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Victoria's Nicole Bunyan named to Commonwealth Games squash team

Squash carried Nicole Bunyan of Victoria to the B.C. Games, Canada Games, Princeton of the Ivy League and now to the 2022 Commonwealth Games this summer in Birmingham. “This is our Olympics,” said the St.
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SMUS grad Nicole Bunyan finished second at the Canadian Squash Championships this month in Vancouver. SUBMITTED

Squash carried Nicole Bunyan of Victoria to the B.C. Games, Canada Games, Princeton of the Ivy League and now to the 2022 Commonwealth Games this summer in Birmingham.

“This is our Olympics,” said the St. Michaels University School graduate.

Squash is not in the Olympic Games so the Commonwealth Games are the next biggest thing, especially since the Commonwealth includes many of the powerhouse nations in the sport.

“There is a lot of comradery within our sport and that has opened a lot of doors for me,” said Bunyan.

That includes a career as both a touring and teaching pro based in New York. The journey began at the Victoria Squash Club on Cook Street under coaches Stuart Dixon and Mike Johnson.

“Stuart taught me the love of the game and creativity and Mike about discipline and fitness,” said Bunyan, 28.

“I tried it once or twice a week on a casual basis. Then I won my first tournament and thought I can be OK at this. When it came time to choose at age 14 in Victoria, I chose squash over soccer.”

Recruited by several university teams, Bunyan chose Princeton, where she excelled on the court and in the classroom as a biology major with a minor in French: “It was hard to get in and hard once there but it was so fulfilling.”

Bunyan became a touring pro and a squash and fitness/conditioning coach, both live and online. Agile, quick and lethal on the court, Bunyan was second in women’s singles in the Canadian championships held in Vancouver this month at Jack Poole Plaza in front of the 2010 Winter Olympics cauldron.

Joining Bunyan on the Canadian team for the Commonwealth Games is Hollie Naughton of Oakville, Ont., David Baillargeon of Lévis, Que., and Nick Sachvie of St. Catharines, Ont.

The Games events will include women’s men’s singles along with women’s and men’s doubles and mixed doubles.

“It loved the team aspect when I played soccer, and the Games squash format in Birmingham provides a team environment, which is great,” said Bunyan.

Bunyan will be among the nearly 50 Island or Island-based athletes competing on the Canadian teams in various sports in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which run July 28 to Aug. 8.

“The Commonwealth Games are a great opportunity for our athletes to be part of a larger Team Canada in a multi-sport setting, and to play against some of the top ­players in the world who come from Commonwealth nations,” said Dan Wolfenden, Squash ­Canada executive director, in a statement.

“These athletes have had great seasons to earn the right to be there and are pumped to vie for the podium in singles and doubles.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com