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U.S. Open Squash Championships come to Portland Thursday, March 15, 2007

Joan Ahlberg of Portland returns the ball to Colleen Rathburn of Grande Prairie, Alberta, in their match Mar. 15, 2007, at the U.S. Open Squash Championships. Rathburn easily eclipsed Ahlberg, 9-0, 9-2, 9-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. The women are competing in the 45+ age class.

The U.S. Open Squash Championships are being played at the Multnomah Athletic Club in downtown Portland through Sunday. It's not quite as big an event as the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, but it's free to watch, and much closer to my apartment.

Seattle's Laura Bachman concentrates on the ball during her match Thursday against Cancace Whittall of Grande Prairie, Alberta. Whittall won the match, 3 games to 1.

Squash isn't the most popular sport in the United States (estimated 500,000 players, compared to some 18 million who play soccer, for example), and that may be why you don't see very many pictures of it.

The other reason is that it's hard to shoot. The ball, which is only about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, moves at speeds up to 170 mph (270 km/h). More challenging, though, is the fact that it is played in a small room where the players spend almost all of their time facing the walls. Except in big championship matches, three or four of these walls are opaque. I was fortunate to find a couple of matches played in a court where the back wall is glass. It really would have helped if the front wall had been clear, though ...