Canadian Women’s Icon Cornett Announces Retirement

2020-04-22

Ottawa, ON (April 22, 2020) -- Samantha Cornett, a national icon and seasoned international competitor, has announced her decision to retire from professional squash.

Cornett began playing squash at age nine, feeling inspired to take up sports after witnessing Manon Rhéaume become the first woman to play in the NHL. Sam became a competitive junior player, during which time she earned the title of national champion and member of the Canadian World Junior Team. In 2007, she made the jump to the PSA World Tour, where she saw much success. Sam achieved a career-high world ranking of 23rd in February 2018 and racked up 13 PSA titles over the years.

Cornett is a four-time Canadian Women’s Open Champion (2013, 2014, 2015, 2019) and represented Canada at many prestigious international events, including several Pan Am Games, Commonwealth Games, and WSF World Championships. Cornett is widely recognized as being an amazing role model for young squash players and in 2012, Sam received the Women’s Squash Association Sportsmanship Award. Outside of squash, Sam has become an ambassador for Fast and Female, a charity that promotes girls staying in sports and remaining active.

We caught up with Sam to discuss her squash career and her plans moving forward.

Q) At what point in your junior career did you know or decide to go Pro (compete on the PSA Tour)?  Did you idolize anyone as a Junior that contributed to you going Pro? 

When I was a kid, I loved squash, and we hosted WISPA and PSA players at our home for the tournament that my coach ran. Alison Waters, Sarah Campion, Sharon Wee, Chris Truswell, Robbie Temple, and many more! It was very, very cool. I loved watching them play and then jumping on court in the local tournament and trying to play like them. My coach Heather was one of the top players in the world during her career, and she produced many good Canadian players. It all sort of came together as the only direction I wanted to go. I can't remember one specific moment. But I do remember that my mom helped me go to some WISPA events when I was a teenager, and I absolutely loved the competition and intensity, and I was hooked around 15 years old. 

Q) What is your greatest achievement in Canadian squash and why?

My favourite Canadian result was winning my fourth national title in 2019, after a bit of a battle with myself and circumstances to get my level up. It was a brutal final with Hollie last year and I'm really proud of myself for fighting through it. 

Q) Can you tell us about how you got involved with Fast and Female – what role you may play with them now that you are retired?

Fast and Female is an organization promoting active lifestyles for girls. It lights up my heart to think about the work they do. I really believe role models are a huge part of any kid's growth, and Fast and Female's goal is to match girls from all walks of life up with cool women through Champ Chats. Spider Jones first showed me their website. I was injured at the time, and happy to get involved, although a bit nervous to run a squash session at an unfamiliar "Champ Chat". I'm so glad I did. I hope I can continue to help promote the organization, be involved by volunteering with them, and continue to be a role model as I move from being a professional athlete to being an active person! 

Q) Do you still have aspirations of competing at the Canadian Squash Championships in the future?

Absolutely! I love playing.

Q) Can you talk to us about the state of women’s squash in Canada with our players now rising up the ranks around the World?

Keep a close eye on our top players, and let's support them. They are working their behinds off right now, getting excellent results, and I look forward to watching their breakthrough wins!! The wins were starting to roll in before this quarantine, and I am rooting for them to continue their momentum when squash resumes. 

Q) Are there any coaches, mentors, etc. that you wish to thank?

I can't tell you how many people I have to thank. Can I go beyond coaches and mentors? There are the people who have helped me every step of the way, and there are people who just popped in, gave me amazing advice, and moved on. All of this came together to make me and shape my career, and I'm so grateful! I'd like to thank my mom, dad, sister, grandparents, and partner for their love and support, win or lose! And Vihar Joshi, Heather Wallace, Vinnie Taylor, Melissa Reyes, and the whole Ottawa squash crowd for playing with me since I was small. Jessica DiMauro, Squash Ontario, and the coaches involved in Squash Ontario training - Scott, Lawrence, Robin, Jamie. Carlo Celotti and Mike Savage for their training. Jorhdin Banner and Dave Cooper for their sports psychology and the amazing experiences I had with them learning about myself. Gary Slaight, Jeff Warren, and Seanna Keating and Harrow for their generous sponsorship, and Black Knight for the many years before Harrow. The spa crew at Bayview Chiropractic for helping Nikki and I week in and week out. Nikki, Steph, Miranda, Nick, Mike, and all of my Toronto training buddies over the years. The Toronto Athletic Club and Mayfair Lakeshore and the Granite Club for their support of me and for all hosting so many pro events and PSA events. All the squash clubs in Toronto for providing an awesome, open atmosphere for us pros to train anywhere. You folks at Squash Canada for your ongoing support and for sending us to so many events with great coaches! Jessica DiMauro, Glenn Stark, Trevor Borland, Shauna Flath, Mel Jans, Graeme Williams, Martin Heath. What a line up! Thank you to all of my teammates and friends on tour who made life all around better and more fun. And thank you to the many strangers who hosted me and promoters who ran tournaments and I now count as friends all over the world. Thank you to my friends and my family who supported me, it was an amazing journey. I'm feeling confident and ready for act II, as I've heard it called.

Samantha Cornett made an indelible impression on many people in the squash community. The squash community had the following to say about her impact on Canadian squash.

Steve Wren, Squash Canada President:
“It's with genuine friendship that on behalf of the Squash Canada Board, and the wider squash community that we thank you Samantha for your guiding-light leadership to Canadian squash players in achieving Canadian and international accomplishments. With terrific talent, a desire to compete, and firm but humble belief, you chose to test yourself amongst the hardest of challenges on the Women's PSA World Squash Tour for 13 years as a full-time professional, to achieving glittering success in numerous titles and medals for Canada.   On the Tour, you will be missed as a peer, a confidant, a gritty tenacious threat to the best, but always a classy competitor. However, we are sure that in your new challenges ahead, success will continue by virtue of your remarkable character in times of loss and achievement.   In the meantime, we’ll continue to celebrate the numerous times you stood on the dais, beaming pride in playing for Canada, that many young Canadian squash players aspire to replicate.  Thank you, Sam, for your long-serving commitment to becoming one of Canada’s most decorated athletes in international squash.  Go well, from Squash Canada.”

Martin Heath, Squash Canada High Performance Director:
“It sounds cliché, though Sam really was a model athlete. Sincere, focused, determined, fair, hard working, easy to work with, wanted to learn and grow and ultimately she was very successful. Obviously it is a huge loss to Squash Canada, though Sam can feel proud of her efforts, her leadership and the fact she inspired many young players to reach their potential. Sam was and still is a role model, will continue to be inspiring, and like others before her, I'm sure Sam will be around the sport in a meaningful way in the years to come. It has been a pleasure to work with Sam, and I wish her the best of luck as she moves on to new challenges. Cheers Sam!”

Danielle Letourneau, current Team Canada Squad athlete:
“Sam has always been an amazing leader within the Canadian and professional squash community. I’ve competed both against and alongside her for years and can’t praise her enough for her hard work, determination, and sportsmanship. We always have fair, but extremely competitive matches. She gives 100% effort in every single point and is so tough to beat because of her exceptional mental and physical toughness. She’s even more amazing as a teammate. She always acts professionally while bringing a positive, energetic, and fun vibe to the team. I know I can always count on her in competition, but also as a friend. I will truly miss having her on tour. I wish Sam the best of luck in the next phase of her life!”

Nicole Bunyan, current Team Canada Squad athlete:
“I think for many years to come, Sam will still be remembered as the sweetheart of Squash Canada! Her passion for squash and the spirit of the game is infectious, and I have no doubt that she will remain involved in the sport, despite her professional retirement. Sam is the first person I reached out to when I graduated from university and considered playing on the pro tour. She has always been someone I could go to for advice regarding anything- whether it be training, tournaments, or struggling with injuries. I’m grateful to Sam for her encouragement, and for being such an integral part of Squash Canada.”

Hollie Naughton, current Team Canada Squad athlete:
“It’s been a pleasure competing against and with Sam over the years. She has always been a fierce competitor and never gives anything less than her best. We will greatly miss her, and I hope that she will stay involved. Thank you for leading us into battle many times. A highlight for me was the Pan Am Games in Toronto. My first Games and Sam's 2nd/3rd? It was so helpful having her there to help guide and put the nerves at ease. Competing in your first major games is always going to be nerve wracking but she helped keep us all together and settle any of my nerves. Thank you for the many memories and I wish you the best of luck in the future!” 

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