As It Happens

Breakdancing at 2024 Olympics 'a hammer blow' for squash lovers, says top athlete

"It's very exciting to watch — but, you know, so is squash," says squash player Nick Matthew.

Former world champion Nick Matthew has long made the case for squash at the Olympics

Nick Matthew is a professional squash player who has long advocated for the sport's inclusion in the Olympics. (Submitted by Nick Matthew)

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News that breakdancing may become an official Olympic sport comes as a blow to professional squash players who have been campaigning for decades to have their sport included in the Games.

Organizers for the Paris 2024 summer Olympics said Thursday they plan to add breakdancing to the Games, pending approval from the International Olympic Committee next year.

That news is disappointing to England's Nick Matthew, who was ranked the No. 1 squash player in the world in 2010.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Why do you think that squash is more deserving for inclusion in the Olympics than breakdancing?

You have your bias and your preferential opinion on your own sport, you know. I'm trying to not see it through rose-tinted glasses.

Squash has been down this route before. You know, we've been trying for Olympic inclusion ever since Day 1, really. And, you know, I think it takes over all the the original Olympic ideals — faster, higher, stronger — that gladiatorial aspects of the sport.

And to me, it's just a sport that has been growing with our world tour, you know — all four corners of the globe. And yeah, we feel like we've been sort of forming a place in the queue as well.

So each year, we've got closer and closer and closer, only to find just somebody nipping ahead of us in the queue each time, which is almost as disappointing a thing as those logical reasons.

But so this time, it's breakdancing. Also, skateboarding and surfing are ... set for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games, right?

We knew skateboarding, surfing were ahead of us in the last games ... but, obviously, breakdancing is the new one.

It seems like it's come a little bit from left field, sort of wasn't mentioned in previous bits. So, good luck to them. They've obviously been doing something right.

It's very exciting to watch —  but, you know, so is squash.

The 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics announced that breakdancing, skateboarding, climbing and surfing have been invited to join the Games on Thursday. (Lionel Bonaventure/Getty Images)

What have you been doing to try and convince the Olympics that ... squash should be part of the games?

Some of the important things were that the Olympics had to be the pinnacle of the sport. That was the first thing.

We've been a bit of a trailblazer of a sport. We've been the first professional sport to amalgamate the male- and female-governing bodies, so we have a joint world tour now, which has just seen us have our first $1-million prize fund for the World Championships in Chicago.

Our anti-doping record is fantastic.

As I said, we're truly global.

And one of the big aspects of squash was the televisual side of things, you know — making sure that you could see on television exactly how fast the game is. I guess a little bit like ice hockey, in a way. You want it to come across on TV. You want to be able to see the ball, you want to be to see the different camera angles of slo mo, you know, high-res now, all the HD, et cetera.

I went to bed one night thinking I was going to be an Olympian in 2012. The next day, woke up and the goalposts had been changing.- Nick Matthew, former World No. 1 squash player

It seems like we do all that is asked of us. And it seems like a bit of a hammer blow each time, because we're not quite sure now what we have to do next.

Well, the view seems to be ... that breakdancing ... appeals to young people, as does the climbing and the skateboarding, and this sort of thing. And that, you know, that squash is like, well, I guess, an older person's game.

We are working to try and get that more engagement with the youth.

A lot of the front walls now that we play on squash tournaments, for example, are like giant iPads — you know, you hit the ball against the wall, and  ... all these different technologies that we are bringing into the sport.

Matthew is formerly the No. 1 squash player in the world. (Submitted by Nick Matthew)

For yourself, as being the world No. 1 squash player and not being able to compete in Olympic Games ... what does that mean for you?

Oh, it's the biggest hammer blow any athlete could have.

The biggest thing was I went to bed one night in 2005, with squash having been voted in as an Olympic sport. ... I went to bed one night thinking I was going to be an Olympian in 2012. The next day, woke up and the goalposts had been changing.

And that's why everyone in the community — in the world of squash, really — just feels disillusioned and distraught with the whole process now.

Interview produced by Richard Raycraft. Q&A edited for length and clarity.