Squash aiming for the 2020 Games

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We’re not yet sure where the Olympics will be held in 2020 (though we’re guessing Istanbul gets the nod), but it’s already time to start looking at which sports will make the cut when the Summer Games return, then leave, then return again eight years from now.

Seven events will be vying for a spot on the 2020 schedule, including baseball and softball in a co-bid, but Squash has been making a lot of noise in its aim for inclusion. World Squash Federation President Rami Ramachandrans told Inside the Games that they might have figured out the formula.

“One of the big things is the introduction of glass courts, which has made squash much more spectator friendly,” Ramachandrans said. “It is one of the things that has helped improved the presentation of the game along with other measures like using under floor lighting, music, referee video review…”

His idea seems to be that making the Squash cooler will ultimately get his sport in to the Games, which was far-fetched before the IOC began awarding medals in snowboarding and BMX. Now cool spectator sports are ideal for Olympics fans growing up in an X-Games world.

“Courts can be placed in amazing iconic locations – in front of pyramids, harbour side, in museums or anywhere else to really bring a host city to life,” Ramachandrans added. “It would also create a real squash sporting legacy for that host city.”

And so the WSF launched its “Back the Bid” campaign, a movement that saw flashmobs, Twitter campaigns, and more than 40,000 enthusiasts celebrating World Squash Day around the globe. Not nearly the same as the millions upon millions that most sports boast, but it’s a definitely start.

An added bonus is how much the Olympics love racket and country club sports, and Squash, which has been called “jet-propelled chess” (though only by people who play Squash), is both. All that said, visions of men and women hitting balls around glass cages might be something we should get used to.

The seven sports will present their cases to the IOC Executive Board early next year. Game on.

Olympic champion, Tour de France runner-up tests positive

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Samuel Sanchez, a 2008 Olympic champion and 2010 Tour de France runner-up, was provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned growth hormone on Aug. 9.

Sanchez, a 39-year-old Spaniard, was due to race the Vuelta a España starting Saturday but is now out indefinitely until the conclusion of his case. That may include the testing of his B sample.

Sanchez denied wrongdoing, saying the failed test was a surprise, according to Spanish news agency EFE.

Sanchez won the road race on the first day of the Beijing Games in a five-man sprint that also included Swiss Fabian Cancellara, who would win the time trial in 2008 and 2016, and Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck.

Two years later, Sanchez finished fourth in the Tour de France but was upgraded to second behind Schleck due to doping bans for original winner Alberto Contador and third-place Denis Menchov.

Sanchez also took the polka-dot jersey for best climber at the 2011 Tour and finished second and third at the Vuelta in 2009 and 2007, respectively.

Sanchez rode in the 2010 Tour wearing a special helmet honoring his Olympic title. He also got a tattoo behind his right shoulder commemorating the Beijing gold on Aug. 9, 2008.

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Victoria Azarenka may miss U.S. Open due to custody battle

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Olympic and Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka says her participation in the U.S. Open is in doubt because she might not be able to bring her son with her to New York as a result of her separation from the baby’s father.

Azarenka is “faced with a difficult situation which may not allow me to return to work right away,” according to a post on the former top-ranked player’s social media accounts Thursday. “No parent should have to decide between their child or their career.”

The 28-year-old from Belarus gave birth to Leo, her first child, in December, then returned to the tour in June.

Azarenka’s post said that shortly after Wimbledon — where Azarenka lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10 — she separated from her son’s father.

“As we work to resolve some of the legal processes, the way things stand now is that the only way I can play in the U.S. Open this year is if I leave Leo behind in California,” was posted on Azarenka’s social media, “which I’m not willing to do.”

The U.S. Open starts Aug. 28.

“I remain optimistic that in the coming days Leo’s father and I can put aside any differences and take steps in the right direction to more effectively work as a team and agree on an arrangement for all three of us to travel and for me to compete,” was posted, “but, more importantly, to ensure that Leo has a consistent presence from both of his parents.”

Azarenka was the runner-up in New York in 2012 and 2013, losing in the final each year to Serena Williams.

Those were also the years that Azarenka won her two Grand Slam singles titles in Australia.

Wimbledon was Azarenka’s first major tournament in more than a year. She currently is ranked 204th.

“Balancing child care and a career is not easy for any parent, but it is a challenge I am willing to face and embrace. I want to support men and women everywhere who know it is OK to be a working mother — or father. No one should ever have to decide between a child and their career, we are strong enough to do both,” was posted on Azarenka’s social media. “I am incredibly grateful for all of the support I have received from women and men around the world who recognize the importance of supporting working moms and our right to be with our children. I look forward to hopefully having positive developments soon so that this difficult situation can be resolved and I can get back to competing.”

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