Ottawa has an up-and-coming squash star, and she is on track to dominate not only her age group, but older competitors. Ranked No. 1 in Canada for her age, 14-year-old Iman Shaheen is gearing up for her next challenge: the British Junior Open in January. 

Shaheen is constantly pitted against top adult athletes in practice and in competition — with impressive results. On Nov. 8, Iman made it to the semi-finals of Squash Ontario’s largest championship event of the season in Toronto. She lost to to the high-profile Canadian squash player Samantha Cornett, 28, currently ranked No. 43 in the world.

The Grade 9 student at John McCrae Secondary School is back to the practice courts in preparation for the British Junior Open in Birmingham from Jan. 4 to Jan 6. She describes the event as “the world championship for juniors,” and hopes to place in the top three.

Squash player in white t-shirt and grey shorts captured mid-swing. Her opponent stands back, waiting to return the hit.
Iman starts off her Monday night practice playing against her favourite opponent, Curtis Shaw. The two play once a week and always look forward to their next encounter. [Photo © Natasha Bulowski]
Man with glasses looks down at the squash courts through a window in an upstairs viewing area.
Iman’s father, Faisal Shaheen, watches from the upstairs viewing area at the Ottawa South RA Centre. Observing her games from a bird’s-eye view, he makes mental notes on how she performs so he, Iman, and her coaches can go over it later. [Photo © Natasha Bulowski]
athlete dives to get the ball, racket blurred by the motion and lunging to make the shot.
Iman is ranked No. 1 in Canada in the GU15 (girls under 15) age category, and has also had great success playing in higher age groups. She placed second at the Ontario Open Championship GU17 category in 2019. She says that playing against older and stronger athletes has helped her develop her skills and game sense. [Photo © Sarah-Marie Smith]
Curtis and Iman take a breather in between games. Shaw is ranked No. 9 in the M35+ (males over 35) category and their hard-fought match went to five games, with Shaw winning 3 games to 2. [Photo © Natasha Bulowski]
Iman trains every day, sometimes twice a day at various squash courts in Ottawa. [Photo © Sarah-Marie Smith]
Arms outstretched, athlete in white t-shirt follows through on her shot.
While cooling down after her match, Iman demonstrates her favourite shot: the backhand volley drop. One of her several coaches, Kyle Ogilvy, said she often catches competitors off-guard with this move. Friends and coaches describe Iman as a consistent and defensive player. [Photo © Natasha Bulowski]
athlete walks to the service box, marked by white lines on the court. She bounces the ball and holds her racket at her side.
Iman uses an empty court to work on some serves before the end of practice. [Photo © Natasha Bulowski]
squash player serves, with the ball just above head height and racket ready to swing.
Iman explains that when serving at least one foot must remain in the box at all times. [Photo © Natasha Bulowski]
Athlete stretches with her foot towards the camera, lunging.
After nearly two hours of practice, Iman stretches as the other squash players prepare to leave the courts for the night. [Photo © Sarah-Marie Smith]
girl writes in notebook, crouched on carpeted floor.
Iman makes a habit of writing notes after practices and matches on how she played, what she did well, and what she can do better. [Photo © Sarah-Marie Smith]
someone writes in a notebook.
The mental side of the game is just as important as the physical. Iman is working on keeping cool and collected during competition. [Photo © Sarah-Marie Smith]
Girl in white t-shirt stretches her arm behind her head.
Iman’s main goal is to become the youngest woman to be ranked No. 1 in the Professional Squash Association in Canada. She wants to beat the current record holder, Nour El Sherbini, who was 20 when she reached top spot. [Photo © Sarah-Marie Smith]
Video by Baneet Braich (Camera), Caitlin Heffernan (Editor), and Natasha Bulowski (Reporter)