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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK

Fitz-Gerald strikes gold

By Clive Lindsay
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

Australia's Sarah Fitz-Gerald confirmed her place as the golden girl of women's squash by winning gold at the Commonwealth Games.

The 33-year-old world number one defeated former team-mate Carol Owens 9-5 9-0 2-9 10-9 to stretch her unbeaten run in tournament play to 55 games.

Fitz-Gerald also laid to rest the ghost of her defeat by another Aussie, Michelle Martin, in the Games final in Kuala Lumpur four years ago.

Owens, now representing New Zealand, had won only four of her previous 30 meetings with Fitz-Gerald since 1973.

"I couldn't be happier"
Sarah Fitz-Gerald

And it was Fitz-Gerald who again had the psychological edge in the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

"I am over the moon about winning gold," she said. "I couldn't be happier.

"By the end of the second, I thought I had it and began to feel relaxed going into the third and was put off when she came back stronger.

"But I am pleased and relieved to win."

After a cagey opening, Fitz-Gerald's greater consistency and ability to conjure up the killer shot began to tell.

She won the first game 9-3 and quickly won the second 9-0.

Owens rallied in the third to win 9-2 with the aid of some deft drop shots.

"I felt like a headless chook in the first two games"
Carol Owens

But Fitz-Gerald regained her composure, although she still had to battle hard to win the fourth after Owens failed with a recovery shot on the 19th stroke of the final rally at the scores tied at 9-9.

Owens concluded: "If I could have got that last point, who knows what could have been?

"I felt like a headless chook in the first two games, but I was really starting to find my way."

Owens won bronze for Australia four years ago but said: "Silver for New Zealand is definitely better."

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