Stars demand a unified approach to boost the sport’s Olympic bid
By Squash Mad Correspondent
Two leading squash players have called for the PSA and the WSA to merge in order to boost the sport’s Olympic aspirations.
Sarah Fitzgerald and Natalie Grainger (right) have revealed that talks are in progress to pursue a unified world tour for men and women, claiming that the sport appears “fractured” with separate competition schedules.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, both players, who are in Hong Kong competing in the World Masters, voiced their disappointment at the IOC’s decision to reinstate wrestling instead of giving squash the Olympic status they feel the sport deserves.
Former world champion Fitzgerald, who is set to play in an all-Australian over-45 final with Sarah Nelson, said: “We are working towards this and may be merging soon.”
Fitzgerald, a member of the athletes’ commission of the governing World Squash Federation (WSF) and national team coach for Australia, said the players were “doing everything possible that the International Olympic Committee wants”.
The five-time world champion from Melbourne was on the bidding committee when squash was again rejected by the IOC iin Buenos Aires last September. Instead of picking up a new sport, wrestling was restored for the 2020 Games.
New IOC president Thomas Bach gave squash renewed hope when he said last year that the number of Olympic sports may be increased for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, although baseball, which also missed out on the vote with squash, is the more likely candidate for Japan.
Fitzgerald added: “I don’t see what we lack to qualify for the Olympic family. We are a worldwide sport involving men and women, juniors and masters.
“We have spectators and improved television coverage, and we can put a glass court anywhere for competition. It is only an IOC decision, in my opinion.”
Fitzgerald felt that combining the two bodies responsible for the professional world tours was crucial, stating: “We have to make the sport viable. It would be wonderful to get a sponsor for our whole tour, alongside title sponsors for different tournaments.”
Another former world number one, Grainger, is also in Hong Kong for the Masters. The women’s over-35 finalist said she tried to bring the bodies together “but didn’t get it done” when she was president of the Women’s International Squash Players Association, the predecessor to the WSA.
Grainger worked hard to support the Olympic bid for 2016, holding a massive event in the United States as part of World Squash Day that drew support from leading male and female professionals.
“The sport is fractured because the two bodies are doing the same jobs in different ways. They should be fighting for the tour together and that’s why I want to see them unify,” said 37-year-old Grainger, who coaches the US women’s national team.
“We are a small sport and unifying them will make us much stronger. I don’t think it should have combined before, as it was going from a stage of amateur to professional many years ago and they [the associations] came out of nowhere. But now it’s time to combine as we are at a new stage.
“You have to treat squash like a business. The sport needs to grow up a little and I think we are still operating in an amateur way.”