By Emily Goddard

Nicol David of Malaysia claimed the womens trophy at the 2013 World Series Squash Finals to retain the title she won last yearJanuary 9 - World Squash Federation (WSF) President N Ramachandran has showered praise on the sport's athletes and their player bodies for helping squash's bid to join the 2020 Olympic Games programme gain momentum in recent months.

Some of the sport's biggest stars, including Malaysia's seven-time world champion Nicol David (pictured top) and Egypt's newly-crowned men's world champion Ramy Ashour, along with the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and Women's Squash Association (WSA), have helped raise the profile of its bid in the race against climbing, karate, roller sport, wakeboard, wushu and baseball/softball for Olympic inclusion.

"Squash has enjoyed a tremendous recent run – beginning with the successful IOC (International Olympic Committee) inspection visit to the Hong Kong Open early in December, and followed shortly afterwards by our presentation to the IOC Programme Commission in Lausanne," Ramachandran said.

"And this weekend we were not only treated to the best live television coverage of the sport I have ever seen, on Sky and Eurosport, but also an avalanche of positive press coverage around the world - all of which is inspiring me to feel that we have made huge progress since our last Olympic bid four years ago."

Squash has undergone significant technical development in recent years and the WSF highlighted its recent innovations in presenting its case for Olympic inclusion to the IOC's Programme Commission last month.

Matches are now played in state-of-art all glass courts with under floor lighting and side entrances, while referee video review and improved in-venue presentation have all delivered a dramatic positive change in the broadcast and fan experience.

The sport has also enjoyed a boost in its global reach and appeal, with all five continents producing both male and female world champions – the current women's top 20 features players from 12 countries spread across every continent.

squash 2020 innovationN Ramachandran (second right) led the squash delegation, which included Britain's James Willstrop (far right), WSF chief executive Andrew Shelley (far left), and junior player Reyna Pacheco (second left), for the IOC Programme Commission presentation

"We know that one of our challenges was the televisual aspect of squash – but, thanks to the significant investment in SquashTV by our colleagues at the PSA, our coverage is now first-rate," added Ramachandran.

"The clarity of the ball, the regular use of super slow mos, and the introduction of 'video reviews' have all contributed towards a television 'product' which is streets ahead of what we were used to in the past.

"And this was endorsed by new broadcasters adding squash to their programming this weekend, expanding our reach to a potential worldwide audience of more than 300 million."

World champion cyclist Victoria Pendleton, a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, has also moved to back squash's Olympic bid.

She joined fellow British medallists, cyclist Joanna Rowsell and rower Greg Searle, at last week's PSA World Series Finals at the exclusive Queen's Clubs in London to watch the formidable David and Egyptian Amr Shabana claim the women's and men's titles respectively.

"Squash is a very physically demanding sport and it's also very spectator-friendly," said Pendleton.

"It has all the qualities required to make it a great Olympic sport.

"I don't know why it isn't in already."

Contact the writer of this story at emily.goddard@insidethegames.biz


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