Egypt retain World Junior team title
Favourites Egypt beat USA 2/0 in the final of the WSF Women's World Junior Team Squash Championship to claim the World Squash Federation title for a record seventh time - and fifth time in a row - at the Squashtime Centre in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
It was the third successive final between the two nations - Egypt celebrating their seventh in a row since 2003 and second seeds USA looking to win the trophy for a first time after appearing in all 16 championships since 1985.
In the opening clash between the countries' two top strings, Habiba Mohamed started well for the defending champions against USA's Sabrina Sobhy, building up a 6-1 lead before taking the first game. The American fought back to take the second, but Mohamed was in commanding form in the next two games as she powered Egypt into the lead 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-1.
Egypt again took the early lead in the next match between the number threes, Salma Hany Ibrahim taking the first game against USA's Kayley Leonard. There was little to choose between the two teenagers in the next three games - but Ibrahim, in her last day but one as a junior, fought back from 7-9 down in the fourth to complete her 11-7, 11-13, 11-8, 11-9 victory in 53 minutes to the delight of herself and her team-mates.
"We are so, so, so, so, so happy to win this title," Nouran Gohar, the world individual champion who was grateful not to be called on to play the decider, told the event website www.wsfworldjuniors.com later. "Habiba and Salma played really well, but at one-all in each match we were getting worried.
"We told Habiba to do this for Egypt, and at one-all in Salma's match I thought we were going to lose so I started to warm up. But she managed to win, and that's really big for us."
Ibrahim, who turns 19 on the 5th, was relieved and happy: "I was so under pressure - some thought I was going to win easily but I knew how tough it would be. I really didn't want to put Nouran under the pressure of playing a decider, so I didn't think about anything, just tried to play one point at a time, and when the referee said 'stroke' on that last point I just exploded, and then I cried my eyes out (pictured above).
"Our coaches and the National Federation have helped us so much, put so much into this that it's the least we could do to repay them. It's my birthday in a few hours' time, and I'm so happy to be able to finish my junior career by winning this title as part of this amazing team."
Despite being disappointed to lose, the US players were pleased with their performances: "We thought we played pretty well," said Sobhy and Leonard (both pictured below). "We think we got them a little rattled when the games were so close. We put it all out on there and we're proud of the way we played, it's a good end to our junior careers."
Former champions England and fifth seeds Malaysia shared the bronze medals - England, last winners of the title in 2001, marking their best finish since 2005, and Malaysia their best since reaching the final in 2007.
Eighth seeds Canada won the play-off for fifth place after beating New Zealand 2/0 - but whilst the former repeated their success in the past two championships, the Kiwis' sixth place was their best finish since 2007.
Switzerland emerged as winners of the 9-12th place pool to record their best finish since 1999 - while Finland, 2/1 winners over South Africa in the play-off for 13th place, claimed their best ever finish.
Guyana and Zimbabwe, both only making their second appearances in the championship, battled hard for 17th place - Guyana ultimately emerging as victors after a 3/0 triumph.