Sam Penner and Justin Johnson take part in the squash tournament Friday at Peak Performance and Athletics. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Chad Hargreaves (left) and fellow Brandonite James McKenzie go head-to-head in the Brandon Classic racquetball tournament on Friday evening at the Sportsplex. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
With workers putting the finishing touches on a brand new logo, Peak Performance and Athletics — formerly known as the Brandon Squash Club — swung its doors open for the Brandon Open squash tournament Friday.
"We have some high-level squash players here this weekend," gym owner George Penner said, adding the tournament has attracted 25 players from across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
While the tournament features some of the most competitive players in Western Canada, Penner said squash in Brandon at a recreation level is on the upswing right now.
"We’ve got some great young blood coming into the club right now," Penner said. "It’s great competition, it’s a great workout and it beats getting on a treadmill and running."
Penner, who played competitively on the national stage, also has a theory as to why the sport seems to attract not just quality players, but quality people.
"If you have a problem with losing, you’re not going to be involved in the sport for very long," Penner said. "It’s not enough to just be competitive to be successful, you have to stick with it and put in the work to improve."
Across town, the Brandon Racquetball Association is hosting the Brandon Classic racquetball tournament at the Sportsplex.
With 36 players, including two women’s divisions, the tournament boasts strong numbers — a reflection of the strength of the sport locally right now, said association director Laureen Madill.
"Our numbers are up and down all the time and we’re slowly edging upward again," Madill said.
Madill said the facility plays a big role in the recruiting process as often people who use the Sportsplex for swimming or hockey will wander over the courts and watch some racquetball and before too long they too have a racquet in their hand.
"It’s very cheap to get started and we actually supply equipment here for people that want to try it," Madill said. "It’s one of those sports that everyone can play and you don’t even realize that you’re getting a workout while you do it because it’s so much fun."
Brandon’s strong track record in the sport — with nationally ranked players like Michael Burgess and Kurtis Cullen — helps keep the sport in the public’s eye and give current junior players something to shoot for. Madill said quality coaching and the dedication of players like Cullen and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Saunders, who has been ranked as high as seventh in the world and is competing in the tournament, helps continue to build on that tradition.
"It has been long-standing known that Brandon produces some of the top junior players and that gives the kids someone to look up to."
Both tournaments continue today, with the championship games wrapping up on Sunday.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2013