Jonny Barnett is right at home on the squash court.
Jonny, 17, a year 13 student at Hutt Valley High School has been chosen for the New Zealand junior men’s team to play in the world championships in Qatar in late June.
He’s been playing the game for 10 years after being introduced by his parents who are avid players. “I’ve been playing so long I became good at it. It’s fun and fast and you have to think on your feet. It takes skill, fitness and speed.”
Jonny learned the game at Lower Hutt’s Mitchell Park Squash Club, which he says is the biggest club in Wellington. Jonny is a familiar sight on the club, training on average five or six times a week.
All that hard work on the court - and in the gym at Les Mills in Lower Hutt - has paid dividends for Jonny. Two years he made the New Zealand junior squad.
In April he won both the New Zealand junior championship and the Wellington junior title. His win at the nationals was extra special as his twin sister Rebecca won the junior women’s championship, successfully defending the title she won in 2011. Having twins winning national championships in the same year is a unique achievement in New Zealand squash.
Shortly afterward Jonny was named in the four-member New Zealand team for the junior world championships, joining Zac Millar from Kapiti, Todd Redman from Hawke’s Bay and Ben Grindrod from Tauranga. Jonny has been preparing for the junior worlds by playing interclub squash in Wellington and going to Auckland for training with fellow team members.
“It’ll definitely be the best competition I’ve ever had,” says Jonny.
Last Friday Jonny jetted out to Malaysia to compete in two warm–up tournaments. Malaysia is a powerhouse in the squash world – being the home of Nicole David the world’s top-ranked women’s player - and Jonny is expecting some tough matches there.
In all Jonny expects to be away from school for a month. But he’s not worried about his studies. “I’ll be able to catch up.”
Squash Wellington’s development manager Willie Bicknell says Jonny will be up against it in Qatar but he has a lot going for him. “He’s a determined fellow. He’s fit and quick and works hard on his game.”