GREAT FALLS — Gatlin Sutherland is just like any other teenage athlete. He just recently turned 14 years old, he plays basketball and football, and he’ll look to attend high school at Great Falls CMR next year. Oh, and he’s only a Junior World Champion racquetball player and one of the best this state’s ever seen.
“We went to San Luis Potosí, Mexico for the Junior National World Racquetball Championships, and I finished third in doubles and second in singles,” said Sutherland. “It’s a lot different than these tournaments here (in the United States), there’s a lot better competition and it’s a bunch of kids just like you.”
“Overall, he played fantastic. Even just to get there was great. When you get to the top four of five kids up there, they’re playing open racquetball, which is really good,” said Scott Sutherland, Gatlin’s grandpa. “They’re fun to watch. The spirit, the competition there and the effort these kids give is off the charts. It’s the most intense thing I’ve ever watched.”
Sutherland has been to the Junior World Championships three times now. He joins a select group of people from the Treasure State to go to Nationals, and Sutherland is the first one to go to worlds. In all, he owns six medals. Gatlin also has expanded his talents playing basketball and football, as well, which has helped in his racquetball game as well.
“It helps by just making me quicker, faster and moving my feet a lot better,” said Gatlin.
“It’s getting to the point where I can’t keep up with him. I mean, I was pretty nice to him when he was 8, 9, 10. Then at about 11, I said, ‘I can’t keep being nice,'” said Scott. “Now, if he plays well, I can’t beat him. Now he can kick my butt most of the time.”
Many of the opponents Sutherland has faced overseas have different strategies and play the game differently. All they know is racquetball. That’s helped Gatlin modify the way he’s played. He’s gotten so good that when his friends at school say he’s not good, Sutherland says they get scared and don’t want to play him when he challenges them.
As for his racquetball future?
“I just want to keep improving and make it to the World Championships every year,” Gatlin said.