Thompson-raised Jennifer Saunders, whose 24 national women’s singles and doubles racquetball championships are the most by any Canadian athlete, announced Dec. 2 that she is retiring from competition.
Saunders appeared in every national women’s singles championship match from 2011 to 2019 and won the title 11 times overall. She has also won 13 national women’s doubles championships.
“It’s always fun to play in the final match,” said Saunders, 43, in a press release. “And it was great to win a bronze medal at the Pan Ams this year. It was nice to still be relevant at the end of my career.”
The bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships came in the doubles competition.
Saunders grew up in Thompson and learned to play racquetball in the courts in the multipurpose room of the old Thompson recreation centre. She moved to Winnipeg in 1995 at the age of 18 to attend the University of Winnipeg. She won her first Manitoba women’s championship that year and went on to win it five more times. Twice in her career, she won both the men’s and women’s provincial titles.
Saunders won her first national singles championship in 2005, when she also won the doubles championship. She never won a gold medal in a major international championship, having competed in nine world championships, 16 Pan Am Championships and four Pan Am Games. She won two silver and two bronze medals in singles at the world championships and two bronze medals in doubles, as well as two silver and three bronze medals in the women’s team event. She won two silver medals and four bronze at the Pan Am Championships and a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015.
The Manitoba Sportswriter and Sportscasters Association picked Saunders as the province’s female athlete of the year in 2009.
Saunders said many people and organizations deserved thanks for her success, including her parents, Racquetball Canada, the Canadian Sports Centre Manitoba and her boyfriend.
“And, of course, some amazing doubles partners and teammates, specifically Josée Grand'Måitre, with whom I won 10 national titles,” said Saunders, who was announced as Racquetball Canada’s new administrator of high performance and sport development Nov. 28. She officially begins that role in January after spending some time with Racquetball Canada staff this month. She will take over from Geri Powell, who is retiring from the position at the end of the year.