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RISING squash star Sam Todd is determined to become the best player in the world and emulate his coach James Willstrop writes Alec McQuarrie.
The Pontefract player is currently ranked 71st in the rankings but is making giant strides, helped by Willstrop, the defending Commonwealth singles champion.
Todd has Commonwealth ambitions of his own and is eyeing up the 2026 Games in Australia as a chance to shine.
The Birmingham 2022 Games have come too soon but the 19-year-old has a goal in mind and has plotted his route to get there.
“My goal eventually, I’d like to be world number one,” said Todd, who has been selected to be part of the Team England Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England and SportsAid.
“Obviously that’s far away still, but at the moment I just want to keep setting targets for myself at the end of the year of where I want my ranking to be.
“I’d really want to get inside the top 10 and I think once you do that, it gives you a bit of belief, okay now it’s another push to try and get the number one spot. I’m just excited to see what happens.
“Yeah, 100% [on competing in the Commonwealth Games in the future]. I watched James when he won the gold medal in Australia.
“It just really inspired me, like this is what I want to do, to follow in his footsteps.”
The Team England Futures programme will see over 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, watch live sporting action and take a first-hand look behind-the-scenes.
🦁 THE BIG INTERVIEW 🦁
"One of the best pieces of advice I was given in the early years was to ask questions. I was curious to learn." @LeonTaylorGB looks ahead to the #TeamEnglandFutures Immersion Camp in his role as Lead Ambassador and Mentor 🏴
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— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) July 8, 2022
The programme seeks to better prepare athletes to deliver medal-winning performances as either Team England, Team GB or ParalympicsGB debutants at future Games, while also giving support staff a first-hand look at the opportunities they could be presented with, as well as challenges they may face, at a multi-sport competition.
Todd, who grew up spending a lot of time at the Pontefract Squash and Leisure Centre which his father owns, became the first Englishman to claim the prestigious under-13 British Junior Open title since Willstrop in 1997.
He matched that feat at under-15 and under-17 level in 2018 and 2020 respectively, without dropping a game in the latter tournament.
His coach at the time, and James’ father, Malcolm Willstrop passed away in 2021 after a battle with cancer and Todd made the perfect tribute to his legendary former coach a few months later.
He said: “I won my first PSA title in Pontefract and it was just after Malcolm [Willstrop] passed away.
“It was quite fitting really to win my first title there and at my home club as well. That was a memorable moment.”
Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. You can find out more about the programme by visiting https://www.sportsaid.org.uk/partnerships/team-england-futures/.