Former national champ Jans to coach Canadian squad at world team squash event

Associated Press

Even though she's nearly 40, former national champ Melanie Jans considered trying to crack the roster for the Canadian squad that will play at the 2012 women's world squash team championships.

When asked if she wanted to coach the team instead, she jumped at the opportunity.

Jans will guide a balanced squad of young and experienced players at the biennial tournament beginning Monday in Nimes, France. Pan Am Games team champions Samantha Cornett of Ottawa and Stephanie Edmison of Toronto are joined on the roster by Calgary's Susie King and Alex Norman of Montreal.

Jans hasn't toured on the women's pro circuit in years but still plays in the occasional event and regularly competes at the annual national championships. She still takes on players half her age and is ranked sixth in the country.

Jans took up coaching several years ago and has worked at the club level with some of the country's top young talent. She is ready for her latest coaching challenge.

"It feels like a natural transition because I've been on the national team since I was 17," she said in a recent interview. "So I know as an athlete what I would want from a coach in terms of what helps to bring out my best game."

The world team championship is one of the top events on the women's squash calendar. Canada is aiming for a top-eight finish after a 13th-place result in New Zealand in 2010.

Cornett is just 21 and has already risen to No. 37 in the world rankings. In addition to her team gold, she won silver in the singles competition at last year's Pan Am Games in Mexico.

While the draw wasn't as deep as the world championship, Jans knows that the success at the Pan Ams will be a solid building block for the team.

"It still gets them in that situation where they feel the pressure," she said. "In terms of the crowd, the importance of it in terms of representing your country. So it's a really good experience and a good way to prepare for the worlds."

Cornett has posted some solid victories of late, including wins over world No. 14 Dipika Pallikal of India and 22nd-ranked Sarah Kippax of England.

"The nice thing is that Sam has been playing on the circuit and she's going to have a good idea of all of the players," Jans said.

Jans reached a career-high No. 25 in the world rankings in 1999 and was a gold medallist at the Pan Am Games that year. She recently accepted a squash director position at a club near her hometown of Georgetown, Ont., and is also busy raising her three-year-old son.

While Jans still plays at least a couple of matches a week, she felt she wouldn't be able to put in the required training time to make the team as a player.

"I think to really be fair, if I was selected to represent my country I would want to be able to give 100 per cent both training and preparing for the whole event and I'm just not sure I can do that right now, just with my other commitments and my son," she said. "But yeah, I definitely thought about it."

Cornett qualified for the team based on meeting Squash Canada's international excellence criteria through her world ranking. King, Norman and Edmison earned their places by virtue of their performance at the Canadian trials last month in Toronto.

Defending champions Australia will be looking for a record 10th title at the six-day tournament. Argentina, Korea and Namibia will compete for the first time at the 26-team event.

Notes: Tournament matches will be played at the La Parnasse Arena and the Club des Costieres. ... The 2014 women's world squash team championships will be played in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Canada previously hosted the tournament in 1981, 1992 and 2006. ... The Cambridge Club in Toronto will host the Hampton Securities Jim Bentley Cup pro doubles event Nov. 16-19. Several former champions are returning for the event's 40th anniversary. They include Jamie Bentley, Gordon Anderson, Peter Briggs, Ned Edwards and former world No. 1 singles player Jonathon Power. ... Power and former Canadian teammate Graham Ryding will play an exhibition match Nov. 21 at Toronto Athletic Club to raise funds for Urban Squash Toronto, a charitable organization that helps underserved youth in the city.

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