Franklin happy to take leading role
Micah Franklin will have the perfect stage to showcase his talent at the Commonwealth Games as he grows into his role as the “leading man” of Bermudian squash.
With his event being held at the Oxenford Studios, a state-of-the-art film lot in the north of the Gold Coast, Franklin will look to deliver some blockbuster performances of his own over the next few days.
Having been home to Hollywood movies such as Thor: Ragnarok, Aquaman and San Andreas, the facility is more used to staging staggeringly orchestrated set pieces than drp volleys.
And while he might lack the pulling power of Chris Hemsworth and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Franklin will certainly hope to punch above his weight when he falls under the glare of spotlight.
Up first tomorrow is James Fayia, a 41-year-old Sierra Leonean, who Franklin calls “an unknown quantity” but an opponent he is confident of defeating.
“It’s unlikely that I’m going to medal,” said Franklin, ranked 195th in the world. “It’s more about how far I can go.
“Some of the top players in the world are here and I’m obviously a bit off that standard, but I’ll look to win a few rounds, for sure.
“You like to think when you play somebody who isn’t ranked, someone you haven’t heard of ... he could be a dark horse, but you have to be confident.
“In the small world of squash you can usually recognise the names and know whether they’re a good player. The fact I haven’t heard of him is probably a good sign for me.”
Franklin made his Commonwealth Games bow in Glasgow in 2014, losing 3-0 to wily New Zealander Campbell Grayson in the second round.
He believes he has evolved his game since that baptism of fire and is in far better physical condition.
“The Commonwealths are the pinnacle of our careers because squash is not at the Olympics,” he said. “It’s a big deal for the countries that are eligible.
“I’ve been doing things a bit different for this competition, making sure I’m training hard but taking care of myself so I don’t get hurt. I’m taking it very serious and I’ve been on court a lot with my coach Patrick [Foster].
“Looking back to 2014 and comparing myself to now, right away I can tell I’m physically stronger and fitter than I was.
“I’m able to stay on court a lot longer and I’ve been exposed to more experiences, so my game has come on loads.”
In the past few months Franklin has reached the quarter-finals of the Bermuda Open, losing 3-0 to No 2 seed Adam Murrills, and the E.M. Noll Classic in Philadelphia, where he was beaten by the same score by another Englishman, Lyell Fuller.
Although completely satisfied with his preparations, Franklin suffered disappointment at the PSA World Championships in Manchester in December, retiring hurt while 2-0 down against Jamaica’s Christopher Binnie.
“I pulled my quad in training the night before the match and couldn’t give it one 100 per cent,” said Franklin, who juggles his training with coaching at the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association in Devonshire.
“I wasn’t able to put any weight on it, which was quite upsetting for me. I took all of December out and started back in January. Knock on wood, everything has been perfect since then.
“The Bermuda Open was probably the best event I could have had as preparation ... the crowd we were able to produce and having to deal the nerves and pressure. I made it to where I was supposed to and was really happy with how I played.”
Franklin’s Gold Coast experience will be shorter than he would have liked as he cannot compete in the doubles after Noah Browne failed to qualify. The 25-year-old said he was more disappointed for his team-mate than himself.
“It’s a bit of a shame,” said Franklin, who was joined by Nick Kyme and Robbie Maycock in Glasgow. “It was tough for Noah and it would have been nice to have taken some more squash players.”
Kyme, the island’s most decorated player, having competed at five Commonwealth Games, remains a source of inspiration for Franklin.
“Nick was an idol to me growing up,” Franklin said. “I’m following in his footsteps and he gives me some insight in how far I can take this. I use Nick and Patrick to help mentally prepare.”