Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
SQUASH is considered a minority sport attracting little interest from sport fans and youngsters rarely take it up.
The sport has failed to attract much activity at local schools with several squash courts at Bulawayo schools suffering neglect.
However, one youngster is determined to conquer the sport and has been making huge strides overcoming players in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Eleven-year-old Ryan Gwidzima started playing squash three years ago and he took to the sport like fish takes to water quickly establishing himself and one of the country’s top emerging talents.
Gwidzima took up the sport to emulate his father, Langton who is a squash player.
His exploits in the court has seen him being the only junior player from Bulawayo winning tournaments and making it into the national team.
Ryan’s latest exploits were in the Zimbabwe Junior Open where he won the Under-13 title beating 15 other contenders some of whom are older than him.
“I used to watch my father play and got interested in the sport. I have fallen in love with it, that is why I am focusing on the sport.
“Unfortunately there are no players of my age locally and this is affecting me as I don’t play frequently against competition as I would love to,” he said.
The Khumalo Primary School pupil has already set his sights on being a world champion but he knows he has to be number one in Africa first before taking on the world.
He has been to South Africa on three previous occasions where he managed to come out in the top three playing against that country’s provincial champions.
The young Gwidzima has been taking part in South Africa’s annual junior inter-provincial tournaments since he started playing squash in 2014.
This year he is also lined up to take part in the IPT tourney scheduled for Pietermaritzburg in the neighbouring country in July.
Ryan had also been scheduled for a trip to Germany this month with 14 other players but it fell through due to funding constraints.
The Grade Six pupil started playing with the squash ball at five years of age as he followed his father around the squash court and started handling the racquet three years later.
Langton, who doubles up as his coach, got employed as the grounds man at the Suburbs Squash Club in 1995 and 10 years later decided to take up the sport.
“I had been exposed to the sport for years but did not think it was meant for me but later I decided to try it and since then I have played in several local and SA tournaments. I won three times in a row with three different partners in SA Masters doubles.
“I started playing at 28 and I have enjoyed the sport so far,” he said.
The older Gwidzima said they have faced funding challenges in travelling to tournaments particularly in South Africa and they have had to rely on well wishers.
Those impressed with Ryan’s prowess in the court have chipped in to ensure he continues his career.
“As a parent we have to fund everything when a child is going to play and for SA tournaments is usually costs about $1 200, so it is difficult raising that money but knowing the importance of playing in those events for Ryan’s career makes me scrounge around with a sponsorship form for the boy,” he said.