Briton, 81, gives fourth world title his best shot

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 3:55am

When Briton John Cox had a hip operation, he thought he would have to give up his favourite sport. But he's still going strong - and at 81 is the oldest player at the World Masters Squash Championships, which finish in Hong Kong today.

He and three fellow octogenarians have set an example for players more than 40 years their junior. "I had an operation on my hip and I came to [realise that] I'd have to retire from squash," Cox, from Hereford in England, said. "I joined the world masters this time only because I felt fit again this year. So this is a bonus."

Cox is a three-time world masters champion and will win the title again if he triumphs in today's last round-robin match in the men's over-80 category, against New Zealander Trevor Coulter at the Hong Kong Football Club. He is hoping organisers will introduce a new over-85 category in the years to come to prolong his squash career - and world travels.

"I hadn't played until three weeks ago as I also damaged my shoulder recently. I still can't hit the ball very hard so I have to play short, tricky shots rather than using too much strength in the shoulder," Cox said after beating New Zealander Edward Delahunty 11-9, 11-8, 11-8. He also beat Finn Erkki Juslen 3-0 on Saturday - day one of the tournament.

Cox, who served in the Royal Navy and was a doctor, played tennis at inter-county and university level before picking up a squash racquet.

"I started to play at the age of 32. After a year I became a top 10 player in England, but I was too old to go further," he said. "My wife June comes with me everywhere … We use this as a way of travelling around the world," said Cox, who also holds a pilot's licence and flies planes as a hobby.

He is already thinking about joining the next two editions of the biennial tournament.

"I have pencilled down the next world masters in Johannesburg in my diary. I hope the organisers can consider setting up an 85 or over category," he said.

Hosted by Hong Kong Squash, the event has brought more than 780 players from nearly 50 countries to the city this week. Hong Kong has one of the world's biggest squash leagues, with over 1,200 players registered in the 2013-14 season, in 247 teams across 25 divisions.