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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on October 23, 2023

Squash: The Olympic Dream

Well, it has finally happened.

After countless years of rejection and disappointment, squash has finally been accepted into the Olympics.

The decision was made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday, October 16th, and the squash world has gone crazy with excitement.

Originally, I was planning to just post on social media about this, but, I decided to focus a full article on it instead since it is such a historic moment for the sport we love.

I'll talk a bit about why this is so exciting, what the decision means for the sport, the impact it will have on fans, the formatting, and what it means for the players too...

Let's dive in!

So, first off, a bit about squash's history when trying to get into the Olympics...

The sport has missed out so many times on its Olympic hopes, including in London (2012) and Paris (2024), two cities in countries where the sport is pretty popular, so, it's clear squash has had its work cut out for some time.

There have been a number of reasons given in the past why the sport didn't make the cut too, for example, I believe that Tokyo's organizing committee rejected squash (for the games held in 2021) because it was deemed “difficult to understand.”

To us squash lovers, it's easy to be offended by statements like this, however, if you put yourself into the shoes of someone who doesn't play or watch the sport, you can also see why the rules may appear confusing, especially with the numerous controversial let, stroke, and no-let decisions that occur in many PSA matches.

Also, squash's previous bids have focused on different elements of the sport that perhaps weren't the right focus when trying to convince the Olympic committee to feature our sport.

However, this is focusing too much on the negatives, and I apologize for that! It's time to focus on the now, and on the future.

I'm not very familiar with the details of squash's bid for 2028, but they've clearly done something very right!

I read that they leaned a little more into the sport's history (originating in England in the 19th century), and its international nature, with so many players from all corners of the globe being present on the PSA World Tour.

So, a huge thank you to anyone and everyone who was involved in that!

I'm not sure how much weight the hosting country has in the decision to feature new sports (perhaps it isn't much since squash didn't make the cut in England or France), however, squash is growing very quickly in the USA, and, with four US players in the women's world top 20, perhaps they have a good chance to get some medals too!

But, again, if you look through the PSA World Rankings, there are players from so many different countries who play at a very high standard.

Diego Elias from Peru was recently World No.1, we've also had World No.1s from England, Canada, Pakistan, France, New Zealand, and of course, Egypt.

The same goes for the women's game, although the top three players at the moment are all Egyptian, there is a huge variety of players from other countries in the rest of the top 20.

Plus, one of the best and most accomplished female players of all time, Nicol David, was from Malaysia.

So yeah, I think squash can be very proud of its worldwide presence.

Looking at the sport as a whole, obviously, this is a huge game changer, and it's very exciting to think about what it means in the grand scheme of things.

Obviously, having the status of an Olympic sport is a massive deal in and of itself. It gives the sport a prestige that it didn't have before.

While I don't believe this will bring swathes and swathes of people to watch the sport who haven't heard of it before because there are so many other sports to watch in the Olympics that I just don't think that's a realistic thing to hope for.

However, I do think it is still an excellent opportunity to introduce some new people to the sport and help it grow. Perhaps this is an area in which we can put our efforts in the lead-up to LA2028.

It's a great opportunity to begin some grassroots initiatives and begin getting younger people involved in the sport, using the fact that it's an Olympic sport as a selling point!

I have also already seen plenty of examples of coverage of squash on mainstream news channels since the announcement was made, which is an awesome way to get the sport in front of new people.

It has been on the BBC in England which is the main broadcasting channel, plus, I also saw a segment on Channel 5 News that discussed the announcement with the Malik family (a family of awesome squash players based in England).

None of this can be a bad thing and, in my opinion, the more news coverage the better. Squash becoming more well-known could also help drive funding and investment within schools, local communities, and leisure centres.

Anything to get new young people involved!

With regard to current fans of the sport like myself, I think that anticipation will be through the roof.

It'll be thrilling to see the more patriotic side of competitive squash too. Of course, this is present at events such as the Pan Am Games and the Commonwealth Games, but we don't get to see squash team events particularly often, so, one more can't hurt, especially if it's the Olympics!

Of course, we'll all also be watching our favourite players anyway, regardless of their nationality, another thing that makes our sport great in my opinion.

Squash Olympic

So what will the format of squash in the Olympics look like?

There isn't actually a lot of information out there at the moment, however, what we do know is that two medal events will be played; the men’s and women’s singles competitions.

Otherwise, I don't know very much. I'm not sure how scoring will work, I'm not sure how markers will be chosen, I don't know who will be commentating (if there is commentary at all), and I don't know what the venue will look like.

Also, although I know that most countries put certain amounts of funding towards each Olympic sport, I have no idea how much that would be for squash in England (and definitely not in other countries).

I'm not even sure how many players from each country will be a part of each team.

I have read rumours online that it will be two men and two women that will compete from each country, so, with regards to the players themselves, there is definitely a lot to consider too.

Obviously, the Olympics is a dream for pretty much any athlete, therefore any squash player, and, lots of the current top players have been voicing how thrilled they are that squash is now in the Olympics.

In fact, Amanda Sobhy tweeted the following:

"Reading all the PSA player’s interviews on the Olympics (mine included). I wonder how many of us are all planning to stay in the game for another 5 years for the Olympics… I also wonder how many of us are going to retire immediately after"

She makes a very good point and has also mentioned on Twitter (on the day the news was announced) 'I guess I’m on that 5-year Retirement plan'.

Since these games aren't being played for another five years, the professional squash landscape indeed could be very different in comparison to what it is now.

With many of the current top 10 men's and women's players being generally considered in the later stages of their careers, and, since these games aren't being played for another five years, the professional squash landscape could be very different in comparison to what it is now.

For example, in England, Mohamed and Marwan ElShorbagy are currently the country's two top-ranked male players, however, they are currently aged 32 and 30, meaning they will both be in (or past) their mid-30s by the time the Olympics arrive.

However, we actually compete as Great Britain (rather than just England), so players such as Joel Makin (from Wales) and Greg Lobban (from Scotland) will also be fighting for their spot on the team.

Then, there are younger players such as Patrick Rooney improving fast and coming through the ranks too.

In the women's rankings, we have the likes of Tesni Evans (Wales), Sarah-Jane Perry (England), Emily Whitlock (Wales), all of whom aren't too far apart in the rankings.

Then there is Jasmine Hutton (England) and Lucy Beecroft (England) who are younger and flying up the rankings too.

So, in short, I would definitely struggle to make any predictions for Great Britain's squash team (as well as many other country's squash teams) because so much can happen in five years.

The same goes for any other team in the world really, there's just no knowing who will be at the top of their game by then.

If you look toward Egypt, for example, the competition in the men's and women's rankings is absolutely ferocious and even harder to predict.

In the men's, we have Ali Farag, Mostafa Asal, Mazen Hesham, Tarek Momen, Karim Gawad, Youssef Ibrahim the list goes on.

In the women's rankings, we of course have the big three, Nour El Sherbini, Nouran Gohar, and Hania El Hammamy, and then we also have Nour El Tayeb, Salma Hany, and Rowan Elaraby.

It's pretty much impossible to know who will be where in five years' time, and, I'm also unsure of the date by which Olympic teams have to be decided by, which is a big factor too.

Anyway, one thing is for sure, each and every professional squash player will be training their hearts out to have their chance of competing as an Olympic athlete.

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for further news on the formatting of squash in the Olympics (and anything else related) and will make sure to feature it in the 'Around the Web' section below.

For now, I think we can just take a moment to bask in this historic moment, and be proud of how far it has come. 

We still have quite a long time to wait, but, to me at least, it feels as though a big weight or pressure has been lifted of the sport, and it can finally move to the next level in terms of its growth.

This article was taken from our On The 'T' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!

Published by Alex Robertson October 23, 2023
Alex Robertson