Mexican marvel dives into Olympic debate after golden Pan-Am Games
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Racquetball world champion Paola Longoria added to her medal haul at the Pan-American Games in Toronto, and then made an impassioned plea for the sport to be included in the Olympics.
Longoria has a similar pedigree to squash’s Nicol David, topping the world rankings for six years and being treated as a sporting icon back home in Mexico.
Her triumphs are widely reported in the Mexican media and she made further headlines when she won gold in both singles and doubles at the Pan Am Games.
The comparisons with Nicol David do not end there. With the Malaysian a key figure in squash’s presentation team bidding for a place in the 2020 Olympics, Longoria is also pushing the case for racquetball to be included.
During an interview in Toronto, as she celebrated her gold medal haul, she said: “It’s too bad that we are not in the Olympic Games, so this and the World Championships are the top events for me.”
Longoria, who carried the flag for Mexico (right) in the opening ceremony, defeated Bolivia-born Maria Jose Vargas of Argentina 15-12, 15-9 to win the singles final. Later, in the doubles, she teamed up with Samantha Salas to defeat Vargas and Veronique Guillemette 15-3, 15-4.
“Paola is such a strong player and very difficult to beat,” Vargas said.
With the 2016 Olympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro, a large number of athletes in the Pan-American Games were disappointed that both squash and racquetball will not be present.
Longoria added: “My biggest dream would be to win an Olympic medal for my country. But that depends on the sports federations and not me.”
Longoria has been the No. 1-ranked woman in the sport for six years, and wants to make it seven. “That’s my next goal,” she said.
Longoria’s performance during the singles final was a perfect pitch for her sport, and opponent Vargas made it a spectacular battle as she dived on the floor repeatedly to save points.
“It’s an explosive sport, very complete,” Longoria said. “You have to have great speed and reflexes. I’m not diminishing the value of the other sports that are in the Olympics, but I think racquetball should be in.”