The athletes of Team USA and the U.S. National Team coaches were honored during a reception and ceremony following the conclusion of the finals of the U.S. Women’s Championship and S.L. Green U.S. Men’s Championship Friday, June 17 at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia.
The inaugural “An Evening With Team USA” event celebrated the accomplishments of the members of the US Squash High Performance Program (HPP) over the past season, and honored Paul Assaiante for his decades of service as a U.S. National Team coach as he passes the role of Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach to Ong Beng Hee.
The ceremony also recognized the supporters of Team USA who came together during the pandemic to support the HPP. This enabled US Squash to renew important financial support to HPP athletes—at a time when PSA Tour tournaments were not being held—so they could continue their training as the country emerged from the pandemic last spring.
“The community’s support provided us the critical backing we needed to help our HPP athletes navigate the pandemic and come back stronger than before,” said Kevin Klipstein, US Squash President & CEO. “During that extraordinarily difficult time, they asked themselves the hard questions, and wrestled with the answers. In the end, they each demonstrated incredible grit and determination to have achieved what they did this season. The financial support gave them time. The Specter Center then gave them a home where they could support each other.”
The 2022 U.S. Championships featured a record $100K in equal prize money. Steve Green renewed his long-time funding for the eponymous S.L. Green Men’s division, while the Desai family provided important support for the Women’s championship.
“We saw an amazing level of squash out on court all week, and it’s so important for us to recognize the hard work and exceptional play of these athletes with equal prize funds,” said Ned Edwards, Executive Director of the Specter Center where the championships were held. “Our commitment to equality in prize money echoes our goal to bring full parity in participation in the sport and at all levels of competition.”
During the ceremony, Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach Ong Beng Hee spoke to the long list of accomplishments achieved by HPP players this season, including four women reaching career high rankings in the world top 20 and Amanda Sobhy making No. 3, Shahjahan Khan becoming a U.S. citizen and the country’s top-ranked male player at No. 31, and a breakthrough season for Timmy Brownell—who trains full-time at the Specter Center—winning the Tournament of Champions Challenger event and now his first U.S. Championship.
Outgoing Head National Coach Paul Assaiante was honored by Klipstein for his decades of service in the role, as he now hands the reins over to Ong. “Paul’s willingness to support the program in any way, has simply been invaluable, and the entire squash community has benefitted as a result, and will continue to benefit. The Ganek’s gift was for Team USA, however it was really for Paul, there was no one else who could have stepped into the role it created. In addition to his consistent leadership in advocating for sportsmanship and excellence, Paul was an integral part of making the center possible, paving the way for future generations,” said Klipstein.
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Athlete Representative and US Squash Director Olivia Blatchford Clyne spoke on behalf of all of the HPP athletes, sharing: ”Fifteen years ago exactly, I received my first ever box of US National Team Kit. I was 14 years old, and I wept with happiness. To wear Team USA on my back, to represent US Squash and my country for the first time meant the entire world to me. It still does. Little did I know that all these years later I would be standing in this magnificent national center built to house both those in pursuit of performance excellence and the anchors of country-wide grassroots development. Where our sport’s top athletes could be hard at work next to community squash programs—all working side by side in dogged determination. Quite honestly, I didn’t think it could be possible to have it all. I couldn’t quite see this vision. What a delight to be proved so wrong.”
While not able to attend, retiring HPP athlete Chris Hanson was included by Klipstein sharing a message from Hanson in which he called the sport his North Star and reflected fondly on the camaraderie of his teammates and memorable high points including two national championships in 2018 and 2019.
The evening culminated in the presentation of trophies to the 2022 champions and remarks from Ong thanking the squash community for their support for Team USA and predicting a bright future for the High Performance Program.