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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK

Ball juggling with the best

By Mike Burnett
BBC Sport Online at the National Squash Centre

Life is full of disappointments and seeing your dreams of a squash medal shattered in the first round is clearly one of them.

After all that training and practice, it is painful to exit a tournament at such an early stage.

But for one player on Friday, there were better things to do than get upset - he had to run round the corner to join his countrymen in a table tennis event.

Gabe Rabess is in Manchester representing the Caribbean island of Dominica in both squash and table tennis.

But the 31-year-old fire-fighter did not intend it to be that way.

"I would have liked to have made an impact here, but I got some things I can go back to"
Gabe Rabess

"My first love is squash," the London-based athlete told BBC Sport Online.

"I was pulled in to also play table tennis for my team.

"They were short of a player and, seeing as I had some experience as a junior, they drafted me in."

He might not have intended it, but keeping his options open in two different sports seemed to be a good idea.

A straight-game loss to Indian Ritwik Bhattacharya sent him crashing out of the men's squash singles event.

"It's disappointing. I would have liked to have made an impact, but it's just great to be here.

"I'm not under any pressure at all from my team, I'm just enjoying myself."

Sporting passion

At 31, Rabess is not the youngest, but playing in squash tournaments is still new to him.

His Dominican adventure only started a year ago when an English work-mate in Wembley gave him some good advice.

"A colleague of mine asked me about my roots and background and suggested I get in touch with the Dominican Olympics Committee to see if they needed any players, so I did.

"I was surprised how quickly things moved along.

"Next thing I knew I was flying to the Caribbean to play in squash tournaments to represent Dominica."

Rabess has yet to win any tournaments, but there has been one major highlight in his short squash career.

"I met my wife playing squash," he proudly announced.

Marlene West is representing Jamaica at the Games and, as winner of the 2001 senior Caribbean title, could give her novice husband a few tips.

She may also be offering him a shoulder to cry on after Rabess failed to stop Dominica's slide to defeat against Australia and Singapore in the table tennis men's team event.

Of course, if things do not work out in the table tennis, Rabess always has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

"I used to do track, the 400m, so I said to the guys if they need an anchor leg, I'd do it," he explained with a smile.

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