Kiwi ace Paul Coll has been hailed as the fittest squash player in the world by a leading commentator who claimed it was “a travesty” that squash is not part of the 2020 Olympic Games.
Daily Mail sports columnist Martin Samuel – a multiple British Sports Journalist of the Year winner – made the assertion after watching Coll – ranked 11th in the world – play Egyptian world champion Mohamed Elshorbagy in a Premier Squash League match in London this week.
Samuel said “the speed of Elshorbagy’s forehand was exceptional”.
” Yet Coll is renowned as the fittest player on the circuit. In the world of squash that is saying something. It was an outstanding match-up, running to five games, Elshorbagy triumphing 11-8 at the last.”
Greymouth-born Coll, 25, is the number one player for the Traditions team, based at London’s exclusive Royal Automobile Club (RAC) where an annual subscription is $3278 (£1733) for members 31 and over. New members pay $7479 (£3953) for the first year.
The match was played at the RAC Club in London’s Pall Mall, watched by hundreds of spectators. RAC says on its website it is “one of the world’s foremost private members club”. It also has an extensive complex at Woodcote Park in Surrey, including four squash courts.
Samuel was at the Pall Mall venue to support a friend, who runs the PSL’s leading club, but he wrote in the Daily Mail that he was “also there because squash keeps trying, and failing, to be recognised as an Olympic sport and that has never seemed right.”
Squash was overlooked by the International Olympic Committee for the third time with baseball-softball, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding and karate getting the nod for Tokyo 2020.
Samuel said the argument often levelled that squash was “a difficult watch, hard to capture on television” was wrong.
“Live squash is brilliant. Enthralling, exhilarating and estimable, given what it takes out of the players. Television cameras are just an electronic set of eyes. Well, everyone in that room had eyes and what we saw raised the roof in what is, typically, a rather staid environment.”
Samuel said Squash TV had “exploded that myth” that the sport could not convert to television, using higher quality cameras to capture the action.
He said more than one million people watched the telecast of the men’s gold medal singles game at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“In the end, the IOC has to decide what the Olympics is about: commerce or competition. There is little doubt the new sports that have been successfully adopted are there largely for financial reasons. Golf, surfing, even rugby sevens — there is money to be made.
“Yet squash is approachable enough to be the national sport in Egypt, a country whose average income per capita ranks it 127th in the world. What is it about affordability that also finds no appeal with the IOC?
“Egypt have six players in the top nine men and critics claim one nation dominates. Yet there are 12 nationalities in the top 25 and six sporting continents are covered: Europe, Africa, South America, Central America, Asia and Oceania. “
Samuel said that was in contrast to golf that to golf where nine countries feature in the top 25 men – with five Americans in the top eight- and nine in the top 25 women, including four Koreans in the top six and 13 overall.
“That’s why squash is getting a raw deal. Just about every negative that is thrown its way can equally be applied to other Olympic sports.”