Local racquetball tournament seeing growth

Matthew Gourlie
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Nationally-ranked competitors take part in Loose Moose

The Loose Moose racquetball tournament attracted two of the top players in Canada this year as it continues to grow.

Dustin Swanson of Moose Jaw won the Men's B/C singles final at the Loose Moose Racquetball tournament this past weekend at the YMCA.

That is positive progress for the tournament after it completed its fourth edition this past weekend at the YMCA.

"It's such a great game to play," said Tim Landeryou, the third-ranked men's player in the country. "You can start as young as three or four and there's guys here who play into their 80s. It's a great form of exercise. It's really unfortunate that we don't have more exposure and can't get more people involved in the sport."

Landeyou, of Saskatoon, won the Men's Open singles event by beating Regina's Darcey Shaw 15-4, 15-2. Landeryou also teamed with Regina's Bruce Robinson to win the Men's Open/A doubles. They defeated Graham Tamaki and Dave Trembley, both of Regina, 15-9, 15-12.

Landeryou was one of 34 competitors who took part in the Loose Moose, but in a week he will travel to Santa Cruz, Bolivia to represent Canada at the Pan-American championships. He has been a member of the Canadian national team for five years.

"Saskatchewan in the past has been a hotbed for junior racquetball. At the senior level, with Tim's success, we have quite a few players who are nationally ranked in the top 10," said Gary Williams, one of the local organizers of the tournament.

"If we have the ability to keep drawing people like Tim, the top players will eventually come here. People want to see the top players in the country. It's not our goal to have all of the top-ranked players, but it's definitely an asset."

Christine Richardson, the fifth-ranked female player in the country, also attended the tournament. The Regina product competed in the Men's Open where she lost to Landeryou in the semifinals. She also competed with Shaw in the Men's Open/A doubles and lost in the semis.

"In order for her to be able to compete at a higher level she plays in the Men's Open division and she does very well. She beat me at a tournament two years ago," said Williams. "She's just a very good player."

Moose Jaw's Dustin Swanson won the Men's B/C singles final with a 15-10, 15-8 victory over Ian Frattinger of Moose Jaw.

Gerald Eby and Ron Selinger, both of Moose Jaw, won the Men's B/C doubles by beating Dennis Couzens, of Saskatoon, and Paul Kuntz, of Regina, 9-15, 16-14, 14-12.

Lorne Renouf of Prince Albert won both singles events he entered. In Men's 45-plus, he defeated Regina's Jim Park 15-6, 15-7 and in the Men's A final he beat Regina's Darrell Davis 15-6, 15-9.

While competitors crowded the viewing area to watch the matches of the nationally-ranked players, the tournament organizers are looking to try to build the base of the sport. Williams is hoping to draw more than 40 players to next year's tournament.

"Back in the heyday if you went to Saskatoon for a tournament there would be 240 people, but now if you can get 30 or 40 people in the smaller tournaments, that's quite good," he said. "We try to make it a social event as well. It's building."

Landeryou said he had heard good things about the tournament and thought he would take part. He is one of six men in Saskatoon who are ranked in the top-15 nationally. At the elite level, the sport continues to be strong in the province.

"Our junior program in Saskatchewan is very successful worldwide. We've had a lot of gold medal winners at the worlds," said Williams who ran the junior program in Moose Jaw for 20 years. While there currently isn't a formal junior program in the city, Williams said that young players can always get on the court. He has reached out to elementary and high schools in the city to try to spur interest amongst younger players.

"Sask. Racquetball have people on staff that they send out to local high schools and any schools in the elementary system if they wanted a qualified coach to go out on the court with them. It's absolutely free," said Williams. "We want to get kids playing and that's the most important thing."

Williams noted that it's a cheap sport to get into — racquets and eye protection cost $20-25 each — and is a good individual sport that can be played all year.

"It's a great sport for de-stressing exercise," said Williams. "The nice thing with racquetball, compared to other sports, is that it's a 45-minute commitment. You come down, you're on the court for 45 minutes and when you're done, you're tired. It's a matter of being on the court and learning where the ball is going to go and then being there before it gets there."

Landeryou began playing squash as kid in Ontario before moving to Saskatoon when he was nine. There was a racquet club near his house that had two squash courts and six racquetball courts. It didn't take long for him to get hooked on racquetball.

"I started really getting competitive when I was 10 or 11. I made the junior national team for a few years and then my goal became to make the national team and I was able to do that a few years back," said the 30-year-old who is hoping he still has some years left at the highest level of the sport.

"In a lot of other racquet sports your peak is kind of your early-to-mid-20s and once you hit 30 you're almost over the hill in a lot of ways," explained Landeryou. "Our reigning national champion (Mike Green) is 40. He's still a phenomenal player. I think he's lost one match in Canada in the last two or three years. So it gives me hope, anyway, that I can play (internationally) for another five or 10 years."

Canada is the third-strongest country in the racquetball world behind the U.S. and Mexico, though Landeryou notes that the other South and Central American countries are improving.

The Loose Moose is also improving. The event featured a banquet at the Heritage Inn and Williams said the Y and other local businesses were very supportive.

"Everyone seems to enjoy the Loose Moose and they tell their friends and we get a new influx of people every year. We try to make it fun," he said.



Organizations: YMCA, Prince Albert, Heritage Inn

Geographic location: Regina, Saskatoon, Canada Saskatchewan Moose Jaw Santa Cruz Bolivia Jim Park Ontario U.S. Mexico

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