England’s twice world champion Nick Matthew is keeping everything crossed ahead of one of the most momentous days in squash history.
The Sheffield star (pictured), like the rest of the global squash community, is counting down to Sunday 8th September when the International Olympic Committee will decide which of squash, wrestling and softball/baseball will be admitted to the programme for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Matthew, who is bidding for a hat-trick of titles at the AJ Bell PSA World Squash Championship in Manchester from 26 October and 3 November, is certainly hopeful of a positive verdict from the meeting in Buenos Aires.
“The sport appears to be enjoying a surge in popularity which is down to the hard work of a lot of different people,” says the newly-married Yorkshire-born racket master.
“London 2012 was a big low to the sport because it rammed home we weren’t an Olympic sport. But in a strange way it gave our bid more exposure because I think many people just assumed squash was already in the Games.
“So, there was a momentum built up from people wanting to see a sport like squash in the Olympics.
“As I said, I believe the sport is on the crest of a wave and hopefully we can carry on with the momentum.”
Londoner Peter Barker, a semi-finalist at the 2011 World Championship and winner of the Colombian Open this summer, is also on tenterhooks ahead of September 8th.
“I really believe squash deserves to be an Olympic sport,” says Barker, who recently became a dad for the first time. “But in life you don’t always get what you deserve.
“The sport is in really good shape and has been for a few years. So, it would certainly complete the sport and complete everyone’s wishes if we get the nomination in Buenos Aires.
“We’re up against a few other well-supported sports but I am staying optimistic.”
Squash, making a third attempt for Games inclusion, made the shortlist back in May when karate, wakeboarding, roller sports, climbing and wushu were all cast adrift.
“Recognition as an Olympic sport would accelerate the growth plans we’re making,” added Alex Gough, CEO of the PSA.
“If we are included in the 2020 Olympics, we’d expect investment in the sport to double within the next three to four years.”
Closer to home, Matthew and Barker also have a keen interest in another important event happening this week. The main draw for the AJ Bell World Championship will be made this Thursday (5 September) – news of which will issued live via the event’s Twitter stream @mwsc2013
There is also an eight-player, wild card event taking place at the National Squash Centre in Manchester from 3-4 September.
The winner will have his name added to the live draw for the AJ Bell World Squash Championship, while the runner up and third-to-fourth-placed play-off winner will take a local spot in qualifying.
The AJ Bell World Squash Championship takes place from October 26 to November 3, with the quarter-finals onwards hosted at the internationally known Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex). Tickets are now available from Ticketmaster by ringing 0844 847 2508 or visiting www.AJBellworldsquashchamps.co.uk
Article and image courtesy of The Professional Squash Association