Squash makes case for Olympic inclusion Post Commonwealth Games


Matthew Pinsent | 09:03 UK time, Saturday, 9 October 2010

On the face of it squash, like so many of the racquet sports, seems a cordial and genteel way of spending an hour but, in reality, it is really a vicious sporting encounter.

There is scope to bully your opponent, shout at the officials with seeming impunity and it would certainly challenge any of the sports taking place in Delhi to be the sweatiest – despite being held in the air-conditioned hall of the Siri Fort Complex.

At some points the gladiators stand at the back of the court and exchange strokes of enormous speed and power but in an instant they are darting forward, lunging like fencers, arms fully straight front legs fully folded to reach some of the deft touch shots.

After Peter Barker won the bronze medal on Friday afternoon, an England sweep was assured in the men’s singles with Nick Matthew and James Willstrop in the gold-medal match.

As the game started it was a great mix of a good crowd and the highest-level sport – a combination seen far too seldom in Delhi so far.

You might think that, with the doubles competition starting on Saturday, some sort of team orders would have been issued but there was no quarter asked or given.

Nick Matthew was making no secret of his opinion about James Willstrop’s calls in the middle of games for the cleaners to come in and provide a dry floor – and incidentally some breathing space – and both players at times were furiously asking for lets.

Getting a let in squash is part tactic, part truth and a lot of bravado. The encumbered party looks angrily back to the panel of officials, miming the action he would like to have taken with his racquet, while the blocker looks aghast and points to some area of the court with palms up and a shrug – the full Mediterranean ”What’s he on?”

The officials have a quick vote between the three of them and deliver a polite ”yes, let”. The point is replayed sometimes more than once and the sweat goes on.

In the end, Matthew swept Willstrop aside in straight games. But the match was full of nuance and skill that the bland 11-6 11-7 11-7 cannot relate.

Squash of course is not an Olympic sport, which gives gold in the Commonwealth Games an elevated status.

It’s not that they haven’t tried to gain a place in the Olympic programme. They applied for inclusion for both the 2012 London Olympics and, more recently, for Rio de Janiero in 2016, both times unsuccessfully.

Seeing both golf and rugby sevens being voted into the biggest multi-sport event on earth must have been a bitter pill.

Squash would be a good addition to the Olympics – it is relatively easy to set up, especially in a modern urban environment, and is fast and exciting to watch both on television and live.

Crucially, the Olympics would be the absolute pinnacle of what the sport offers – unlike so many of the current sports in the programme (such as tennis, football and arguably now rugby sevens).

Golf’s inclusion in the rota is – on that particular metric – strange. Nothing in golf is going to break into the four majors or the Ryder Cup as the must-win event of someone’s career.

The reality of what makes the grade for inclusion and what keeps a sport inside the ropes is never openly published. Some of them must include number of competing countries, tradition of being in the Games, spectator appeal, cost of staging, spread of medals in terms of countries and ticket sales.

The fact that squash can compete with many of the sports already in the Olympics on many of these makes me think that they must be head of the list should the 28 sports ever be increased even by one.

The earliest they could ever be included is now 2020 – too late for this generation of athletes. For now, let’s hail some of the best squash players in the world and wish them well.

Article found on bbc website 11.10.10 and submitted online by Isobel Smith

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