Squash

Squash’s chances of 2020, 2024 Olympic inclusion

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The International Olympic Committee will make the second of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday.

Nearly 100 IOC members will choose one of three sports — baseball/softball, squash and wrestling — for inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics from 11-11:45 a.m. Eastern time. For more on what happens Sunday, click here.

OlympicTalk will look at each sport’s pitch. Here is a rundown of squash:

In 2011, squash had to feel fairly confident about getting into the Olympics for 2020 and 2024, even though the vote was two years away.

That’s when the IOC short listed eight sports for possible inclusion — baseball, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, softball, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. Of those, only baseball, karate, roller sports and softball joined squash in 2009 when it came up short for 2016 inclusion, when golf and rugby made it.

In 2005, baseball and softball had been cut from the Olympics beginning with the 2012 Games. Also in 2005, karate and squash actually beat golf and rugby, as well as roller sports, in voting for 2012 inclusion, though none made it. Squash, so close and yet to be given a chance in the Olympics, was gaining momentum.

Squash is a racket sport pitting two competitors hitting a ball against a wall. Points are won if a ball bounces twice on the floor before one competitor gets to it. Points are lost for hitting the ball too low on the wall.

The last year saw a combination blow dent its hopes. In 2012, baseball and softball merged into one bid, strengthening the cause of both sports. In February, wrestling was cut from the list of Olympic core sports in a shocking decision, so the Olympic stalwart dropped into the group of squash and others looking for 2020 and 2024 inclusion.

In May, the IOC named three finalists. Squash made it again, as expected two years ago. So did baseball/softball and wrestling, two bids that, one year ago, wouldn’t have been candidates for Sunday’s vote. Squash could have been the popular pick heading into Buenos Aires. Not anymore.

The Associated Press described its chances as, “once the favorite, now maybe a stroke too far.” The New York Times called it “a long shot.”

“We’re happy that we’re in the final three,” said Kevin Klipstein, CEO of U.S. Squash since 2004, in a phone interview. “It was definitely actually a bit of a tough break, for wrestling to be selected as a sport to be eliminated (in February) because a lot of squash coverage was being viewed very favorably up until that point.”

Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

Klipstein said the feedback squash received after failed bids for 2012 and 2016 inclusion were to better its broadcast product. It added more streaming of the sport’s professional tours, shooting in HD with multiple camera angles. In the U.S., ESPN3 and Tennis Channel continue to give it more attention, but how far it has come is still questionable.

“We put together as good a product as we can,” Klipstein said. “We’ve done what we can do. See where it shakes out on Sunday.”

Klipstein said squash is on a similar trajectory to what tennis was on 30 or 40 years ago. Tennis greats such as Andre AgassiKim ClijstersRoger Federer and Andy Murray have backed the bid.

“I could be wrong, but I think why it’s not on TV as much is because it almost seems like the same point is getting played,” Murray said at the U.S. Open this week. “It’s maybe not the best spectator sport, but it’s a very difficult sport to play. You have to be extremely fit, have very good hand/eye coordination, good feel and good touch.”

Squash is cost-effective. It can be played on a glass court built pretty much anywhere.

“I could do it on the bridge over the Bosphorus (Turkey), in a bullfighting ring (Spain) or in the Imperial Palace gardens (Japan),” World Squash Federation president N. Ramachandran of India said, according to The Associated Press. “You tell me where to put it, and I will do it. You can put them up in a matter of three days.”

Squash hopes a man named Mike Lee can work more magic. Lee, described by different outlets as a lobbyist, strategist and consultant, worked for London 2012, Rio 2016, rugby’s successful bid and the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Another pro for squash is that it’s global. All five continents have produced world champions.

“With athletes 185 countries playing squash, I can count on going to tournaments and being surrounded by players from every part of the globe,” Amanda Sobhy, 20, the top-ranked U.S. squash player, told USA Today. “And yet, deep down inside, every single one of us would gladly trade all of our titles for the chance to compete in the Olympics.”

What it also has going is that it’s the only one of the candidates that has yet to be given a shot in the Olympic program. Winning the vote would increase its growing legitimacy.

“We’ve always viewed the Olympics as something we really want to achieve, for the athletes, that they get a chance to compete on the world’s biggest and brightest stage,” Klipstein said, “and it’s clear that we fit well into the Olympics overall in terms of the values that we have — the sportsmanship, the fact that it’s clean.”

Remember when wrestling gained attention for holding a meet inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal in May? Squash, in addition to an event outside the Egyptian pyramids, has been holding competitions at Grand Central for years.

“I guess imitation is flattery,” Klipstein said. “(Wrestling) got some nice publicity for it. I guess it’s a validation of the fact that we’re doing things that make sense.”

If squash doesn’t prevail Sunday, it’s not going to give up.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Klipstein said. “Dust ourselves off, come back with a stronger bid.”

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Shaun White misses final at second Olympic qualifier

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Shaun White can’t qualify for the Olympics until mid-January.

The two-time halfpipe gold medalist missed the final at the second of four Olympic selection events in Breckenridge, Colo., on Thursday.

He was 14th in qualifying, where he needed to be top 12 to advance to Friday’s final. Full results are here. The third and fourth qualifiers are in January.

White is still in strong position to make the Olympic team after finishing second among Americans at the first qualifier last week.

The Olympic halfpipe team should include four men with the last spot available via discretionary selection by a U.S. Ski & Snowboard committee.

The Friday final in Breckenridge includes Ben Ferguson, who will wrap up the first Olympic men’s halfpipe berth if he is one of the top two Americans.

Also in the final are Sochi Olympians Danny Davis and Greg Bretz and Olympic gold and silver medalists Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland and Ayumu Hirano of Japan.

All of the top U.S. women qualified for the final, including 2002 Olympic champion Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter and the last two X Games champions, Elena Hight and Chloe Kim.

A full Breckenridge preview and broadcast schedule and qualifying standings are here.

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Olympic team

Candace Parker not in 2017-2020 USA Basketball national team pool

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Candace Parker was not among 29 players named to the U.S. national basketball team player pool announced Thursday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s out of 2020 Olympic contention.

Players can be added or dropped from the national team pool between now and 2020.

USA Basketball director Carol Callan was asked Thursday if Parker, who was upset at being left off the Rio Olympic team, declined an invitation and what her situation is the next four years.

“We generally don’t talk about players that aren’t here because there’s a variety of reasons why they’re not. She’s one of them,” Callan responded. “We choose not to try to speak for them. So, I would simply suggest that you ask her. Candace has been an important part of our program over the years. We talked previously about the decision when she didn’t make the Olympic roster. I just think she’s better suited to say that. I don’t want to speak for her.”

For now, the pool is headlined by four-time Olympic champions Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who both recommitted to USA Basketball this year, one year after saying they believed Rio would be their Olympic farewells.

The pool includes every member of the Rio Olympic team except for the retired Tamika Catchings.

“The list of 29 [includes] players that were in the pool last quad from 2013-16 who want to continue,” Callan said, not mentioning Parker, who was in the pool in the last Olympic cycle.

It would not be a surprise if Parker never suits up for Team USA again after being left off the Rio roster.

The 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist said in May that she didn’t know if she wanted to go for the Tokyo 2020 team that will be coached by Dawn Staley, who succeeds Geno Auriemma.

Parker was also not among the 30 players who accepted invitations to a September/October national team camp. Five of her Los Angeles Sparks teammates did accept invites but none ended up attending because the team was playing in the WNBA Finals.

Staley will guide a 12-woman roster at the FIBA World Cup in September. Usually, the winner of the World Cup clinches the first Olympic basketball berth. The U.S. won the last two FIBA World Cups in 2010 and 2014.

Parker had said a primary motivation to play in Rio was that her daughter, Lailaa, then 7 years old, would have been able to watch her at the Olympics and remember it.

After missing the Rio team, Parker spoke of being caught off-guard, mad and upset. She would not commit to hypothetically being an injury replacement if one of the 12 named players had to bow out. That situation did not arise.

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U.S. women’s national basketball team player pool
Seimone Augustus
(Minnesota Lynx)
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
Layshia Clarendon (Atlanta Dream)
Napheesa Collier (Connecticut)
Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics)
Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings)
Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky)
Asia Durr (Louisville)
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream)
Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks)
Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
Kayla McBride (Las Vegas Aces)
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State)
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Chiney Ogwumike (Connecticut Sun)
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces)
Katie Lou Samuelson (Connecticut)
Odyssey Sims (Los Angeles Sparks)
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
Courtney Williams (Connecticut Sun)
A’ja Wilson (South Carolina)