The highlight of Wednesday’s Delaware Investments U.S. Open was the third-annual Women in Sports Day.
The day started with a special practice for more than twenty girls in the SquashSmarts urban youth enrichment program.
At a gala, star-studded reception in the lobby of the Daskalakis Athletic Center, more than two hundreds guests came to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of women in squash and the broader sports world.
Ashley Bernhard, the deputy chair of the PSA, welcomed everyone to the reception. She spoke about the importance of prize-money parity. “The future is going to be bright,” she said. “Parity has proved to sustainable for the tour—every World Series event will have full parity by the end of 2017.”
Kevin Klipstein, the president and CEO of US Squash, acknowledged some of the squash luminaries in the audience.
He brought up AJ Copeland to the podium. Last November Copeland received the 2015 Achievement Bowl. A surgeon in Washington, DC, Copeland has been a member of the National Capitol Squash association for the past decade, a leader of Women’s Squash Week and a co-chair of US Squash’s Women’s Committee. “Squash has given me so much more than I could ever give back,” Copeland said. “The friendships I have in the game mean everything to me.” The Achievement Bowl is US Squash’s oldest award, started in 1955.
Klipstein then introduced the 2016 President’s Cup honoree, Maria Toorpakai Wazir. Toorpakai is now an international figure of great renown. Last week, for instance, she spoke at the Vatican at the first global conference on Sports at the Service of Humanity, met with Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, and received an award from the Italian Squash Federation.
Her memoir, A Different Kind of Daughter, is a massive global bestseller. Girl Unbound, the documentary about her life growing up in Pakistan, premiered last month to much fanfare at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is now on the festival circuit; its next screening is on November 12 at DocNYC.
Toorpakai, currently ranked world No. 70, has now recovered fully from a foot injury and will be returning to the PSA tour next week at the Carol Weymuller Open. She is now based at the Toronto Athletic Club.
“It is a miracle I am here today,” Toorpakai told the rapt audience. “I dedicate this award to all the fathers who are supporting their daughters. His trust and his love has given me courage. This is the time when we are recognizing the power of sports. We can transform our lives, our souls, we can connect to each other. This is the way to peace.”
The President’s Cup is the highest individual award at US Squash. Inaugurated in 1966, the award is given to men and women who have made substantial contributions of the game of squash. Toorpakai is the forty-fifth recipient of the President’s Cup and the second, after Hashim Khan in 1978, to hail from Pakistan.