When New Zealand squash player Amanda Landers-Murphy won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games it was a dream come true. The massive success she's had in her career is no secret, but could you guess her biggest personal achievement or why the 28-year-old says it's a work in progress with no expiry date? As part of the feature Behind the Name , we get to know the Bay of Plenty's talented athletes representing New Zealand internationally beyond an athlete's impressive career. Today, we find out more about Landers-Murphy - including the five words those closest to her would use to describe her.
Do you have any nicknames? If so, what are they, who calls you them and how did you get the name?
Far too many to recite, most of them are derivatives of my first or last names. My family did call me Dolittle when I was younger, it kind of evolved from the fact I wanted to be involved in everything or "do it all".
What is the first memory you have of squash and how has that impacted you?
I guess my first memory is of running around the club with all the other kids while my parents played squash. I wasn't overly interested to be honest, I was a hockey player for a number of years before I chose squash at age 13. I think being able to make that decision myself when I was ready meant that I could always enjoy playing because it was what I wanted to be doing. Starting that late did mean skill-wise I was well behind other kids the same age or younger but I remember loving the challenge of that, of seeing the improvements and slowly starting to win those matches.
What do you love about squash?
The challenge of it. There are so many different aspects of the game, you have to be fit, you have to be fast, you have to be able to make decisions in a split second and control the ball enough to make it land where you want and you have to be able to do that from a different body position every time, no matter how many times you practise a shot, being able to execute it when you're stretched out as far as you can be or when the ball comes straight at you means you have to be dynamic and adaptable. You have to know your game plan and know how to change it quickly if it isn't working. The mental game is huge, something I've learned more recently and started putting a lot more emphasis on. But probably the biggest lesson I've learnt recently is you have to always enjoy it, not let pressure or external factors influence that part, if you love what you're doing, every obstacle will become a new and exciting challenge to master.
What is your sporting highlight?
My highlight to date would have to be the Commonwealth Games last year. Winning a gold medal has always been a dream of mine and to do that with one of my closest friends in front of so many family members and friends who have been there from the beginning, or a huge part of the journey, was really special.
What has been the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while competing at any level?
About a year or two after I started I was playing a match on a court where you had to lock the door from the inside. After a couple of games I came back on court and locked the door ready to play, the only problem was my opponent hadn't returned to the court yet and she wasn't able to get back in. I guess that's one way to try to win a match.
What has been the biggest injury you've suffered in sport?
Tearing a disc in my back. Not only was it extremely painful, it happened a few months out from my first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, it took a lot of rehab to get it ready for the games and it still flares up now from time to time. It first happened while playing a match.
What is the best advice you have been given about squash and who gave it to you?
Probably something my mum said to me when I was 18 and had decided I wanted to try to make it professionally. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to do that, that it was only going to get harder but that if I was sure, her and my stepdad Mike would be there to help and support me as long as I tried my hardest. At the time, I thought she meant that the training was going to get harder, something I was excited for. It took a few years to realise that wasn't entirely what she meant. That those huge improvements you make as a junior become tiny incremental improvements at a professional level and you have to be able to accept and enjoy the challenges that constantly arise.
When you're not competing or training, what are you doing?
Right now, I love being outdoors and being active, fishing and being around nature. We are so lucky in New Zealand to have the beauty around us that we do. It's one of the biggest things I look forward to when I go home. I also love spending time with family and friends.
What other jobs have you had in your lifetime?
Does emptying the dishwasher at home for pocket money count? I grew up in the country, so I helped milk cows when I was younger, weed spraying on neighbours' farms, an office job, a job at a bee factory, a job in retail and a little bit of squash coaching here and there.
What did your parents want you to be when you were younger?
I don't think they wanted me or my brothers to be anything specifically, they more just wanted to give us the opportunity to be what we wanted to be.
What is something you would tell your 16-year-old self?
Don't be afraid to put yourself first sometimes. It's your life and there are times you will have to make hard decisions that others won't agree with. Back yourself.
What has been your biggest personal achievement and why?
I wouldn't say I've achieved it yet, but it's a work in progress. Learning who I am and what I'm made of. I've always been a pretty shy, quiet person. I'm slowly learning to speak up and not be afraid to say or do what I think is right. It's changed my life.
What five words do you think your closest friends would use to describe you?
Well my mum would say stubborn but I may have cheated on this question, I asked a few friends; hardworking, kind, loyal, reliable, compassionate.
Where is your favourite place in the Bay and why?
I probably have three favourite places. The Mount, the lakes and forests around Rotorua and the farm I grew up on in Waikite Valley, where my mum and stepdad still live. They all hold great memories and are the reason I love being outside so much.
Tell us three things people may not know about you:
I love old music, especially from the 80s. I'm slightly OCD, but only with specific things. I love cooking and baking when I have time to do it properly.