By Renelle Naidoo
Reigning KwaZulu-Natal squash champion and South African number three, Sjeanne Cawdry, is on her way to the 13th Women's World Team Championships in Odense, Denmark, from October 13 to 19.
Cawdry, along with Claire Nitch, captain and SA number one, Farrah Sterne (Northerns), Siyole Lusaseni (Western Province) and the non-travelling reserve Hendra van der Merwe (Easterns) complete the line-up for the SA team.
Twenty-nine-year-old Cawdry was introduced to squash at the age of eight, in an attempt to "keep her out of trouble" and accompany her parents who were keen squash players.
After taking part in her first inter-provincial tournament at the age of 10, she was hooked and hasn't looked back since.
The Marion Road, Glen Ashley, resident has an abundance of titles and accolades under her belt, and with more than 21 years experience, she plans to retire in 2004.
"Initially squash was just a hobby for me, but after I got my under-19 colours, I took it more seriously."
The former Gauteng resident was based in Europe for two years, where she took on the world's best at various competitions, but study commitments forced her to return to South Africa.
"It was like I was a small fish in the big sea. Overseas competitors are far more experienced, have more exposure and sponsors to develop their talent."
Before her departure from European shores, Cawdry was ranked 30th in the world, and had participated at major tournaments including the British, Swiss and French Open.
Thereafter in 2000, she was selected to represent SA at the World Team championships in Sheffield, England, where they finished sixth.
"I feel pressurised when I'm involved in team competitions, because I know the team is relying on me. But I also feel a great sense of pride and honour knowing that I'm representing my country and that my achievements have been recognised."
After playing professional squash for many years, Cawdry took a break from the competitive world and dedicated her time to studying at Rhodes University, where she graduated with her honours in human movement studies.
Cawdry has slowly begun to break away from the one thing that has dominated her life and has focused her attention on her newly-opened gym, where she is an exercise specialist.
With an intensive training programme that entails "hours of physical labour" from running, cycling, cardiovascular and cross training to drills, gym, and basic exercises, Cawdry proved she was no pushover, when she competed in the men's first league, and was one of only two women to qualify for the men's league.
Looking ahead to Denmark, Cawdry said SA had a good chance of making the top four.
"There will be between 16 to 20 countries at the championships, but we have a strong team and have managed to finish in the top six in the past.
"I think Australia, England and New Zealand will be the ones to look out for."
Confident and jovial, she said: "I'm heading towards the end of my career and I would really like to go on a high note.
"My goals are to do really well in next month's championships and to be included in the KZN team for the inter-provincials next year."
Cawdry added that it was difficult for emerging SA squash players to progress because of a lack of sponsorships.
"Squash is not televised in SA and public interest is minimal, whereas in England and European countries, monies from the national lottery is used to finance squash players and squash has a huge following."