(ATR) Reigning world champion Nick Matthew tells Around the Rings
squash’s addition to the 2020 Games would make the Olympic title his sport’s most coveted prize.
Nick Matthew sports a Squash 2020 shirt in Quebec City. (ATR)
That shift in prestige would occur “instantly” insists the world No. 2, interviewed on the sidelines of SportAccord days after his historic win at the Allam British Open in London’s O2 Arena.
The first Englishman to win squash’s oldest tournament three times, he appeared in Quebec City alongside top-ranked Pakistani woman Maria Toor Pakay to lobby on behalf of the sport’s Olympic bid.
“Currently, I can vouch for the Commonwealth Games,” Matthew tells ATR
“In 2010, I had just got to world No. 1 for the first time, and I basically put that ranking on hold to try and win a Commonwealth gold medal.”
Matthew, in fact, won two, topping the singles field in Delhi and teaming with Adrian Grant for the doubles title a week later.
Despite skipping two World Tour events – one just before the Commonwealth tournament and one just after – he also clinched the PSA Masters crown for 2010 and reclaimed the No. 1 spot by year’s end.
“Obviously, the Olympics are that much bigger,” he says, “so players […] would put their world rankings to one side for that moment and obviously work hard to get them back afterwards.”
Matthew (right) en route to singles gold at Delhi 2010. (Getty Images)
While he’s right that such concerns would prove secondary to a shot at Games glory, World Squash Federation CEO Andrew Shelley explains to ATR
, the WSF has an agreement
in place with the men’s and women’s tours to award top-level ranking points for any Olympic tournaments.
Whether he plans to stick around until 2020, suggests Matthew, could depend in part on next year’s decision of the IOC.
It's expected there will be room for only one of eight shortlisted candidates to join the 2020 program, currently capped at 28 sports.
Baseball, softball, karate, roller sports, wakeboard and sport climbing are the other bidders, though the IOC Executive Board will add another to the fray in February when an existing Olympic sport gets cut.
EB members meet again in May to decide which of the nine then gets recommended to the IOC Session in September 2013 for confirmation.
"We have completely changed the game around from the last time we made a bid," says WSF president N Ramachandran. (ATR)
In the meantime, WSF president N Ramachandran explains, IOC inspectors will stop by the Hong Kong Open in late November before a Squash 2020 presentation slated for Dec. 19.
It’s obvious from Matthew’s quick trip to Quebec – and his participation in a WSF photo shoot at the Allam British Open – that he’s invested in the Olympic cause.
“I would love to [play],” he tells ATR
“I’d be 39, which would be way old for a squash player […] so the odds wouldn’t be in my favor. If squash did get in and there was even a one percent chance, […] even if you weren’t a gold medal challenger by then, you’d do everything you can just to be part of it.”
Reported in Quebec City by Matthew Grayson
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