23 August 2016 – Saint Andrew’s was very proud to have two representatives at the recent World Junior Squash Championships in Poland, with John Kuhn leading the South African challenge as the number one junior player in South Africa and Old Andrean Calvin Deutschmann serving as team manager.
Both did the school and country proud. After a tough start to the individual competition, with South Africa having arrived only the day before it began, John found his feet in the consolation plate, beating opponents from Switzerland, Germany and Argentina on his way to the final.
In the title-decider, he narrowly lost, going down 15-13 to Jordan’s Hamza Alzubaidi in the fifth and deciding game of their match.
Then it was on to the team competition, with South Africa, seeded 17th, in a tough pool with sixth-seeds the USA and seventh-seeds, Malaysia. The USA were even better than their seeding, going on to finish third, while Malaysia included the winner of the individual competition Yow Ng. Spain, the other team in the pool, were seeded just below South Africa.
Kuhn and company began with a 3-0 defeat to the high-flying Americans before taking on Malaysia. In his opening match in the individual competition, John had gone down to the Malaysian number three. That left the team from the Far East confident of victory, so they rested their top player, who hadn’t slept much since winning the individual title.
Facing the Malaysian number two, John gave South Africa a valuable 1-0 lead after a testing five-game battle. That win provided the springboard for South Africa to go onto an upset 2-1 victory.
The South African team, with Calvin Deutschmann (front left) and John Kuhn (middle).
After seeing off Spain 3-0, the team was through to the playoffs, where they faced Australia.
A massive tussle followed, with the Aussies eventually edging it 2-1. Playing for positions nine to 12, South Africa then went down 2-1 against Jordan and 2-1 to Canada in two tightly-contested ties. That left the team in 12th, just one place below its best ever finish of 11th, and should Pakistan lose their title for playing overage players (which is being investigated at the time of writing) it could move up to 11th.
“It was a huge help,” John said of having Calvin with him in Bielsko-Biala. “I wouldn’t have won half of my matches and I wouldn’t have made the final without him. He has always been an inspiration to me, so to have him there watching my games helped me more than I can explain.”
Calvin was more than a help on the squash courts, too, after John, who was travelling abroad for the first time, left his passport on a plane. It took a huge amount of work from Calvin, Margo Morgan (who helped from South Africa) and Lufthansa to sort that one out.
It was, nonetheless, an enjoyable experience working with the team, Calvin reckoned, with South Africa “playing above and beyond what was expected of them.”
Wearing the national colours with pride: Saints’ John Kuhn
Being located on the southern tip of Africa, the South African team gets to play a lot less international squash than most, but, at times, this helped, he said, with the South African team not giving some of the top players too much respect, because they didn’t really know them. “They spent a lot of times with all the nations and they really bonded well, especially with the Americans and the Egyptians,” Calvin mentioned.
“Our players were not difficult to manage on the court,” he added. “They were sporting, they played fairly and their spirit and support was well noted… We were still very competitive and did extremely well.” If there had been an award for those qualities, South Africa would have won it, Calvin reckoned.