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New squash pro hopes to beef up sport in Yukon

If you like tennis and badminton, Squash Yukon's new head coach and program co-ordinator says you should try some middle ground.

If you like tennis and badminton, Squash Yukon’s new head coach and program co-ordinator says you should try some middle ground.

“I see squash as in between tennis and badminton, when it comes to the wrist and arm,” said Eng Khoon Chua. “Badminton is 80 per cent wrist, tennis is totally arm and squash is a mixture of both.”

Actually, Squash Yukon is hoping even people with no racquet-sport experience will give it a try as it welcomes its new instructor - the organization’s first-ever paid employee - to the territory.

“I think he’ll bring a fresh perspective to the game,” said Squash Yukon president Jim Gilpin. “I know he’s given me some drills and different thing I’ve never seen before. And his skill level is very, very high.”

Up to now, Squash Yukon’s former pro, Marie Desmarais, who retired from the position in the spring, worked for Better Bodies Crosstraining Centre, the only Whitehorse location of courts outside of Yukon College and host of the Yukon Championships. Now having Chua as its employee, Squash Yukon has started a new chapter in its history, one it hopes will end with the sport flourishing in Whitehorse.

Step one is making people aware.

“That’s the problem: a lot of people haven’t even tried squash and there are people who don’t even know what squash is,” said Chua. “Surprisingly, even a lot of Canadians don’t know what the game is all about, while Canada is one of the top squash nations with a world champion in Jonathan Power from Quebec. He was a world champion for a few years before he retired.”

Of course, any long-term plan targeting growth for squash, or any sport, must have juniors in the forefront.

“We want to get more youngsters to play,” said Chua. “Even in Vancouver, the players that play regularly and are high level squash players, are all hitting their 40s. It seems today youngsters are all distracted by other things - electronic things, Facebook and stuff. And, of course, there’s hockey.

“I want to give every kid a chance to try it out and see how great the game is,” he adds.

“Lessons are always available.”

The new coach has moved to town from Surrey, BC, where he reached 16th in the in the 45-plus Squash BC rankings three years ago.

“My kids are saying, ‘You’re going to live up there with the polar bears and in an igloo?’” said Chua, with a laugh.

Chua holds an International Certification in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy and is a Level 2 NCCP Squash coach.

Before moving to BC from Singapore in 2000, Chua held a national ranking in the top-20, placing third in the Singapore National Closed tournament in 1993.

He also brings to the territory more than two decades of experience as a qualified squash referee and marker and was coach of the Fraser Valley Team at the 2008 BC Winter Games.

Even with his lengthy resume, Chua will have to work to fill the shoes of former Squash Yukon pro Desmarais, who is commonly credited as the forbearer of the sport in the Yukon, with her involvement extending over two decades.

“We were just so lucky to have Marie for so many years,” said Gilpin. “She has been thy kingpin of squash in Whitehorse for over two decades and the strength of squash in this community is directly related all the energy she has put into it. For her, it hasn’t just been a job, it’s been a passion.

“She’s has had a lot of success with a lot of the juniors.”

One example of Desmarais’ tutelage in action is Yukon’s current defending men’s champion, Julien Revel, who has won the title the last three years and has competed at the national level. Revel was a student of Desmarais’ while a junior.

“He’s back here now and he’s unbeatable, and the skills he got were from Marie,” said Gilpin.

However, even with the emphasis placed on juniors, Gilpin feels players of all levels could profit from some pointers from Chua.

“I think people like Julien, who’s such a strong player, will benefit from some pointers and drills Khoon will be able to deliver.”

Contact Tom Patrick at