After squash was confirmed as one of five new sports that will be introduced to the LA2028 Olympic Games, we sat down with US Squash President and CEO Kevin Klipstein to discuss the historic moment.
Below, he talks to us about what being #LA28BOUND means for the sport, how the close collaboration between the World Squash Federation (WSF), US Squash and the Professional Squash Association (PSA) was key, and the impact Olympic inclusion can have on grassroots squash in the United States.
After a long time and a long journey, squash is finally in the Olympic Games. What was your reaction when you saw the news?
“It’s extremely significant for squash to be part of the Olympics. It’s a certain sense of validation for the sport to say we belong on the world’s brightest sports stage.
“It’s an incredible milestone, just a huge breakthrough for the sport. We couldn’t be happier. This is going to increase and be a catalyst for people’s awareness of the sport and how great it is.
“And so that, in a sense, is something that’s really important for the squash community. But also in the U.S., in particular, where the sport is not as well known as it is in the rest of the world, for us it’s really important because this just allows people to become aware of the sport.
“It’s then our jobs to help provide them access so that they can tap into all the great benefits of participating in the sport.”
What makes squash such a good sport for the Olympic Games?
“Well it’s an ideal sport because it’s fast, it’s intense, it’s dynamic, it’s strategic, but also it’s relatable in that squash is a sport that can be played by anybody.
“You have gender parity but also any age, any body type. So it’s a sport that just can inspire you by seeing world-class play, but you can also get out there on the court with essentially just a racket, a ball, some eye guards and you can have a great time.”
A lot of work went on behind the scenes between US Squash, the WSF and the PSA for the bid. Are you able to give an insight into the process?
“It’s been a wonderful collaboration with World Squash, the PSA and US Squash.
“We came together more than a year ago and it’s been really strong ever since. I think the results show in terms of our ability to work with the Los Angeles Organising Committee, who have been amazing and extremely professional and so respectful.
“So we give a lot of credit to Los Angeles and their organising committee for running such a great process. We were just really happy to be part of it and to be able to work so effectively with the PSA and the WSF.
“I think it’s a harbinger of good things to come in terms of, while it’s a very vast squash community globally, to have some of the leading organising governing bodies in the sport be so close and working so collaboratively together, that helps us drive a bigger vision for the sport.”
How important is Olympic inclusion for the growth of squash around the world?
“Well we always felt that our plans for developing and growing the sport would be the same regardless of Olympic inclusion.
“However, Olympic inclusion is just a huge catalyst. Again, the awareness is going to be massive in terms of our ability to engage the community, also communities that haven’t had access to squash before. So our ability to drive growth will be enhanced quite a bit by Olympic inclusion.
“So we’re excited for the opportunity and we’re ready for it.”
What impact will the Olympics have on squash in the United States and, in particular, in Los Angeles?
“We work with the Parks and Recreation department in Los Angeles, with the PlayLA program doing outdoor squash, so we’re really looking forward to continuing to develop Los Angeles and access to the sport.
“The Olympics will leave a huge legacy there because we’ll be leaving courts behind – outdoor courts, exhibition courts – so there’ll be a great legacy for the community in Los Angeles, both the squash community but also beyond it in terms of access to the sport.
“What that ultimately does is just mean that we have more activity at the grassroots level, a bigger pipeline of talent coming through and aspiring to be Olympic gold medalist, which is just fantastic.”