The late addition of a women’s competition to the Samoa Squash Open resulted in a disparity in prize winnings, organiser Masoe Norman Wetzell said.
The squash open prizes were revealed at a prize giving ceremony at Taumeasina Resort on Saturday night at the end of a busy three-day open, the first in nearly 20 years.
Initially, the association offered prizemoney to male squash players, because they were preparing for a men’s squash open.
Masoe said the money had already been fundraised and committed when women asked to be included.
“When we first did the open, it was just going to be for the men’s open but then we had the ladies join in,” he said.
“Because we had a world ranked, in the top 70 and two A graded players ranked in New Zealand coming, the focus was on the men’s open.”
Masoe said in professional sport, it is important to offer incentives for top level athletes to attend tournaments.
He said financial constraints meant once women were accepted into the tournament, funding couldn’t be acquired to balance the prizes fully.
Local business sponsors contributed towards a cash prize for the late addition of the women’s competition in the form of $1,000 tala for the winner of the women’s singles, which went to Nadine Cull.
Winner of the men’s singles, Joshua Larkin from New Zealand won $5,000 tala. The runner up and third place winners won $2,500 and $500 tala, respectively.
Runner up and third place winners for the women’s singles were not given a cash prize.
To look at eventually being able to balance the prize winnings between genders, the squash association would have to explore whether it could afford to attract players of a high competing level from both genders, Masoe said.
He added the tournament has been a learning curve for the association, and that they have been wading in new waters.
“We are learning from this, and hopefully we can correct anything that maybe seen as unbalanced.”
As a squash player for over 30 years, Masoe is passionate about raising the profile of squash in Samoa, and hopes to continue attracting international players to compete against locals in an annual open.
All the winners were presented with beautiful trophies made by Beau Rasmussen, a craftsman and carver from Samoa.
Nadine said she understands how challenging getting sponsorship can be from her experiences on tournament organising committees.
But she said there should have been prizemoney for the second and third place winners on the women’s side as there was with the men’s.
“I think because of the caliber of the men’s draw, having internationally ranked players, it is I suppose relative, but it is a major difference and it could have been a little evener,” Nadine said.
The runner up and third place winners, Clare Mariner and Tina Steedman said the prizemoney difference was disconcerting.
However, Tina said for a relatively small tournament, it is positive they are able to offer prizemoney at all and commended the tournament organisers on it.
“It is hard work for them to find sponsorship so it’s really cool for them to have prizemoney,” she said.
Clare said: “I don’t think it’s a new issue, it’s something that has been around a lot of sporting events.”
She said even if prizemoney was allocated according to the level of players on the men’s side, “an open is still an open. I think there should be some equality here for men and women.”
Clare said she was surprised at the amount of international players, which made the tournament really fun.
Men’s single’s winner Josh Larkin said it was difficult to comment on the prizes.
“For me personally, I am obviously happy about the prizemoney but I am happier about being here and being involved in the tournament itself.
“I think the committee and Samoa Squash could definitely take that into consideration and maybe next year hopefully it can change a little bit.”