Sunday, June 16, 2024

LA 2028: Squash stars celebrate Olympic inclusion

An emotional Nicol David led the celebrations for squash after the sport was finally granted a place at the Olympics on Monday. While she retired without having the opportunity to play for gold, current players are reassessing their careers as the five-ringed lure came into sharp view on Monday.

The Malaysian star famously said that she would trade all her world titles for one Olympic gold but was never able to do so after the sport’s failed bids over the last decade.

“It’s quite emotional to get squash in after 30 years of bidding for place in the Olympic Games,” said Nicol, who retired in 2019.

“All the hard work, blood, sweat and tears have finally paid off for our beloved squash to be acknowledged as an Olympic Games sport.

“Congratulations to an amazing squash campaign team for making it a reality finally for squash and for our future of this sport.”

Nick Matthew, another who never got to experience a shot at the Olympics when squash failed to reach London 2012 or Rio 2016, said that it was a game-changing moment “at all levels of squash”.

Georgina Kennedy made the British Open quarters PIC: PSA WORLD TOUR

He added: “It will bring further investment and opportunities for squash and it will be a really exciting next four to five years. It’s also fantastic recognition for all the people in squash who have worked so hard to get us to this moment.”

Paul Coll, who won the US Open at the weekend before the Olympic nod was given less than 48 hours later, will be at the back end of his career.

“I just sort of gave up hope so this was a real nice boost and something that gives me a lot of motivation,” he said. “I’ll be at the end of my career then so I’ve got a nice goal that I can focus on.

“I know a lot of players are like that, it’s given them a lot of energy to push for a few more years in their career.”

Gina Kennedy, the England No.1, will be aiming for gold for Team GB in 2028.

“When I won Commonwealth gold last year, I felt on top-of-the-world and didn’t think that there would be many moments to match that feeling, but now I have hope of being able to compete for an Olympic medal,” said the Briton.

“As athletes, we work tirelessly day-in, day-out to succeed at an elite level and we are all so happy with the news. Hearing that squash is set for the Olympics in 2028 has really changed what could be possible for the sport and for us as players.”

Lisa Aitken, Scotland’s No.1, said she would do “whatever it takes” to reach the new pinnacle of her sport.

“I feel like I’ve still got quite a lot in the tank left to give,” Aitken, who will be in her late thirties in 2028, told BBC Scotland.

“Obviously you have to take into consideration things like family planning. We only got the news today but already questions like that are going through my head.

“We currently have two mums on the tour who have gone away, had a baby, come back and they are now competing at top ten level – that’s really inspiring to see.”

For the up and coming players, there is now a major carrot in five years time for the men’s and women’s singles draws. The IOC revealed that it would only be singles competed at LA, while a 32-strong draw looks the likely competition.

“It’s strong motivation to just work hard and maybe get close to being an Olympian,” said Ocean Ma, U19 women’s champion at the 2023 Canadian Junior National Championships. 

Meanwhile, India’s Saurav Ghosal will be into his forties by the time 2028 comes into view.

“If it wasn’t for (Monday)’s development, there was no chance that I would carry on at 42 but now I am sure there are others who would be 40-year-olds like me who would consider carrying on till the Olympics,” he said.

Jamie Nicholls, CEO of Squash Canada, added: “To the athletes and coaches that have helped chart this important course: we thank you deeply for your contribution. And to young squash players across our nation: may this allow you to dream bigger, train harder and reach higher in your pursuit of the Olympic dream.”

Read more

Latest News