Mental and physical agility is the winning combination for University of Johannesburg student and squash star Cheyna Tucker, who won two national titles this month.
Tucker, who is currently studying sports psychology at UJ, participated in the Tswalu South African national doubles championships at the Johannesburg Country Club and became one of just a few women to triumph in two categories.
It is however no surprise that she has become a successful player as she literally grew up on the squash court.
“My mom played squash at provincial level and I spent most of my youth at the courts; watching and learning,” said Tucker.
“I represented Gauteng for the first time when I was nine years old.”
The 22-year-old said that winning the ladies and mixed categories was the result of all the hard work she had put into the sport.
“My ladies partner was Claire Nitch who has won the national champs 10 times. She has coached me in the past and has had a great influence on my career.
“In the mixed, I played with Paul Atkinson. He is a very experienced doubles player and has won the title numerous times.
“We gelled extremely well and made a great partnership.”
She said squash was a physically demanding sport which placed one’s body under tremendous strain.
“You need to have a very strong core and total body strength to prevent injury and meet the demands of the sport. You need speed, endurance and agility.
“Squash is very fast and intense and you need to be able to handle the fast pace for an extended period of time. But skill is the most important part of the game.
“The ability to strike the ball crisply and control the ball to the different targets to put your opponent under pressure is vital.”
The former Dainfern College pupil has a demanding training regime and takes to the court twice a day.
“I run, cycle and do sprints for endurance and speed. I also do on-court fitness drills for endurance and agility, plyometrics as well as strength training.”
She said playing tournaments regularly was important as it made a player tough and taught one how to perform in a competitive environment. Having won the U19 and U23 national titles, she should know.
“I have also received my senior colours and have been selected to represent South Africa at the world team championships.
“I believe that where there is a will there is a way and I have wanted to be a professional player since I was very young.
“My passion for the sport and drive to be the best I can be motivates me to train hard every day and persevere through the difficult times.”
Tucker has reached rankings of number two in South Africa and 65 in the world and has set herself the goal of penetrating the top 35 globally by year-end.
University of Johannesburg sports psychology student Cheyna Tucker, who won two national squash titles this month, is steadily climbing the world rankings.
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