Ramy Ashour, the world’s best squash player, says the ‘revolution’ sweeping through the sport will take it all the way into the Olympics.
By Kate Mason, republished from Metro UK.
Last week in St Petersburg, the International Olympic Committee chose its three-sport shortlist for the final spot on the 2020 Games roster, with squash selected alongside wrestling and a joint bid by baseball and softball. These three will now go forward to the final vote in September.
Until wrestling’s shock exit from the 2020 Games three months ago, squash was the favourite for Olympic status. In recent weeks, cynics have been lining up to suggest dumping wrestling was just a gesture to get the sport to smarten up its act and that, with a little effort, Putin’s favourite sport will be back in the 2020 Games.
One person who would argue this is not the case is Ashour. The 25-year-old squash world no.1 is the bid’s poster boy. He presented squash’s case to the IOC alongside Nicol David, the sport’s top-ranked woman.
This year will be squash’s third attempt to achieve Olympic status. With two failed bids behind it, the World Squash Federation has learned a lot about what it means to be an Olympic Sport.
Over the past seven years squash has embraced on-court technology, such as video reviews, updated the way in which tournaments are promoted and secured major sponsors for the World Tour.
Ashour told Metro: ‘The WSF [World Squash Federation] and the PSA [Professional Squash Association] have been chasing this dream for ages – for a really a lot of time. And this time I feel that we have the biggest chance.
‘Because there is a squash revolution everywhere now. There is so much difference in the level of the game; so much difference in the way the players are even introducing themselves and [the way] the game is introducing itself now.’
The numbers support Ashour’s claims. Squash is now played in 185 countries around the world; it is a sport enjoyed equally by men and women and five continents have produced world champions; there are more than 50,000 squash courts around the world; and recent initiatives to raise the sport’s profile, such as the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge, have won squash new fans all over the world.
For a long time it was claimed the sport could never be television-friendly, but with glass courts now the norm this is patently untrue.
And anyone who’s seen the recent viral video of James Willstrop’s fake shot (and let’s face it, that’s a lot of you), will know that it’s now a great TV sport.
As Ashour explained: ‘Squash is a lifestyle. It grows your self-confidence, your patience.’
The team behind squash’s Olympic bid would certainly appreciate that sentiment. Finally, the time may have come for their patience to be rewarded.
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