The ironwoman of squash Rachael Grinham is set to be named in her sixth Commonwealth Games team.
A lot has changed for Grinham – and the sport of squash – in more than two decades in the sport but the 45-year-old said a “less is more” approach was behind her longevity.
The Queenslander has seven Commonwealth Games medals, including two golds from her five appearances.
She hopes to add another gold to the list at the Birmingham Games in July and spur a new generation of young women to take up the sport.
Grinham started playing the moment she was old enough to hit a ball and hold a racquet. She would play with her sister on the spare court next to where her parents were playing.
There were four big squash centres, with 10 courts each in Grinham’s home town of Toowoomba. Just one is left standing.
“I’ve never known not playing squash in my life,” Grinham said.
“Unfortunately the sport, in Australia, has died a lot since I was young. I think it is partly because owners of squash centres have been better off selling them than keeping them operating.
“(But) it’s taken off in America and it is massive in Egypt.”
With Tuesday marking International Women’s Day, Grinham said the sport had plenty to offer, especially for women, with mixed doubles and women’s competitions increasing around the world.
In the past men’s squash players had received more attention, games and money but Grinham said it all changed a decade ago when the men’s and women’s squash associations merged.
“A lot of events have become combined and for all of the major events, they’ve got prize money now,” Grinham said.
At 21, Grinham got a call up to the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games where she won silver … and 20 years later, she was certain her bronze medal from the women’s doubles at the Gold Coast Games would be her last Commonwealth Games prize.
But Grinham just couldn’t put down the racquet.
“A lot of players over the years tend to get injuries that end their careers in their early 30s but, touch wood, I’ve managed to stay relatively fit, without any serious injuries and maintain the standard,” Grinham said.
Most elite squash players would train two sessions a day, spending anywhere from three to five hours training up to six days a week.
Grinham said her training schedule was a bit different to most elite athletes.
“My days aren’t as hectic as they used to be when I was younger,” she said.
“Spending time doing things like stretching and ‘prehab’ is a lot more important for me these days.”
She still makes time for one session of squash a day at the National Squash Centre at the Gold Coast followed by some extra cardio or speed work.
“I just try to stay away from too much impact work because you know I’m getting a little bit older, so I want to save my joints as much as possible,” Grinham said.
Grinham and her doubles partners Donna Lobban and Ryan Cuskelly are due to compete at the World Doubles Championships from April 5-9 in Glasgow.
It is the only major lead-up event to the Commonwealth Games and is used to determine seeding.