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By Paul Eddison in Birmingham
SARAH-JANE Perry is on a mission in Birmingham – standing in her way is ‘ditzy’ Harvard graduate and teammate Gina Kennedy.
A silver medallist in the squash in Gold Coast four years ago, Birmingham star Perry is desperate to go one better and finally win that Commonwealth title.
To do so, she will have to see off 22-year-old debutant Kennedy in the semi-finals, with both players racing through their encounters in the last eight.
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
Kennedy, who has graduated from Harvard and is currently finishing a Master’s in Nottingham, needed just 13 minutes to breeze past Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold, with Perry not quite as rapid but similarly convincing against Wales’ Emily Whitlock.
That sets up a tantalising semi-final at the University of Birmingham, with Perry excited about the contrast in styles.
She said: “We play the same game but that’s about where the similarity stops. We’ll both be massively up for it, a place in a Commonwealth final. It doesn’t come around very often, only ever four years and I’m just absolutely thrilled to be there fighting up in the medals. I’d absolutely love to get to another final.
“We didn’t really know each other too much before the last year in particular. I’ve been following her progress and she’s a consummate professional. Although I didn’t realise how ditzy she was until this week!
“It’s all good-natured, it’s a fantastic group of girls. They are fantastic girls to have around and it’s really interesting to be part of the changing of the guard. The team was very similar for a number of years, particularly on the women’s side, so to have those younger players come in is a breath of fresh air. It’s a lot of laughing and joking.”
Perry was in cruise control on her way to an 11-6 11-6 11-6 win over Whitlock, revelling in the support of the crowd – many of whom had come specifically to cheer her on.
She added: “I’ve got a lot of people coming, I had so many people in the crowd tonight, I think half of Kenilworth was here and I know quite a few people have got tickets for tomorrow and are going to be back here. My parents and my family and everyone will be the ones shouting loudest, I’m sure.”
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