Players incentivised by squash's inclusion in 2028 Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Nicol David once said she would trade her six world squash titles for one Olympic medal.

But unfortunately for the Penangite, who was invincible in her heyday, squash was not part of the Olympics despite her unrelenting efforts to campaign for its inclusion.

Nicol retired in 2019 without an Olympic gold medal, which would certainly have been in her cupboard — had it been in the Olympics — among her eight world titles.

But Nicol has helped realise the Olympic dreams of Malaysian players through her campaigning, and inspiring them to follow in her footsteps.

Now, Ng Eain Yow, S. Sivasangari and others are thrilled to hear of squash's acceptance into the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics by the International Olympic Committee on Monday.

For them, it is a dream come true as they plan to appear in the biggest show on earth.

And there will be no shortage of incentives. Apart from getting comprehensive financial backing from the National Sports Council for training and tournaments, those going to the Olympics will be rewarded with a whopping RM1 million if they win an individual gold, RM300,000 for silver and RM100,000 for bronze.

The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia has set a one-medal target for the LA Olympics.

National No. 1 and world No. 20 Eain Yow said: "It's amazing news for sure that we're finally in the Olympics.

Eain Yow, 25, said the timing of the LA Olympics is in line with his plan to reach the top of the world rankings in the next few years.

The Bristol-based Eain Yow is the numero uno in the continent, having won the Hangzhou Asian Games individual gold this month and the Asian Championships in Hong Kong in June.

When asked about his target for the Olympics, Eain Yow said: "It's still very early, but definitely winning an Olympic medal will be amazing, especially gold."

On his world ranking and performance, he said: "It's been tricky for me to start this season (on the international circuit) as there was so much emphasis to perform at the Asian Games, so I made sure to peak for that.

"I haven't done as well as I would have liked on the tour. Having said that, I'm happy with my level of squash at the moment and I know what I need to do to improve."

Sivasangari, 24, who won two gold (individual and team) at the Hangzhou Asian Games, said: "I'm very happy that squash has been added to the Olympics Games."

"The squash people have been working really hard for so many years behind the scenes to make this day happen. And they have made so many squash players' dreams come true, including mine.

"It's such a huge news for the squash players and fans.

"I'm really looking forward to getting into the 2028 Olympics. For now, I just want to keep training hard and keep improving my game," added Sivasangari, who is ranked 37 in the world.

World No. 24 Aifa Azman said the inclusion of squash in the LA Olympics is "huge news".

"Finally squash is in the Olympics and one of my dreams come true! It's a big achievement for squash to be included in the Olympics.

"Honestly I wanted squash to be in the Olympics since the era of Nicol David.

"I really hope to play in the Olympics at least once in my lifetime. I will train much harder to improve every aspect of my game and also do well in competitions to further improve my world ranking," said the 21-year-old Aifa, who partnered Syafiq Kamal to the mixed doubles silver and women's team gold in the Hangzhou Asian Games.

C. Ameeshenraj, 19, who is training and studying in Bristol, said his dream is to feature in the Olympics.

"I have five years to push my ranking as high as I can, and I will work very hard towards that dream of playing in the Olympics," he said.

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