Kiwi squash stars relish home comforts with brief return to NZ

Source: 1News

It's been quite the homecoming for Aotearoa's top squash players, who are seeing their families for the first time in nearly four years.

Paul Coll and Joelle King were only able to make a flying visit though, with their focus now turning once again to competing as they head to Tauranga for this weekend’s national championships.

Still, the short amount of time with family was more than enough for Coll.

"It was emotional, very emotional to be honest," Coll told 1News.

"Even just landing at Auckland Airport and seeing the people, the culture again is so, so nice - I haven’t stopped smiling the whole time."

Coll’s parents flew up from Greymouth just to greet him and admit the wait at the arrivals gate was torture.

"I’m getting emotional just remembering it,' his mum Julie said.

Coll said he feels the same.

"We went out for a nice meal, had a few wines last night, had to drag mum out of the pub - she didn’t want to leave."

King had a similar experience with her own whānau.

"I arrived 5am yesterday morning, straight in the car down to Cambridge to surprise my gran," she said.

'She cried, it was just lovely… I’m so happy to be home.'

King said that happiness reflected what has been a difficult few years.

"It was really tough through lockdown," King recalled.

"We were in these bubbles where we were in our room for like 23 hours a day on our own, not able to see other people and that was really tough and I think it’s only natural a lot of the older athletes started to question what am I doing this for?"

But she found an answer in the Commonwealth Games and is now striding towards it, starting this weekend in Tauranga.

The pair joked they’re looking forward to a home crowd.

"We’ve played in Egypt the last three months and I’ve just had 300 people chanting my opponents name," Coll said.

"I’m just sick of it, honestly."