Senior Laura Gemmell, above, and younger sister Michelle Gemmell look to lead the Harvard women’s squash team to its second consecutive College Squash Association National Team Championship this year.
It is said that sports bring people together like nothing else. Families spend countless hours travelling to games and cheering each other on. Perhaps for no Harvard family is this truer than the Gemmells—senior Laura and freshman Michelle—both of whom play key roles on the Crimson women’s squash squad this year. Together with their oldest sister Jennifer, they have travelled the world to play squash at its highest junior levels and continued to compete in college.
All three of the Gemmell sisters play or have played Ivy League squash. Jen captained the Cornell women’s squash team in 2010-11 and is currently enrolled in law school. Laura and Michelle are dynamic members of the current Crimson squad.
The sisters’ squash days long predate their time in college, as they have been dominating junior squash in Canada since they were just teenagers.
“Our mom, when we were young, put us in a bunch of different sports,” Laura said. “We did gymnastics, swimming, tennis…a bunch of different things.”
Laura and Jen took a particular liking to squash, and Michelle followed suit.
“We’d go to tournaments and bring Michelle, and she’d be like, ‘Hey, I want to play too,’” Laura said.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Michelle started her squash career at the young age of seven.
Immediately, she was competing against girls much older than her.
And quickly, Michelle grew old enough to start training with her older sisters.
Although they are officially teammates for the first time at Harvard, Laura and Michelle have long been training together.
“I’d always hit with Laura and Jen before matches,” Michelle said.
Laura is one of, if not the most, accomplished junior squash players in Canadian history, having won 23 national titles.
“In Canada, Laura was the first woman to win the U19 category—which is the highest of the junior levels—four times,” Michelle said. “That means she was the best junior in Canada since she was 15. A couple of people have done it three times, but she was the first to do four.”
Jen and Michelle were no slacks themselves on the North American Junior circuit.
Jen was a member of Canadian Junior National Team in 2006 and 2007. She was ranked as high as No. 4 of all Canadian female juniors. Michelle won a total of 23 national championships as a kid and was a five-time Canadian champion at various age groups.