A bit more than two months before the start of the Men's World Team Championship, we look back into the history of the event - which will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this year - with a few facts and figures.
By Jérôme Elhaïk
25: The 2017 MWTC will be the twenty-fifth in its history. The previous one due to be held in 2015 in Egypt was cancelled because of concerns regarding security in Cairo from several teams. So far, 9 events have been held in Europe (3 in England, 1 in France, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Finland), 5 in Oceania (3 in Australia and 2 in New Zealand), 5 in Asia (2 in Pakistan, 1 in Malaysia, Singapore and India), 4 in Africa (3 in Egypt and 1 in South Africa) and 1 in North America (Canada). The next championship will take place in the United States for the first time. It will be in Washington in 2019.
Australia dominated the early years of the MWTC (Photo credit: www.squash.org.au)
8: As for the women's, Australia lead the gold medal rankings (9). The Aussies are also at the top of the overall medal count (18), if Great Britain and its countries are taken into account separately (21 in total, including 7 titles). Pakistan were the squash powerhouse from the end of the 70s until the beginning of the 90s, and they clinched 6 gold medals during that time. The fifth country who has won the MWTC is Egypt (3 times). As for France, they have secured 5 medals since 2003. Will Les Bleus get their hands on first world team time on home soil?
5: The home country has been crowned 5 times so far: Australia (1967 and 2001), Great Britain (1976), Pakistan (1993) and Egypt (1999).
4: The number of consecutive titles for Australia between 1967 (first championship) and 1973, as well as Pakistan from 1981 to 1987 (who even featured in 8 finals in a row in the 1976-1989 period). These golden eras are strongly related to two legends of the game: Australia's Geoff Hunt (4 times world champion and 8 times British Open winner) and the man who took his place at the top of the squash world: Jahangir Khan reigned mercilessly on the sport in the 80s, winning 6 world titles and 10 British Opens!
Jahangir Khan (on the left) and Geoff Hunt are among the greatest squash players of all times (Photo credit: www.squashpics.com)
5: Nobody has won more gold medals than the Pakistani, who won 5 of the 6 MWTC he took part in. Jahangir Khan's only loss in the event occurred in 1989 against Australian Chris Dittmar. Two players have four gold medals in their cabinet: Khan's compatriot Maqsood Ahmed and Cam Nancarrow (Australia).
24: The number of teams who will be part of the competition in Marseille. The record entry was 32 nations in Paderborn in 2011. Eleven teams who attended in 2013 will miss this year’s event (Mexico, Netherlands, Kuwait, Colombia, Japan, Botswana, Kenya, Poland, Russia, Venezuela, and Namibia), while two countries make their return (Spain and Wales) and two others their debut (Iraq and Jamaica).
Jamaica's Chris Binnie and Lewis Walters will represent their country for the first time at the MWTC (Photo credit: Twitter Lewis Walters)
57: The number of countries which have taken part to the event to date.
6: Among them, 3 did not miss any of the 24 MWTCs : New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. We can add England, Scotland and Ireland who were represented by Great Britain until 1979 and always have been attending since.
England (here, the 1997 World champions) have won five of the last ten MWTCs (Photo credit: www.gettyimages/John Marsh)
24: The number of times where a British team was featuring in the last four in 24 championships (Great Britain or England, but let's not forget that Wales and Scotland each made one semi-final)! Nick Matthew – who will appear in the MWTC for the last time - and his England teammates are expected to reach that stage once again. Australia is not far behind with 22 appearances (they finished 5th in 1977 and 2005).
18: Only four countries have shared the silverware in the last 18 years (7 tournaments): Egypt, England, Australia and France. Last time another nation stepped on the podium was 1999, when Wales produced one of the biggest upsets in the event's history beating England in the semi-finals.
The Egyptian team were victorious in 2011 in Germany (Photo credit: www.squashsite.co.uk)
11: Only 11 countries have shared the 72 medals awarded since the launch of the MWTC. They will all be featuring in November in France. Can a newcomer create a huge upset and put its name on the prize list? Hong Kong - who have never had such a strong team with three players in the world top 35 – comes into mind.
138: The duration (in minutes) of the longest match in MWTC's history. Four years ago, the England v France semi-final delivered a marathon match, in which Nick Matthew beat his old rival Grégory Gaultier after five incredibly hard-fought games (5-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 12-10).
Nick Matthew and Grégory Gaultier had played a gigantic battle four years ago (Photo credit: www.squashsite.co.uk)
9: Frenchman Grégory Gaultier and Finn Olli Tuominen will participate in their ninth World Team Championship (biggest number among active players).
11: They will close the gap with Derek Ryan who has appeared 11 times in the event, one more than Frenchman Thierry Lincou. Between his debut in 1989 and his latter (and final?) appearance in 2013, the Irishman only missed two MWTCs: his country was not featuring in 1997, and in 2005 he was taking his physio exams. Ryan was appointed as Lead Physiotherapist & Medical Coordinatoris by the Professional Squash Association at the beginning of 2017.
Derek Ryan had celebrated his 200th cap for Ireland in 2011 (Photo credit: www.squashplayer.co.uk)
43: Derek Ryan was 43 years old in 2013 and is therefore the oldest player to have featured in the MWTC.
14: The youngest one was Theo Pelonomi (14 years old) from Botswana and it was also in 2013 in Mulhouse.
3: Among the players in activity, Englishmen Nick Matthew and James Willstrop lead the gold medal count (3), followed by Ramy Ashour (2 in 3 participations).
Despite Ramy Ashour's win over Nick Matthew, Egypt had lost to England in the final four years ago (Photo credit: www.squashsite.co.uk)
14: The number of matches won by the mercurial Egyptian in the event, in 14 matches (he missed the one in 2007 due to injury). Will he have the opportunity to extend this unbeaten streak in Marseille?
8: The number of Egyptian players currently featuring in the world top 15! Competition is very fierce but it's hard to imagine Ashour not being picked if he's fully fit.