Edinburgh-born Alex Hamilton is gearing up to add to his national squash honours this weekend – as he approaches an 81st birthday.
What’s more, the former semi-pro footballer and lifelong Hearts supporter – as a teenager he turned down signing offers from Ayr, St Mirren and Norwich City in the vain hope that his first love club would come in for him – is aiming to use victory in the Scottish over-80s squash championships in Aberdeen as a stepping stone to British and World titles in the same age-group later this year.
Last month Alex, who attended Portobello High School, captured the Scottish Masters over-80 accolade having set up the event himself by purchasing a trophy eventually clinched with a straight sets victory over sole rival, Andy Jack.
This weekend Alex will go head-to-head with Andy Carcary, a comparative youngster who is also entered for the over-75s!
With squash deservedly having a reputation as one of the most highly intensive sports, many would be forgiven thinking Alex should focus on some less stressful pursuits. But the suggestion is greeted with near contempt by Alex and while he concedes “squash maybe isn’t a sport you should play intermittently” he insists: “I’m still improving through playing twice a week in summer and more often in winter by entering club mini-leagues.
“In recent years I haven’t lost a lot of my speed and have actually developed better racket skills.
“To begin with I wanted to be very physical on court, running all the time. When I started to study playing strategies I began to anticipate where my opponent was on court and trying catch him out of position.”
Asked the secret of longevity in squash Alex is unequivocal, saying: “If I do nothing else it is to only have an intake of fruit or fruit juice before noon every day. Also, an exercise regime mostly involving stretching has helped me build on what I believe is fairly natural fitness.”
During a period working in England Alex played football for Darlington and Harrogate as well as National Service cricket for the Royal Signals alongside England Test stars Freddie Trueman, Brian Close and Frank “Typhoon” Tyson before returning north to set up Strathallan Dairies employing 50 people with an annual turnover of £10 million.
It was then that he took up squash – aged 43.
“A couple of years later I entered the Scottish over-45s and got hammered but by the time I was 58 I was playing for the Scottish over-55s team and I have represented every age-group as well as winning the Scottish and British over-75s title.
“The next British event takes place in London next month and I aim to be top seed while, at a previous world over-75s in South Africa, I finished third.”
Entries in the older age groups at this level appear to be increasing and there could be as many as ten entrants for the world over-80s but I’m optimistic about taking the title.
“My wife says she’d be happier if I played more golf near our home in Bridge of Allan but I’ve never had a problem playing squash apart from banging into a wall a couple of times over the year,” he added.