The 2028 Olympics could be game-changing for squash – Gina Kennedy

By Sports Desk October 16, 2023

Gina Kennedy’s career ambitions have been changed almost overnight after the “game-changing” announcement that squash will finally make its Olympics debut at the 2028 Games.

Squash has been overlooked by the International Olympic Committee at the past three Games, while the sport’s community reacted with incredulity at being ignored in favour of breakdancing for Paris 2024.

But the IOC on Monday green-lit the proposal for squash – alongside cricket, lacrosse, flag football and baseball/softball – to be included on the Olympic schedule at Los Angeles in five years’ time.

Kennedy, the top-ranked British female player in the world, had long ago given up hope this day would come but now that it has, the 26-year-old’s aspirations have been given a welcome shake-up.

She told the PA news agency: “It’s absolutely incredible. When there were rumours flying around last week, it honestly took me by surprise, I had absolutely no idea squash was even being considered.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up having been in that position before. To wake up today and see that it’s confirmed is a dream come true. I still can’t really believe it because it came out of nowhere.

“I can’t wipe the smile off my face, it’s the best surprise I could have asked for. It’s just such an exciting time, this could be game-changing for us in terms of exposure and everything.

“All my goals are going to completely change now because the Olympics in five years’ time is going to be the number one goal. I’m going to do what I can to keep my body in the best shape.”

Kennedy, who won gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and achieved a career-high of sixth in the world rankings last month, believes hers is a sport that has been on the up in recent years.

But she recognises how much of a boost being included on the Olympic programme will be.

She said: “A lot of squash players have been a bit perplexed as to why it’s not been involved (in the past); it’s perfect for the Olympics, it’s a niche sport, it’s a sport people play across the world.

“We’ve definitely felt hard done by in the past, losing out to a few different sports. Maybe the issue has been with the televising of it, it can be a bit difficult, plus if you don’t play squash then the rules can be quite difficult to understand.

“But it has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years and it’s becoming a great sport for TV. Hopefully now more people will be excited to learn about the rules and everything.

“It’s absolutely going to be the pinnacle of our sport. It’s going to be the biggest opportunity we have to expose the sport to the mainstream.”

Kennedy was brought back down to earth from her Commonwealth triumph at Birmingham 14 months ago – where she became the first Englishwoman to win a singles gold medal in her sport – as a torn hamstring in her first event back was followed by a flare-up of her ulcerative colitis condition.

The inflammatory bowel disease – which affects around one in 200 people in the UK – led to Kennedy being hospitalised and bed bound for months, but she has flourished this year.

She added: “It was a massive learning curve for me because the emotions after such a big win like that was quite difficult to explain and I didn’t give my body adequate time to rest.

“I went straight back into tournament mode and my body just completely shut down on me for months. It was difficult, but now I’ve managed to get it under control.”

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