World No. 1 Ranked Racquetballer Kane Waselenchuk Unfiltered

The US Open Racquetball Championships opened on Wednesday at Lifetime Fitness in Target Center. On the men’s side, 6-time winner Kane Waselenchuk (Wah-say-len-chook) enters as the heavy favorite to win his 4th straight title in what is considered the International Racquetball Tour’s (IRT) most prestigious tournament.

There aren’t many people on this planet who have mastered their profession the way Waselenchuk has racquetball. Ranked No. 1 in the world, the 29-year-old entered the Open on a 117 match winning streak that dates back to January 2009. The Canadian is dominating his sport in a way that would leave Tiger Woods and Roger Federer envious.

Waselenchuk sat down with me on Thursday after defeating upstart Mauricio Zelda in his first round match.

DZ: This was your 118th win in a row, what do you remember about your last loss?

WASENLENCHUK: Just the feeling. The feeling of losing, the feeling of believing that I should’ve won and I lost. But hey, if I could go my whole career losing one out of 118, I’ll be good, you know (laughs).

DZ: Does (the loss) motivate you at all?

WASENLENCHUK: No, I have enough motivation. I want to be the greatest player to ever play. I don’t really need any motivation, I have enough motivation.

DZ: Obviously, you are ranked No. 1 in the world. I read in an interview you did…where you said that you didn’t feel pressure because of that. Explain that a little bit.

WASENLENCHUK: Pressure is what you make it. There is a difference between believing and knowing and I know I can win. I know I can beat everybody. There’s a certain level of confidence that you have to have when you know that. I am not saying I can’t lose because I can lose on any given day – these guys are the greatest players as well. I’ve been playing this game for so long, that pressure is not an issue.

DZ: It’s human nature to get complacent if you are really successful. How do you guard against that, how do you keep your edge?

WASENLENCHUK: Well, I haven’t fulfilled all my goals in racquetball. Like I said, I want to be the greatest player ever to play and though it’s been thrown around that I am, I am still not content with where I am at in my game and in my career. I didn’t start playing this game when I was 2-years-old just to have fun. I can have fun and I always have fun, you can see it on the court, (but) I started this to be the greatest without a doubt.

DZ: You’re a guy that is a pretty good athlete, could probably play just about anything you want to, what was it about racquetball that got you hooked?

WASENLENCHUK: My dad started it. My dad played for awhile and it was just a nice, little father/son bonding thing. I quit for a couple of years in my teens and played hockey, came back and about 7 months later I won my Canadian Senior Nationals. I made the Canadian team and that’s kinda where it all started. I quit hockey and really just tried to focus on racquetball.

DZ: I read on-line that you played in tournament as a 5-years-old and beat adults.

WASENLENCHUK: Yeah, I entered my first tournament when I was four – it was Ladies C (league) and I won my first tournament when I was five. I believe it was like Mens D (league).

DZ: What were the men like seeing this little kid come out there?

WASENLENCHUK: You know, honestly, I don’t really even remember it. It’s just stories that I’ve heard from my dad and my mom. I do know that I was playing adults. I don’t have any serious scars or anything, so they took it OK (laughs).

DZ: That’s amazing. When I read it I thought, “That’s got to be made up.”

WASENLENCHUK: (laughs) No, no.

DZ: Racquet is obviously not a real big sport – mainstream – what do you think is so great about it and why do you think more people should play?

WASENLENCHUK: I like to give the analogy, some people like to bungee jump and I like to play racquetball for adrenaline. I played hockey and I played basketball and those are all high intensity, very fast sports and ever since I was younger, I was just all about the quickness, the agility, you have to have, the hand-eye-coordination. It requires everything…every single skill that you can think of. I think that’s what makes the sport so dynamic. When I am training there is not one specific thing I am doing to train. You have to do everything. You have to have the strength, the endurance, the agility, the footwork – there’s a lot to work on.

DZ: When you win as much as you do there’s got to be some tension between you and the other players. Obviously every person out there wants to win. How do you deal with that dynamic?

WASENLENCHUK: I think it boils down to respect for your competitors and I’d like to think that I am very respectful of the guys coming up and that are here now. I am also very respectful of the path that was paved for all of us to be able to do this. I am a historian of this sport; I really respect the history of this sport. It’s a hard question to answer. I can understand where it’s a little bit frustrating for those guys.

I remember losing a close match in Chicago in the finals and I lost to Jason Mannino. I remember that feeling I had after I lost. I didn’t prepare well enough. I feel like I could’ve beat him then and I didn’t. It was very frustrating. I told myself that I’d always remember that feeling…of losing. You know, anybody that’s ever done anything, whether it’s getting fired from a job or whatever it is – that feeling that you get in your stomach when you go and replay everything, “What did I do?”, “What did I not do?” and all that. Every time I practiced and trained, I kept reminding myself about that feeling of when I lost. It wasn’t just specifically that one loss, but that’s the one that was the turning point for me in taking it a little bit more seriously and knowing that I can be the best player in the world.

DZ: Do you guys socialize a lot on the circuit?

WASENLENCHUK: We are very diverse group of guys and I think that we’ve really bonded together to try and make the IRT, and racquetball in general, a more well known sport. Even though it’s an individual sport, it’s gonna take everybody to try and lift this thing to where it should be. Nothing happens overnight, but we are heading the right direction, there are good things happening and there are good people in it.

(Photo by Jeff Oliver)

One Response to “World No. 1 Ranked Racquetballer Kane Waselenchuk Unfiltered”

  1. MinnesotaSCORE » Waselenchuk, Longoria Capture US Open Racquetball Titles Says:

    […] wrapped up on Sunday at Lifetime Fitness in Target Center. On the men’s side, No. 1 ranked Kane Waselenchuk surprised no one by winning his 4th straight singles title. Waselenchuk defeated Rocky Carson, the […]