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Drop Shot; Will 2024 finally be the year for Squash to realise its Olympic Dream?

The squash world is still coming to terms with the fact that our beloved sport has been overlooked once again for an Olympics berth.

madeline_perry

An extremely long and professional bid was not enough to persuade the IOC to add a new sport to the Olympic program. They instead opted to reinstate wrestling which had been removed only months earlier. The vote, live on TV and farcical to watch at times left most squash players wondering what the sport must do to convince the Olympic movement of how the games could really be blessed to have such a fantastic sport involved. Also, the question remains whether or not the political influences will ever leave the IOC.

Squash targeted Barcelona 1992 with its first bid for inclusion at the Olympic Games and has been knocking on the door ever since. Squash also missed out on a place in Rio 2016 to Rugby Sevens and Golf.

The participation base of the game is truly impressive as it is played in 185 countries by over 20 million people. The international appeal is breathtaking as in both the men and women’s game there have been World Champions from five continents across the globe. If Squash had been included at London 2012 the sport would have been a platform for Olympic minnow nations Malaysia and Egypt to receive worldwide recognition for sporting excellence.

Malaysia has Nicol David, a superstar in her own country who in 2008 won ten tour titles and went unbeaten for 53 straight matches. Egypt boasts Ramy Ashour, a player with skills and charisma as amazing as any modern day racquet player and the man who went 41 matches undefeated between the 2012 and 2013 British Opens.

Karem Gaber in Athens 2004 is the only Egyptian to win a Gold medal in modern times; interestingly the Gold medal came in wrestling, the sport responsible for Squash’s latest misfortune. Malaysia have never won a Gold medal in the history of the Olympics but have come close in another racquet sport, Badminton. Lee Chong Wei brought home Silver medals at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

It would be highly plausible that David and Ashour could have taken Gold in London as both are current World number 1’s. London 2012 could also have produced a number of British medals too. Athletes such as Nick Matthew and James Willstrop and possibly myself may have enjoyed fame such as Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah but we will never know having not been given the chance to show our skills on the biggest sporting stage of all.

Squash has put courts in some of the most iconic locations in the world; Grand Central Station in New York has provided a backdrop for the sport and the floodlit tournament at the Pyramids in Cairo put Squash on the front of international newspapers across the globe. The sport has proven that courts can be put up anywhere in the world with relatively low overheads. The sport would not leave the potential for ‘White Elephant’ venues seen at its worst in the aftermath of the Athens Olympics in 2004.

There is no doubt that the sport ticks all the boxes that an Olympic sport should but for now the professionals must put their Olympic dream on hold and concentrate on their thriving world tours and other multi sport games. The next of which is the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. There will be plenty of English and N.Irish interest in the sport as 3 of the top 10 men’s players and 4 out of the 10 women’s players make up the respective world top 10’s. Perhaps a tournament with so much home-grown talent can be the catalyst to convince the IOC that Squash should be included in the Olympics?

Madeline Perry – Sports Consultant

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