By ALAN THATCHER
British hurdles star Colin Jackson backed squash’s bid for a place in the Olympics after watching world champion Nick Matthew win through to the second round of the Allam British Open.
Jackson, a silver medalist in the 1988 Seoul Games, was a guest of Matthew’s at London’s O2 Arena as the 31-year-old from Sheffield began his bid for a third British title by beating Max Lee of Hong Kong
Jackson said: “I used to play a bit of squash down in Cardiff but it’s amazing to watch the top guys in action. As an athlete myself, I have an enormous respect for them and simply can’t understand why squash is not in the Olympics.
“This is a very exciting sport and the glass court here in the O2 looks amazing.
“With Nick as world champion and James Willstrop the current world No.1 it’s such a shame that squash is not in the London Games this year because it would mean at least a couple of extra medals for Team GB.
“We are used to seeing squash in the Commonwealth Games.
“My message to the players is to keep trying and battling away because you are the trailblazers. Never give up. One day squash will be in the Olympics and you deserve to be there.”
Jackson revealed that his fellow athletes in Cardiff were enthusiastic if clumsy squash players. He added: “We were never very good at squash but being athletes the competitive spirit always came to the fore and some guys were more dangerous than other. The biggest risk was a twinge to the Achilles, so our coaches would frown on us playing squash.”
After beating Lee, Matthew said: “If we get in to the Olympics I’ll have to join Colin in the commentary team for 2020. I’ll be too old to play by then!
“It’s great to see him here and nice to hear that such a hugely respected athlete shows genuine support for squash.”
Matthew beat Lee 11-8, 11-4, 11-6 in 45 minutes to book a second-round clash with his England team-mate Tom Richards, who removed experienced Malaysian Ong Beng Hee in four games.
Matthew said: “Tom was my room-mate last week in Germany when we won the European Team Championships. He is hungry and will be looking for a big scalp, I’m sure of that.
“As for myself, I was surprised at how well Max played. He’s very quick and likes to get up the court to volley. It was like he was trying to beat me at my own game!
“The venue here is fantastic although it’s a little bit bright playing in the daytime with a white ball and a white roof.
“It was good to get used to the cool conditions and with a cold ball your squash has to be of the highest quality.”
Matthew added: “What a week this is turning out to be at the O2, with Barry Manilow performing here tonight. Barry Manilow and squash: it doesn’t get any better than that!”
Allam British Open first round, O2 Arena, London
Laurens Anjema (Ned) bt Gregoire Marche (Fra) 11-2, 11-1, 11-5
Steve Coppinger (RSA) bt Alan Clyne (Sco) 11-9, 11-13, 11-6, 11-3
Tom Richards (Eng) bt Ong Beng Hee (Mas) 11-7, 10-12, 11-4, 11-4
(3) Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Max Lee (HK) 11-8, 11-4, 11-6