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20 Jun 2024

Galvez & Grainger Grab First-Time Pan Am Games Golds

17 Jul 2007

USA's Natalie Grainger and Mexican Eric Galvez celebrated Pan American Games squash gold for the first time after decisive straight games victories in the individual finals at the Miécimo da Silva Complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After becoming a US citizen in February this year, it was a maiden appearance in the event for Natalie Grainger, the former world No1 who was born in England and raised in South Africa. But the 30-year-old from Washington DC was in sparkling form from the outset, taking just 34 minutes to ease past both her quarter-final and semi-final opposition.

Top seed Grainger's surprise opponent in the women's final was Canada's Alana Miller, a 5/8 seed who produced sensational performances in the quarter-finals and semi-finals to oust higher-seeded players - in the semis upsetting second-seeded Mexican Samantha Teran in a 79-minute marathon.

But Miller's brave endeavours had clearly taken their toll as the two-times Canadian National champion from Winnipeg went down 9-1, 9-0, 9-1 to Grainger, ranked 36 places higher in the world, in 20 minutes.

"It is awesome to win this - I'm really, really excited to win a gold medal for the United States," said Grainger. "I know I was the No1 seed and I was expected to win, but it feels great to actually produce the goods. This is a tournament I've been looking forward to for a long time. I'm really, really pleased to be able to do it."

Grainger's gold success marks the latest chapter in a remarkable year for the world No5 who won her first US Nationals title within weeks of becoming a US citizen, and went on to collect four WISPA World Tour titles on her new 'home soil' to date. Grainger's Rio run extends her unbeaten sequence against international opposition to 15 matches!

With one victory and four final appearances in previous Pan American Championships, Eric Galvez was determined to bring gold - for the first time both for himself and his country - in the Pan Am Games.

The 23-year-old second seed from Puebla reached the final without dropping a game - ending Canada's hopes of maintaining their all-time hold on the men's gold medal by beating 3/4 seed Shawn Delierre in the semi-finals.

But his surprise opponent in the final was USA's Julian Illingworth, a 5/8 seed who stunned the Rio crowd by despatching Canadian favourite and defending gold medallist Shahier Razik in the quarter-finals.

Within hours of this historic victory, the three-times US national champion from Portland battled to a 9-7, 4-9, 8-10, 9-1, 9-6 semi-final win over Colombia's 3/4 seed Miguel Angel Rodriguez in 95 minutes!

A third heroic victory was not to be, however, as Galvez forged his 9-0, 9-4, 9-7 gold win in 41 minutes, leaving Illingworth to enjoy his unexpected silver success.

"The caliber of play and excitement for squash during these Games has just been incredible so far - and has showcased the sport very well in as high a profile way possible," said Kevin Klipstein, CEO of US Squash.

"We're obviously pleased with our results and very proud of Natalie and Julian. Natalie's addition to our team has lifted the quality of competition to an entirely new level, and she has added such a positive spirit to the US squad. Julian's back-to-back upsets to earn his place in the finals are certainly historic, and we believe foreshadow even greater things to come for him and US Squash."

Men's final:
[2] Eric Galvez (MEX) bt [5/8] Julian Illingworth (USA) 9-0, 9-4, 9-7 (41m)

Women's final:
[1] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [5/8] Alana Miller (CAN) 9-1, 9-0, 9-1 (20m)