to play?' We went out on the court and she picked up the racquet and was trying to swing a real swing, not just push at the ball. She tried to emulate what she had seen and after two or three times she was doing it quite well. I remember going home and saying, 'Olivia might have a lot potential at this game.'"

Little did the Blatchford family know that only eight years later, as a 13-year-old, Olivia would be a world champion in the Under-15 level when she was the last player standing at the British Junior Open.

It was as though she was born to play the game, a natural who by the time she was 10, was told by a well-respected British coach she had the potential to become the best player in the world.

Olivia realized right away, however, she was going to have to combine her God-given talent with a work ethic few others could match.

"It's so funny because people will tell you you have potential to be something and, to be honest, a lot of people, if you're being told you're good, you might get big-headed," Blatchford said. "I just took it at face value and it doesn't really get to me. Everything I earn depends on how hard I work and how much I choose to give to the sport."

She's giving a lot so far.

While her younger sister, Georgia, will be a sophomore at Wilton High in the fall, and kid brother, Ian, will be at Cider Mill, Olivia Blatchford is being home schooled.

This allows her to take the train to New York City for training sessions and also allows her to travel the world to play in tournaments.

"It's been amazing," she said. "I've been to so many places. I can't even name them all. Amsterdam, all over France, all over England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium. I've been to Germany 20 times. I've been to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Egypt. It's an amazing experience. Life's so different in other countries. It's like an honor to go to these places and play."


Full story on Wilton News


7 comments:

  1. Common Olivia, you are great player!!!

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  4. I mean she`s the future of us squash and amanda.

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  5. Good luck Olivia. You are among the favourites to lift the trophy.

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  6. Arthur Curran, Manchester, England.July 25, 2009 at 10:40 PM

    Having met Olivia, and her parents, several times, and watched her play many times, I am sure she will become a great champion at this sport, hopefully an Olympic Champion (though personally for that I would prefer she were British), though unfortunately I doubt whether I shall be around by then. She always trains very hard and plays very hard, but always fairly and with a smile on her face. I wish her the best of everything for the future.

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  7. You are the rising star,Olivia.Keep up the good work.We need young stars like you to to bring squash to a different level. I still remember the strong fighting spirit and determination to fight and took the prestigious British Title from Low Wee Nee.This event I am sure is your most memorable which makes your parents and the world proud of the achievement.Keep up the fighting spirit and to see you among the world top players in near future.

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