Mary Fung-A-Fat basking in thrill of Pan Am debut

By Royston Alkins

As Guyana gears up for the upcoming 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, squash spearhead Mary Fung-A-Fat is excited at the prospect of competing against other world-class athletes at the games. 

Fung-A-Fat along with Taylor Fernandes and Ashley Khalil will form the core of Guyana’s squash contingent that will compete at the Pan Am level for the first time in the nation’s history. The games will be held from July 26 to August 11 in the Peruvian capital.

“I’ve competed in several Pan Am qualifying tournaments before but this is the first time our women’s team have qualified for the actual Pam Am Games.

“Being part of the games alone will be an amazing experience as I’ll be competing against some of the top 50 women in the squash world and will get to see other world-class athletes from the other disciplines.

“I know I’ll walk away from this with a wealth of experience and motivation,” Fung-A-Fat disclosed to Stabroek Sport recently.

The 25-year-old captain of the squash unit said the rivalry with her two compatriots throughout the years has left a lasting impression on their relationship – one which has reached the point of sisterhood.

“I’ve grown up with Ashley and Taylor throughout juniors and they’ve become family to me. Though we’ve been rivals throughout the years on court, there’s something to be said about the bond that we’ve developed off court – a sisterhood for life.”

Fung-A-Fat, who is currently shaping a career as a pro squash player, did not compete in the recently held senior squash national championships, choosing instead to prepare for the games with a stint in Europe. 

She acted on the advice of her coach and former world number one player John White, who suggested that she needed to further shape her craft in a different environment.

“It was a huge sacrifice to forego competing in Guyana for Nationals, but I had a golden opportunity to train in England that I couldn’t pass up.

“John suggested that a little change of scene and training base would only aid in my summer training and tournament prep, so he arranged the training trip to the UK,” she explained, revealing that she spent a month in England under the tutelage of Malcolm Willstrop – one of England’s most renowned squash coaches.

When asked about the progress of her fledging pro career, Fung-A-Fat, who is one of the humbler and more well-liked characters in Guyana’s sporting landscape, disclosed that her two-year adventure has seen her improve her world rankings.

“I recently concluded my second year on the professional squash tour. By participating in the smaller tournaments around Canada, the US and the Caribbean, I’ve accumulated points that have increased my world ranking to its highest yet, at 107. I’m looking forward to keeping this momentum going for next season, with my next set of tournaments starting in September.”

The Guyanese departed Guyana last evening to compete in the singles, doubles and teams’ events in the Peruvian capital. (Stabroek News)