THE sport of squash got a big boost on Friday when president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), Michael Fennell, announced the possible incorporation of the event into the 2020 Olympic programme.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Caribbean Area Squash Association (CASA) Junior Championships at the Liguanea Club in Kingston, the JOA boss said squash has been shortlisted as a new addition to the 28 events set for the 2016 Games.
"For the moment it's 26 sports that are competed at the (2012) Olympics. There was a recent review where they included rugby and golf for the 2016 event. Early next year there'll be another review for the 2020 Games and squash is one of those sports shortlisted," he told reporters on Friday.
"No sport can survive or prosper without good junior development programmes, so this championship is a great start," he said.
Squash is a racquet sport played inside an enclosed, four-walled court using a relatively small rubberised ball.
At this Caribbean Junior Championships, dozens of players from eight regional countries are challenging for top honours in boys' and girls' categories across four different age groups.
Guyana are the defending champions, but Trinidad & Tobago and the Cayman Islands also boast formidable teams.
The July 20-26 tournament will be streamed live on the internet courtesy of the Jamaica Squash Association at www.jamaicansquash.com.
Fennell, who served as president of the Commonwealth Games Federation for 17 years, added that he is pleased with the progress of squash on the international scene and urged youngsters to plan towards the 2014 Commonwealth showpiece in Glasgow Scotland.
"I'm very proud of the role that squash has played in the Commonwealth Games. After the 2012 Olympics Games the next celebration will be 2014. That will give the opportunity for many of you to participate. All the top squash players take part in the Commonwealth Games... so the juniors here should have their sights set on it," Fennell said.
Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, said Jamaica's hosting of the tournament gives exposure to the game and to the competing athletes as the local association strives for mainstream status.
"It's not a natural sport for us... it is not played in our schools or at the community level. This event gives international exposure and the chance for our athletes to interact with other athletes from our neighbours in the region. The Squash Association must be commended for their role in organising this event," she said.