Aitken aiming for third Commonwealth Games!24 September 2021
Heriot-Watt University squash player Lisa Aitken is determined to qualify for her third Commonwealth Games next summer, a competition she describes as the ‘pinnacle’ of the sport.
The globetrotting 31-year-old has dealt with more challenges than usual competing on the world tour this year; Covid testing, vaccinations, hand sanitizing and mask wearing all making international travel more complex than it already was.
But winter lockdown, which interrupted the year long squash circuit, had the silver lining of giving Lisa time to “stop, think, assess, refocus and reset the goalposts and work out how I want to move forwards.”
The good news is that it’s worked - since the tour resumed she has recorded a good number of wins against world top 30 players.
With October’s US Open following swiftly on the back of this month’s Egyptian Opens, Lisa will stay in peak shape for the year’s last competition. In her words it’s a chance to “do some damage and end the year on a high.”
After that it’s head down to work on qualifying for a Team Scotland place at the Birmingham 2022 Games. Squash doesn’t feature in the Olympics, and major events on squash’s tour do not include the discipline of doubles. But the exception is that doubles does feature in the Commonwealth Games.
That gives Lisa the possibility of competing in two doubles events, plus the singles next summer if she can do sufficient to qualify.
“To be able to say that you’ve competed in three Commonwealth Games is something to be really proud of,” says Lisa, who doesn’t just hope to be selected, she wants to win medals.
“To qualify for singles we need to be top 20 in the world, or we need to have beaten three people within the top 20.
“We can qualify in doubles by finishing in the top eight in world doubles. Or myself and my partner can have a combined ranking of 100.
“So every day I’m making sure that I’m doing the right things, competing on the singles tour, trying to get my ranking as high as possible to secure selection.”
Life is an unusual mix for Lisa who combines the professional tour with full time studies - in Brewing and Distilling - at Heriot-Watt University.
“Fortunately for me the University are very flexible and very supportive of both my squash and my studies,” she explains.
“I work closely with the staff here to ensure there are no big deadlines around big events and we manage to space my modules out in a way that alleviates a lot of stress.
Financially, Winning Students makes a massive difference. Squash players don’t get paid much and whilst studying fulltime as well it takes away from having a part time job or being able to compete as much as I would like to.
So Winning Students have allowed me to continue to live my life in a way that I am making ends meet and I also get to the extra events I would miss out as well.”