Shelley Kitchen was inducted into the Northland Legends of Sports class at the 2017 Conbrio Northland Sports Awards last Friday evening
Kitchen dominated on the squash courts, claiming a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Here is Shelley’s introduction read by MC Scotty Stevenson during the awards ceremony:
Over the years Northland has produced far more than its fair share of talented sportswomen in a wide range of sports. Already our list of Northland female legends includes Neti Traill table tennis, Lyn Gunson netball, Audrey Russell lawn bowls and Sandy Hitchcock hockey.
Therefore it seems apt to acknowledge another New Zealand great who hailed from Kaitaia before heading off to create an incredible squash career.
Shelley Kitchen, born in Kaitaia in 1979 first, started hitting a squash ball around the Kaitaia Squash Courts as a 5-year-old while accompanying her mother, Rayna, and sister, Trina, to the club.
Shelley’s potential was evident from an early age and it wasn’t long before she developed to become a true ambassador for New Zealand Squash and carry on a fine tradition emulating the achievements of previous New Zealand greats – Dame Susan Devoy and Leilani Joyce.
She went on to compete for nearly two decades both in New Zealand and on the international circuit and in fact represented New Zealand for 15 years. Shelley won 12 New Zealand titles and 16 world international titles.
Shelley was known as one of the hardest-hitting female squash players in the world and reached a career high of No 1 on the World Under 23 ranking and later reached No 6 on the open world ranking list. At this time she was also New Zealand’s No 1.
She represented New Zealand at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and was, in fact, selected to represent New Zealand at three Commonwealth Games but only competed in two.
However, one of her key achievements was in 2004 when she partnered Glen Wilson and finished runner-up in the mixed doubles at the World Doubles Squash Championships.
But it was 2006 that was a special year for Shelley when she not only won the women’s doubles title at the World Squash Championships but also went on to beat World No 1 Nicol David, of Malaysia, in the third-place match to capture the women’s singles bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
She also won a silver medal in the women’s doubles, with her New Zealand partner, Tamsyn Leevey.
But during her time at the top of her game, Shelley never forgot where her career began and returned to the north whenever possible.
This often included the opportunity to attend and collect her high achievement awards at both the Far North Sports Awards and Northland Sports Awards which she gained through that period.
Shelley had her first child in February 2010 and, after getting sick in an attempt to come back for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, she announced her retirement in December 2010 and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2011 New Year Honours, for services to sport.
Her family’s support has no doubt played a big part behind her success and until recently Shelley continued to be involved with high-performance sport, mentoring and assisting squash players to reach their potential.
(Shelley is currrently the High Performance Programme Manager with Squash New Zealand)
Congratulations on this achievement Shelley.