For most of the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team, returning from Glasgow with two medals would hardly be indicative of unfinished business.
But that was the prevailing feeling for Joelle King after claiming squash gold and silver four years ago when, despite carrying the flag at the closing ceremony, she couldn’t help but concentrate on what might have been.
“I was obviously happy, because if anyone had told me before I went to Delhi that that was what was going to happen, I would’ve laughed,” King said. “But when you get so close … two golds obviously sounds better than a gold and a silver.
“When you get so close, it’s kind of disappointing. But I think we’ve done everything we can to be as well prepared as we can, and we just want to get on with it and play.”
The ‘we’ she’s referring to is Martin Knight, King’s partner in winning silver in the mixed doubles in Delhi and again her offsider in Glasgow this month.
King and Knight lived together while based in Montreal and, after an entire Commonwealth Games cycle together, are confident familiarity will breed greater success.
“We did a lot better than we were seeded to do [in Delhi] but we have unfinished business,” King said. “Losing in that final was really heartbreaking for us. We had confidence going into that final that we were going to take home the gold.”
Less than half an hour before taking the court with Knight, King won gold with Jaclyn Hawkes in the women’s doubles, confounding predictions after the pair came together late in the campaign.
The experience of forging a partnership in limited time will hold King in good stead in Glasgow, turning to 23-year-old Amanda Landers-Murphy after Hawkes retired from squash last year.
“Amanda’s a little bit younger than me, so I hadn’t spent all that much time with her,” the 25-year-old King said. “But this year we have built a really solid relationship. She’s been coming over [to Cambridge] to train with me. We’re really excited to get there and play together.”
King is ranked third in the Commonwealth, behind Malaysia’s Nicol David and England’s Laura Massaro, and the Kiwi suggested the difference between the trio was more mental than physical.
For that reason, King sees sessions with a sports psychologist as equally valuable to time on the training court, attempting to find any edge ahead of this month’s competition.
“I think that’s going to be huge,” she said of the mental aspect of the game. “Most top-end sport, it’s that little two per cent mental edge that can get you over the line.
“One of the big things, with something as huge as the Commonwealth Games, is just trying to treat it like any other tournament and not let yourself get too overwhelmed with the whole situation. That’s obviously a lot easier said than done, but is something I’ve been working really hard on.” APNZ