In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games and in the wake of her 11th PSA title, we chatted to squash champion and QSMC client Donna Urquhart on her squash career and the upcoming games!
How did you get involved in Squash?
I spent my childhood living next door to the squash centre in our little town (Yamba), and before I was old enough to go to school I would follow Mum over to the courts when she played socially. It wasn’t long before I was picking a racket up myself and running around. I just loved it and started playing in under 9s tournaments when I was 6 or 7 years old.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out as an athlete?
I wish I understood the value in active recovery and pre-hab exercises as a young athlete (stretching, rolling, triggering etc). The thing is I’m sure I was told back then, but I used to place so much more importance on the ‘harder’ and more gruelling training sessions instead. I think I find a better balance now between working myself hard and time spent actively looking after myself.
What is going through your mind when you first step onto the court to compete in something like the Commonwealth Games?
As much as you try to treat it like any other competition and focus on your game plan, it’s hard not to feel the extra excitement of the big occasion, not much compares to how proud you feel to be in the green and gold and representing Australia.
You have travelled and competed all over the world and in two Commonwealth Games previously. What is different about the Commonwealth Games to other competition? Does playing the games on home soil change anything?
The biggest differences would be the fact that it’s a multi-sport event and you find yourself surrounded by all kinds of athletes in the one place living and eating together. Also that the Commonwealth Games is a much bigger deal at home in Australia than other squash tournaments usually are, so more media coverage, and even more interest in what I’m doing from friends at home! This time around being a home Games has intensified that even more, but it’s great for the sport – there are people that I have known my whole life coming to watch at the Games who have never actually watched me play before! Having a Games on home soil is just more exciting in that sense, there’s a real buzz around it at the moment, and for me personally it’s a dream come true.
If you had to choose between the two, single or doubles?
Singles, because that’s what I train for and compete in most of the year round, but I actually love playing doubles too. It’s so much fun and I love the team element of it.
What is your favourite Commonwealth Games event to watch?
I like watching the hockey because I grew up playing a lot, and the Australian men’s and women’s teams are both awesome.
How has physiotherapy played a part in your preparation for competition?
Unfortunately injuries are a part of sport and I’ve had my fair share! Physiotherapy has helped me recover fully every time, whether the injury is big or small. I have been looked after by QSMC since the start of my career and I have always had peace of mind knowing that I can trust the advice and help they’ve given me.
You turned pro in 2005, what is the key to 13 years in the sport? How has squash changed over that time?
Even though I currently don’t have any injury problems, I spend time every day doing preventative and maintenance exercises (most of which I have learned from QSMC and Aspire over the years), which I know plays a huge part in keeping my body feeling good and able to compete at the top of my game. In addition to that I am still playing because I absolutely love the sport and I am still driven to keep improving and pushing my limits.
Since the beginning of my career the scoring system has changed in professional squash and also the ‘tin’ height has been lowered. Both these changes have made the game shorter and more attacking, and while squash is still a physical game of endurance, it now has an extra need for speed. The lower tin means you have to cover more ground and get down lower to the ball at the front of the court, making it even tougher on the body, but professional athletes have trained harder and adapted to these changes making squash more exciting to watch than ever before.
Speaking of more exciting to watch, the other big change during my career has been the improvement of technology, making squash so much more TV friendly. It’s awesome to see it from all the different camera angles and in slow motion replays – check out the highlights of the PSA World Tour on YouTube! All the major tournaments can be watched live online at psaworldtour.com/tv. Want to know more about squash? Check out this great article breaking it down for you.