Frustrated Sharpes left scratching his head after IOC overlooks squash for Olympic inclusion again

Kingston squash player Charles Sharpes cannot understand how squash continues to be overlooked by the International Olympic Committee in its long-running bid to be an Olympic sport.

Squash was battling with seven other sports for inclusion in Tokyo in 2020 but lost out to baseball/softball, surfing, skateboarding, karate and sport climbing.

It had made the final shortlist of three for Rio 2016 and hopes had been high this time around, only for them to once more be dashed.

“If the decision is just made on the sport then I think it is a no-brainer,’’ said 23-year-old Sharpes.

“If we look at all the countries playing the sport worldwide, it is a huge participation so it is quite head-scratching why we are not actually being picked for the Olympics.

“It is quite hard to be positive about it at all now as we have tried several times and been knocked back every time.”

The decision could end Sharpes’ chances of every playing at an Olympic Games but it is the future generations he is concerned about too.

“In 2024 I will be 32 and I am not saying I will be too old by then but it will be borderline for me,” he said.

“However, I am not just looking at the issue for myself but for the sport in general and how good it would be to see the sport at the Olympics for the generations to come.

“The sport of squash deserves to be in the Olympics.”

Squash enjoyed good media exposure during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow thanks to the successful performances of many British players, especially those from England.

“Squash gets a good media presence in England just because we are a very successful country,” he added.

“We have grown really well as a sport but inclusion into the Olympics looks like being a hard battle at the moment.

“There is a lot of politics involved in the IOC, I compare them to FIFA, as they are two very similar sort of bodies.

“I didn’t hold out much hope in getting into this one just because it has happened twice before.”

The world number 61 though was complimentary of the work the World Squash Federation and campaign team put into the bid, but did warn they might need a rethink too.

“It looks like they have been doing really good work, they have given it everything, tried hard but I think it is time for change,” he explained.

“This is the third time in a row so it gets to a point where they need to get in someone new to try and push the bid but I would not blame the World Squash Federation at all, I just think we were very unlucky.

“We won the vote for London to get into the Olympics but missed out due to being just short of a 2/3 majority.

“Then we came up against golf and rugby sevens for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and they get Tiger Woods and Jonny Wilkinson backing their bids and it’s hard for squash to compete with the financial figures those sports can add to the Olympics.

“Maybe we need some new faces so that they can have the hunger to try and push the sport forward.

“It’s a massive thing for us as a sport because it would be our pinnacle to play at the Olympics.

“It would make such a massive change to my career straight away going forward also in terms of funding, sponsorship and just in terms of media coverage – it would boost everything.”

With the squash season four tournaments old, Sharpes feels he is good shape having made the semi-finals at the Norwegian Open.

“I feel in good shape going into the new season,” he said.

“My world ranking is 61 at the moment and in the short term I want to make the top 50 and then push on from there.

“It’s a busy couple of weeks, we’ve got a 5k tournament in Surrey at Weybridge, then I go to Qatar and then I have got the PSA World Championships in Seattle followed by a tournament in Hong Kong.

“It’s a busy period but it’s nice to be busy.”

Feature image of Charles Sharpes courtesy of squashsite, with thanks

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