Shawn Delierre, Canadian squash champion, turns back clock
Montreal native brimming with energy on the court
Shawn Delierre is brimming with energy on the squash court, often skipping to the service box and bouncing on the balls of his feet before starting a fresh point.
The grind of 15 years on the Pro Squash Association world tour hasn't dulled his rhythm. Delierre is showing no signs of slowing down even though he just turned 33 — an age when many of his peers start thinking about retirement.
In fact, Delierre — who's set to anchor the Canadian men's squash team at next month's Toronto Pan Am Games — can't wait to see what the sport has in store for him over the coming years.
"That's the fun of getting older in a sport I think: you mature, you're smarter, you're wiser, you choose the better shots," he said. "You know when you're hacking that you're not being true to yourself."
Delierre has relied on an electric brand of high-energy squash throughout his career. His impressive court range wows fans and frustrates opponents who can't seem to put him away.
The Montreal native's tight length and stellar retrieving skills make him tough to play against. Delierre is also not afraid to show his emotion on the court.
Put it all together and you've got a charismatic, combustible dynamo who still has the game to hang with the sport's elite.
"I used to yell more and I used to throw my racket around more than I would nowadays," Delierre said in a recent interview. "I'm way better about holding my own and my temper and some days I'm not. Let's be honest, some days I'll lose it because I need to and that feels good too.
"Just a lot less and probably in a nicer manner."
Delierre also uses his fitness to grind opponents down. The reigning national champion has been involved in three of the four longest pro matches in men's singles history, according to Squash Canada.
The Canadian set the record at a PSA event in Medicine Hat, Alta., last January when he dropped a 3-2 semifinal decision to Leo Au of Hong Kong in a whopping 170 minutes. That was four minutes longer than the old mark set in 1983 by squash legends Jahangir Khan and Gamal Awad.
Delierre won singles bronze and team silver at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio and repeated those results four years later in Guadalajara, Mexico. He said he has learned a lot since his last Pan Am appearance.
"I used to hold my breath a lot more when I played," he said. "I used to expect more from myself. I used to hold the racket tighter probably. And these were probably not the best ways to play squash."
Delierre, currently No. 53 in the world rankings, moves his five-foot-10 150-pound frame around the court with a breezy flow. He also uses creative deception and holds to wrong-foot opponents.
He has also worked on his mental game. One of his biggest adjustments in recent years has been the ability to learn how to deal with losses.
"It was harder when I was younger but as an older person now, it's all right," Delierre said. "It's OK to lose. And that releases so much in itself — accepting that. And you're like, 'OK, I'll play much more relaxed and looser.' It's changed me — age and acceptance."
One of his tougher losses came at the 2011 Games when he dropped a 3-1 decision to Mexico's Cesar Salazar in the team final at a packed CODE Squash Complex.
"The crowd was disgusting," Delierre said. "The crowd was cheering bad things ... and just being non-ethical with the players a little bit. Just being like a gladiator-style, like 'Kill him, kill him,' in some ways."
It will be a much different atmosphere when the squash competition begins July 11 at the Exhibition Centre.
Local squash fans know their stuff in the Ontario capital, which has hosted several top-flight pro events in the past. The women's world team championships were held just down the highway last fall in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
"I'm going to say that having the crowd advantage will be a [big factor]," Delierre said. "That'll be some energy field to tap into. But you have to stay calm with that too and not get too inflated on it."