Following the announcement that squash will make its Olympic debut at the LA28 Olympic Games, former World No.1 Paul Coll has praised the work being done behind the scenes in growing the sport.
The World Squash Federation (WSF), working closely with US Squash and the Professional Squash Association (PSA), was successful in presenting the sport’s case to the LA28 Organising Committee, following a number of close calls in previous Olympic inclusion campaigns.
“To see that our sport is being recognised by one of the best organisations for sport in the world is incredible,” current World No.4 Coll said.
“It just goes to show the work behind the scenes in squash and how much our sport has been growing over the last two years, it’s an amazing achievement for all those involved in squash.”
Squash is currently played in 185 different countries around the world, but the New Zealand No.1 believes its Olympics inclusion can only send the sport in one direction – and that is up.
“I think every federation will hopefully get more funding [from national sports bodies], it will hopefully expand our sport to more countries and hopefully expand in individual countries, which will in turn grow the sport globally.
“I think that’s exactly what we have been striving for for many years, and we hope that its inclusion in the Olympics will do that for our sport and grow it to the level it deserves.”
Despite the inevitable march of time from now to the LA28 Olympic Games, Coll – who last year became the first male New Zealander to reach World No.1 – has his eyes firmly set on representing his country and competing for an Olympic medal.
Coll, who will be 36 by the time the Los Angeles Games arrives, is relishing the opportunity to try to qualify for the New Zealand Olympic team and believes the historic addition of squash to the Olympic Games will fulfil the dreams of players from all across the world.
“I think it has been a dream of many squash players to be able to have the chance of competing at the Olympics.
“I have been lucky enough to compete for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics is on a bigger scale, so to be able to represent my country would be amazing. I’m super excited to have the opportunity.
“I’ve firstly got to qualify – I’ll be an old boy by then, but fingers crossed that I’ll have that opportunity.
“I have never actually thought that far ahead [about retirement] to be honest, until we got the announcement that squash is in the Olympics in 2028, and that is the first time that I have ever looked that far ahead.
“It’s certainly a goal and it will definitely keep me around in the sport until then so I’ll be able accomplish my dream of competing in the Olympics.”
It comes as no surprise that ‘Superman’ harbours ambitions of competing for an Olympic medal considering the vast levels of success he has brought to his country in the past.
Coll, who recently became the first male Kiwi to win the U.S. Open for 37 years, has a wealth of experience to call upon from the Commonwealth Games, having won a total of four medals – including two golds – across three Commonwealth Games since Glasgow 2014.
At the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the 31-year-old became the first New Zealand man to win gold in the singles event after defeating Welshman Joel Makin in a five-game 95-minute marathon, whilst also tasting gold in the mixed doubles event alongside Joelle King.
“You’ve got the wider New Zealand team supporting you,” Coll said when speaking about his past recollections of the Commonwealth Games. “It’s not just squash, it’s not just yourself, it’s a big team that you go away with and there’s a lot of pressure.
“It’s one of the most demanding tournaments that I have played, but also one of the most rewarding, so it’s one of the highlights of my career to date and one of my favourite experiences.”
On why multi-sport events such as the Olympics are so demanding, but even more fulfilling, he added: “It’s hard to switch off, there’s lot of external noise, a lot of athletes running around, so you’re constantly on a high and buzzing around looking for things.
“We played every day for two weeks with singles and doubles and then you’ve got everything else going on around it, including the media, and it’s different for us squash players who aren’t used to that much media as well – but it was the most rewarding two weeks I’ve had in my career.”