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Delierre aiming for a third national title as national squash playdowns go outdoors

After two decades on the Pro Squash Association tour, Shawn Delierre's career plan took a detour at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shawn Delierre poses in Toronto on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. After two decades on the Pro Squash Association tour, Shawn Delierre’s career plan took a detour at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

After two decades on the Pro Squash Association tour, Shawn Delierre's career plan took a detour at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With the sports world on hold, the Montreal native wanted to help the worsening situation in Quebec's hospitals and long-term care homes. He became a Canadian Red Cross support aide so he could help at various living facilities in the province.

It led to more training and eventually a full-time job as a nurse's assistant. Now that tour play has resumed, Delierre has embraced a double-duty challenge of squash pursuits — at age 40 to boot — and regular overnight shifts. 

"In the daytime I'm an athlete … and then I go in at night and turn into a health-care worker," he said.

The two-time national men's singles champion — who will be the No. 3 seed at this week's Canadian championship in Vancouver — starts his eight-hour shifts late in the evening at a long-term care facility. 

He aims for five or six hours of sleep a day — sometimes getting it in two- or three-hour segments — while maintaining his regular squash training and court time.

"It's beautiful," he said. "It's such a different avenue I never expected myself in."

"The balance of the two is literally keeping me very happy on both ends," Delierre added.

A former world No. 35, Delierre is currently ranked 120th. He holds the No. 8 spot in the Canadian rankings on a top-10 list that includes some players nearly half his age. 

"My body seems to approve of me doing this because it hasn't completely given me hell," he told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

A steady paycheque has also been a nice change from the grind and pressure of earning winnings on tour, said Delierre, who remains one of the fittest athletes in the sport. 

Rather than go for regular kill shots, the five-foot-10 150-pounder often keeps rallies going to try to break down his opponents. Known for his remarkable retrieving abilities, Delierre has appeared in three of the five longest squash matches ever recorded on the PSA Tour. 

Delierre won his first national men's title in 2013 and took the 2015 crown as well. This time around he'll aim to do it outdoors at Jack Poole Plaza as the Canadian playdowns move outdoors for the first time.

Most squash tournaments are held indoors but the PSA does occasionally use an all-glass outdoor court for some events. 

Squash Canada's Jamie Nicholls said Vancouver organizers consulted with the NetSuite Open squash championship organizers, an event that's held outdoors in early fall on the San Francisco waterfront. 

With a stunning B.C. backdrop secure, Nicholls and his team are now hoping the weatherman delivers. Play will go rain or shine but ideal conditions would be a dry 20 C with cloudy skies to minimize potential glare.

"People always say that (one) of the coolest locations you can have outdoors is by the pyramids," Nicholls said of the PSA tour stop near Cairo. "This is our version of that, outside (with) the mountains and the ocean."

Several local squash clubs will serve as companion hosts for other age and level categories. Feature open draw matches, including the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, will be held outdoors along Vancouver Harbour in the evenings.

David Baillargeon of Levis, Que., is the top seed in the men's draw and Hollie Naughton of Mississauga, Ont., is the No. 1 women's seed. Play begins Wednesday morning and the finals are set for Sunday.

The tournament will have an effect on roster selection for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Canada will send two men and two women to the July 28-Aug. 8 event in Birmingham, England. 

The Canadian Squash Hall of Fame's Class of 2022 will be inducted on Saturday. This year's class includes Melanie Jans, Michael Way, Shahier Razik, Michael Desaulniers and Barbara Cooper. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2022. 

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: Fixes typo in second last paragraph ("affect" changed to "effect")