Declan James claimed Commonwealth Games gold in the men’s squash doubles just two months after a three-inch tear in his quad left him fearing he would not make Birmingham 2022.
James and playing partner James Willstrop defeated English compatriots Daryl Selby and Adrian Waller 11-3 7-11 11-9 in an epic final where the momentum switched hands on several occasions.
The winning moment was particularly poignant for James, who dropped his racket and sank to his knees at the end of the gold medal match before embracing Willstrop.
“I was nearly out the game for six to nine months so it was a very lucky escape,” James said. “At the time it was 50-50 as to whether I would have competed here, but I’ve got such a wonderful team.
“There’s been endless amounts of rehab just to be here. To get this result is extra special because of that.”
World champions James and Willstrop coasted to the first game and were 5-2 up in the second but their rivals, who were growing increasingly tetchy at a couple of refereeing calls going against them, channelled their frustration to win seven points in a row.
They duly levelled to take the match to a decider but James and Willstrop got their noses in front and despite some lengthy rallies, the pair just about managed to stay in front to gain revenge for their 2018 semi-final defeat against Selby and Waller on the Gold Coast.
Selby, 39, announced his retirement afterwards and said with a chuckle: “I need to find a beach somewhere.” His great rival Willstrop, who turns 39 next week, still intends to carry on playing.
“I haven’t got any tournaments planned for the next month or two,” Willstrop said. “I just need to have a break from this because this was an intense build-up and intense few weeks with the singles.
“I love playing and I’m in decent shape so I’d like to keep playing but we’ll see how it goes after a bit of a rest.”
Reflecting on his win, Willstrop, who claimed Commonwealth gold in the men’s singles four years ago, added: “It’s right up there. A Commonwealth gold medal is one of the greatest things any squash player can achieve.
“It’s almost elevated in some ways because it’s very rare you’re working with another player, a very special player and a special person. It’s a great thing to share a win with someone in this way.”
Scotland’s Rory Stewart and Greg Lobban completed the podium after beating Malaysians Ng Eain Yow and Ivan Yuen 11-10 11-6 in the bronze medal match.
In the women’s doubles, England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and Alison Waters were beaten by New Zealanders Joelle King and Amanda Landers-Murphy, who successfully defended their crown with an 11-8 11-8 victory.
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