Laura Massaro’s quest for a Commonwealth Games gold medal begins today.
Chorley’s world ranked No.2 squash star has received a bye straight into the second round of the singles competition and starts her campaign against Papua New Guinea’s Lynette Vai.
Massaro is one of the big favourites to win the individual event in Glasgow after becoming world champion for the first time earlier this year.
She will, though, have to contend with arch-rival and reigning Commonwealth champion Nicol David, who will be competing for Malaysia.
Massaro is due on court late this afternoon and should she emerge victorious, her last-16 match is tomorrow.
Indeed, the former British Open champion faces the prospect of five games in as many days as the quarter-finals and semi-finals take place over the weekend, with the medal match scheduled for Monday.
Should she realise her goal and win gold, there will be no time for Massaro to celebrate as she will then turn her attentions to the doubles event.
Having won a silver medal four years ago in Delhi – partnering Jenny Duncalf – Massaro will be hoping to go one better this time.
Despite the possible heavy workload, Massaro is relishing the prospect of winning a gold medal.
The sport of squash is not an Olympic event, so the Commonwealth Games is the nearest Massaro gets to competing at a major event.
“It’s our one chance to be involved in a multi-sports event,” she said. “The fact you go into a village, drawing inspiration from athletes in other sports, seeing how they prepare, is a real plus. Make no mistake, this is huge for us.”
While Massaro plays today, two other locally-based athletes will be putting the finishing touches to Commonwealth Games preparations.
Boxer Scott Fitzgerald and swimmer Stephanie Slater are both in action tomorrow.
Former National ABA champion Fitzgerald – a member of Larches and Savick Amateur Boxing Club – is competing in the 69kg weight banding and will be in the ring tomorrow afternoon.
The 22-year-old is expected to be roared on by a number of his supporters, who are travelling to Glasgow by rail and road.
Should Fitzgerald win his first bout, he then faces the prospect of four fights in six days to be crowned Commonwealth champion.
Slater has a busy day ahead of her tomorrow as she goes gunning for glory in the S8 100m freestyle at Tollcross Swimming Centre.
The heats take place at lunchtime with the final scheduled for 8-36pm tomorrow evening.
Helen Clitheroe will have to wait until Saturday week before she takes part in the 5,000m final.
The former European Indoor 3,000m champion, who is a member of Preston Harriers, will be aiming to win gold at the grand old age of 40.