TARGETED by a loaded gun, employed as a national coach and bedridden by serious illness, life has been quite some journey for Bournemouth’s Clive Ewins.
Introduced to squash in the late 1970s aged six, the youngster was an England junior international within three years.
Such was his progress that as a 13-year-old, he was invited to fly to Lima, Peru – then in the grip of political turmoil – to promote the sport for several months.
One night in the capital, the Winton Boys’ School pupil got a taste of just how serious the situation was.
“I remember going to KFC with a few other players and it had sneaked past curfew hour,” said Ewins, now 41.
“We were supposed to have these white cards with us but we didn’t have them, and the guys on the post were aiming down at us.
“I was in Peru on my own doing training and various promotions round clubs – I even climbed down to one court on a rope ladder.
“Although they were frightened to death, my parents were very supportive and it was a great experience for me.”
Ewins returned to Dorset in one piece, going on to play through all of England’s age group teams.
Turning pro his late teens, he jetted to Perth, Australia, to become a hitting partner for a number of top players including Liz Irving, a former world number two.
With many of his peers trying their luck on the World Tour, the Orpington-born player was put off by the heavy expense involved – upwards of £20,000 in the first year – and instead took up a surprise offer to become coach of the German women’s team.
“I was doing six or seven hours a day in Germany and earning £100 an hour,” he said.
“It was very lucrative considering I was ranked three or four in the world for my age.
“At that stage most people gamble and do the World Tour, but that was a serious financial outlay and some of it I would have had to borrow.
“There are a lot of squash players who get in debt because they get injured or something happens, so unless you’ve got a sponsor it’s very difficult indeed.
“I took an obvious and secure path which made sense for me at the time and I’ve had many good experiences as a result.”
Returning home when he was 24, Ewins later coached at the now-defunct David Lloyd Bournemouth and eventually arrived at West Hants Club in Talbot Woods, where he still plays today.
His perspective on the game did change dramatically in the wake of an illness that kept him well away from a squash court for two years.
Seronegative arthritis, a blood condition that takes hold when the immune system is weakened, caused Ewins to become motionless for long periods.
“It froze down every single joint in my body and I had two to three months where I was frozen in bed,” he said.
“There were days where I could slowly move, but it was so painful.
“The doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong but when they did, they gave me some tablets and I was fine.
“After that, I thought I’d really go for it. I concentrated less on coaching because I had built up enough money to do what I wanted.”
Ewins proved his international pedigree following his recovery when he picked up a bronze medal in the World Masters in New Zealand in 2008.
He plays professionally for several teams around the country, including with world number two Nick Matthew for a team in London.
A 14-time county champion who was recently crowned British Masters winner, Ewins coaches the next generation of British stars in amongst his playing commitments.