A new Lower from Cairo, Egypt, Mariam Elkheshen ’21 entered this year as the first seed for Andover Girls Squash, According to Captain Skylar Spaulding ’20, Elkheshen sets a strong example for her teammates.
Spaulding wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Her shots are really powerful and incredibly accurate. She is a great example of a very skilled player who works very hard. I’m so excited to play with her this season and learn from her.”
With the team tied 3-3 against St. George’s, Elkheshen had to win her match to secure Andover’s victory. Down 2-0, Elkheshen came back to win 3-2, clinching the win for Andover. Elkheshen’s strong performance has earned her the title of The Phillipian’s Athlete of the Week.
What was your program like when you first started playing?
At first when I started, I would go to the club early in the morning and I would leave really late, but I would do nothing for the whole day. Then, there was one day when I decided to change my coach. I went to my squash coach right now. She’s been my squash coach for five or six years now and she was the one who really took care of me. She’s like my sister, she’s really young. She helped me improve and she helped me work on my attitude and getting better, even though I was losing. But I knew the time was going to come when I was going to win.
When did you first start playing in tournaments?
I’ve played [in tournaments] since I was nine. I didn’t do that much and I would lose a lot of my matches. The best I could do was win a match, probably maximum two. But then, when I reached the age of 14, I became a really good player. By last year, I reached tenth in Egypt. I lost from quarterfinals, so that was better. During 2016, when I traveled to the Italian and Portuguese Junior Opens, I wanted to do something new, so I told my dad, and he was the one who told me I should go. So I went to the Italian Junior Open and basically the Portuguese Open for fun. I wanted to win, but it was mainly for fun. I trained really hard for it. When I went there, I got third in the Italian Junior Open and third for the Portuguese Junior Open, which was really motivating.
What is your motivation for playing squash?
For me, squash is a way I can de-stress. When I play squash, I just enjoy it that much so I don’t think about anything else that is on my mind, I just play for fun. It’s the time when I just forget about everything and do something I really like. It just helps me enjoy something at school because it is so much work, so playing squash makes it more fun here. It’s basically a way to de-stress for me – and when I’m really mad at someone, I just hit the ball really hard, so that helps.
How do think your game has improved since coming to Andover?
Back home, sometimes I felt really down after losing, but here it just feels so friendly, so even if you lose, it’s fine. No one judged me back home; my dad was like, ‘winning or losing, it doesn’t matter, as long as you do your best,’ but I always wanted to win. I don’t focus that much on winning here. I like to enjoy playing squash right now. I knew what it meant when I first came here. Back home, I used to play squash every day, but now I try to manage my time to play squash. I want to play squash more than I do. Back at home, I would just give up on the game sometimes if I were losing, but here I started to fight more for the game. Even if I’m losing, I try to just run and get every single point because I know I can win. Even if I’m losing, I still can win.