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After decades of wait, squash's inclusion in Olympics forces Ghosal to rethink his future plans

New Delhi: There was not a chance in hell that India’s finest squash player Saurav Ghosal would continue playing the game in his 40s but the sport’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympics after decades of wait has forced the 37-year-old to rethink about his future plans.

In a testament to his remarkable longevity, Ghosal has managed to stay at the top of his game for the major part of his professional career that began as a teenager way back in 2003.

The world number 18 has got a bagful of medals over the six Asian Games that he has been part of and last year became the first Indian to win a singles medal in the highly-competitive Commonwealth Games.

However, all those laurels came his way amid the disappointment of squash being ignored for Olympics, edition after edition, over the past 20 years. Monday’s announcement provided a sense of relief and ecstacy for Ghosal and his generation which grew up dreaming about a medal at the Summer Games.

It doesn’t get bigger than the Olympics and therefore, Ghosal is tempted to go on for another five long years.

“I have to sit down with my team and family whether it is a possibility or not, if I can go that far and try and win a medal for India. It would be the moment of my career,” Ghosal told PTI from Mumbai shortly after the IOC approved squash as one of the five additional sports for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

“I need to sit down and figure it out how to go about it. If it wasn’t for today’s monumental development, there was no chance that I would carry on at 42 but now I am sure there are others who would be 40-year-olds like me who would consider carrying on till the Olympics.”

Ghosal, who won an individual silver and team gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games recently, said he needs to assess if competing at LA28 is realistically possible.

“I’ve just come back from Hangzhou last week and I need some time with my team and figure out if this is a realistic possibility. I hope that I can do it, but no promises right now. It’s definitely something that is a big pull for me now,” he said on the sidelines of the 141st IOC Session here.

“I’m going to do everything I can to try my best, which is what I’ve always done in my career, to be there and to win something for India.’ ‘It’s a monumental day for world squash”

Eight-time world champion Nicol David from Malaysia spent a great amount of time in promoting squash to the Olympics but it could not happen in her time. Ghosal belongs to the same generation and expectedly felt a range of emotions after the sport’s Olympic entry was confirmed.

“It is a sense of relief and ecstasy. In life they said there is time for everything and this is probably the time for squash. I wish I was 10 years younger. We are very appreciate of the IOC and LA28 for giving this vote of confidence. I am sure the sport will put up a great spectacle.”

“We always had this ray of hope and it has actually happened. We are at the top now and it doesn’t get bigger than this. Now we have to make sure that the sport becomes a regular feature on the Olympic program.” Squash along with cricket, baseball/softball, lacrosse (sixes) and flag football were on Monday included in the 2028 LA Olympics programme.

“I think it’s an absolutely monumental day for world squash. Every squash player worth his salt has dreamt of this day. We are absolutely ecstatic that we have finally, after all these years of perseverance, made it to LA28,” Ghosal said.

Ghosal acknowledged that squash had to wait for a long time to feature in the Olympics.

“To give a bit of context, the IOC executive board put out a statement last week that they have recommended it. That’s almost there but it’s not the rubber stamp which we got today,” he said.

“So, everyone, including myself in the squash world were like ‘yes, we are so close and it’s almost done’, but we don’t want to count our chickens before they’ve hatched, because of what we’ve gone through in the past 10-15 years.”

Ghosal added that qualification format for LA 2028 Games is yet to be determined but the wait will only motivate the players to be at their best when the time comes.

“We have a tangible kind of thing like we can look at, that five years from now, going to be in LA. Of course we have to qualify for it. We don’t know the exact specifics of what the format is going to be and how many qualification spots and all of that.”

“But we know there is a shot and if we can make that shot and qualify and win a medal for India, that is the biggest source of pride that anyone will achieve in sporting language.”

(Published 16 October 2023, 13:25 IST)

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