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“Even though I’m not a born Barbadian, everything about me is Barbadian.”
Rarely can anyone talk about squash in Barbados and the name Karen Meakins not come up–the two go in the same sentence. And had it not been for a coaching opportunity some 16 years ago, Karen probably would not be the Barbados squash champion, a title she has held for the past 15 years.
Originally from England, Karen, who started playing squash when she was 9, said she had been visiting Barbados from 13 years old since her best friend was from here. However, it was in 2000 that she received an opportunity to teach squash on the island, and now calls Barbados home. “Squash is the reason I’m in Barbados. I came here 16 years ago to teach for six months and now it’s my home; I’ve never left,” she said, “I love Barbados. I met my lifelong friends through squash here.”
Karen said initially she wasn’t good at squash, but she stuck with it because it was an enjoyable sport. She now boasts of numerous squash titles, including being the first Barbadian Caribbean Champion.
“I’ve been Caribbean Champion three times. I’m also captain of the Women’s team, I won a silver medal at the 2010 World Masters, a silver in Individuals at the Central American Caribbean Games the same year, and bronze in the Women’s team twice,” she said.
She noted that she was now focused on World Masters, at which she recently placed fifth, and developing the younger squash athletes, adding that being able to pass on some of her knowledge was rewarding for her. “I’ve always coached. I did my first coaching exam when I was 16,” she noted, “We have a great crop of juniors coming through; we medaled at the last three Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC).
“The youngsters are starting to beat me. It was tough getting beaten by Meghan at CAC, but it lets me know that the young people are coming through.”
Karen said she wanted to see a squash programme in the schools but because the island had no public squash courts, it may be a difficult task. She added that sports were just as important as academics, and equal attention should be paid to both. “Sports play a massive role in young people’s lives. It teaches you goal-setting and how to focus. All the juniors I coach are really good academically; they have that will to do well,” she explained.
Karen said she hoped to see squash at the Olympics since similar sports were on the cards. “It’s ridiculous that we’re not in the Olympics,” she lamented, “You’ve got other racket sports but no squash.”
Admitting that squash dominated most of her time, Karen said she couldn’t see herself playing any other sport. “It’s everything to me; I’ve loved if forever. It’s taught me about what you can do if you put your mind to something,” she said.
Describing herself as a very competitive person, she said she would continue to play squash as long as her body permitted.
She said she was excited about playing in the Barbados Olympic Association’s 50th Anniversary Games. “It’s a great venture; sports is a huge thing in Barbados. It’s also a good opportunity for the athletes to attend the different sports,” Karen said, “and even better that it’s being highlighted to coincide with Barbados’ 50th.
“Everyone who knows me, know that I love Barbados; I even have a tattoo of the broken trident,” she pointed out.