Sportsperson of the Year Finalist: Joelle King

By David Leggat

Every day this week in news, business and sport we feature the finalists for the Herald New Zealander of the Year. Top honours will appear in the Weekend Herald on Saturday.

New Zealand squash player Joelle King with gold and silver medals after the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand squash player Joelle King with gold and silver medals after the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Photo / Getty Images

Winning two squash medals at one Commonwealth Games is old hat for New Zealand.

Leilani Rorani won two golds in Manchester in 2002 and Shelley Kitchen grabbed a silver and bronze in the women's doubles and singles respectively in Melbourne in 2006.

At Delhi, Joelle King made it a hat-trick of double medal successes.

King partnered Jaclyn Hawkes to win the women's doubles. Then, after a short break, she was back on court winning the silver medal with Martin Knight in the mixed final.

Doubles squash is relatively new. It is not the purists' preferred form, but New Zealanders have worked hard at it and been conspicuously successful.

There is a suspicion that some of the leading squash nations treat the doubles game as a bit of fun - light relief from the daily singles grind.

Not so New Zealand.

King and Hawkes weren't supposed to team up in Delhi. Hawkes was to partner Kitchen, who had to withdraw through illness.

So instead the two best-ranked players were paired for the first time.

King and Hawkes beat England's world No 2 and No 9-ranked pair Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro 11-9 11-10 before King and Knight went down in three games to Australians Kasey Brown and Cameron Pillay 8-11 11-7 11-5.

King is 22 and a player on the move. She made rapid progress last year, winning three tournaments in Australia within a few weeks, including the Australian Open, and is now up to world No 17.

Cambridge-born and raised King, whose brother Regan was an All Black, said her Games success had brought recognition.

"Squash hasn't had such a public profile lately, but hopefully being so successful at the Games does something to lift my profile and squash in general," she said.

King is aiming for the world No 1 spot, and while singles titles obviously help her climb the rankings, she said the Games medals were absolutely her high point.

"Nothing can beat the experience of winning gold and silver in Delhi," she said. "I've always had my goals and I know where I want to go. [The medals] definitely give me confidence going forward."

Time will tell how far she'll go, but this year King has made a decisive push in the right direction.

OTHER NOMINEES

*Niki Hamblin - running.
*Hamish Bond and Eric Murray - rowing.
*Ryan Nelsen - soccer.
*Alison Shanks - cycling.
*All Blacks - rugby.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 28 Aug 2014 16:03:46 Processing Time: 499ms