Squash players aim to impress IOC in Hong Kong

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IOC officials are at the Hong Kong Open this week to determine whether or not squash is worthy of the one available spot open on the Olympics competition schedule in 2020.

The sport is going up again heavy hitters like baseball and softball – both voted out of the Games in 2005 – as well as karate, wushu, roller sports, wakeboarding and sport climbing, but world No. 1 Nicol David thinks that the dusty country club stigma against squash is outdated, and believes the sport has been modernized for the Olympic audience.

“We have become more fan-friendly,” David told Reuters. “In the past squash was regarded as a bit too sterile where you couldn’t cheer. But now if there is a great shot and the fans cheer, the rally will continue. The players won’t stop playing, we have to move with the times and we have adapted.

“This is partly due to the fact that the game is now being taken to the fans. We are playing in shopping malls and in outdoor courts in exotic locations like the Hong Kong harbor or Grand Central Station in New York.”

World Squash Federation President Rami Ramachandrans explained last month that squash has added glass surrounded courts, lighting, music, and video review to make the sport cooler and more spectator friendly.

“Courts can be placed in amazing iconic locations – in front of pyramids, harbor side, in museums or anywhere else to really bring a host city to life,” Ramachandrans said of the opportunities to display squash at the 2020 Olympics. ”It would also create a real squash sporting legacy for that host city.”

The IOC won’t decide which sport is added until a meeting in Argentina next September, but the baseball and softball federations have joined forces in their bid and have already met with IOC officials.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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