Bates’ Weisskopf a medal-winner at Pan Ams in El Salvador
Ricky Weisskopf ’08
LEWISTON, Maine — Five days later, Ricky Weisskopf still hadn’t quite recovered.
In the days leading up to his rather abrupt trip to the Pan Am Federation Cup squash tournament in El Salvador at the end of October, he combined trying to get ahead on classwork with getting ready for the long trip home and playing elite international competition.
And when he arrived back at Bates College from an all-night bus trip from New York City at 9 a.m. last Tuesday morning, he was confronted by papers to write and the sleep deprivation he had yet to atone for.
But at the center of the trip itself reside memories Weisskopf, a Bates sophomore and an All-American squash player, will never forget. Memories like competing for a gold medal while representing his country, El Salvador, with the backing of a raucous throng of supporters, many of them family and friends.
Before returning to autumnal Maine from his hometown of San Salvador, the Bates sophomore had indulged in his mother’s cooking, slept in his own bed, played hours of squash against some of the best players in the Western Hemisphere, and oh yeah — he had left behind a silver medal to augment his trophy collection at home.
For Weisskopf, who has played for his national team since age 16, in places all over the Americas, the homey, loud setting of the games was the novelty that made them special. Squash is at least as obscure in El Salvador as it is in the States. Weisskopf estimates that only 200 people even play in his country. So it was a thrill to be a part of international competition at a club where he himself is a member.
“It’s soooo much fun playing in front of that kind of a crowd,” he said. “I mean, you win a point and they just cheer you and they scream. It’s unbelievable. It’s so much fun, every single match. And the doubles court, the area between the bleachers and the court is like nothing. The people are right there. It was great.”
Playing in the No. 2 spot on his four-man team, Weisskopf made it to the round of 16 in singles, before losing to the United States’ Chris Gordon, a 20-year-old who plays professionally, 9-4, 9-5, 9-4. But Weisskopf’s second-round victory over Costa Rica’s Andres Echeverria, which came by a convincing score of 9-4, 9-2, 9-0, ensured a seeding and first-round bye in next year’s Pan Am Fed Cup, which will be a qualifying event for the higher-profile Pan Am Games held every fourth summer.
Weisskopf loves his sport so much that he says he would probably get grumpy if a day passed with no squash. So he relishes every opportunity to play against the world’s better players.
“It’s hard to get to that level, because you have to play with them constantly,” he said. “At the end of last season (at Bates), I was playing really well, just because I got to play all the No. 1′s from all the schools. The pace of the game is what separates the good players from the best players.”
El Salvador didn’t fare quite as well in the team competition at the Pan Am Fed Cup as Weisskopf would have liked, finishing ninth out of 12 teams. But Weisskopf attributes that in part to a tough draw for the hosts, who had to face both the U.S. and Colombia, two of the six dominant teams in the Americas, along with Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
In doubles, a seldom-played (and never trained for) competition in the sport, Weisskopf was paired with El Salvador’s other top player, Nelson Coronado. The two found a groove together, despite never having paired up before, and were able to advance past teams from Chile, Guatemala and Brazil before facing Colombia in the gold medal match. Weisskopf and Coronado had the Colombians at match point before falling 11-9.
The close loss did nothing to dampen his love of the game. Still operating on precious little sleep, the economics major joined friends last weekend on a trip to watch squash’s U.S. Open in Boston. And, although he was slumped in a chair when he said it, he can’t wait for the Bates Bobcats to return to action.
“Right now, I’m so excited,” he said. “I can’t wait for the season to start.”