A crucial step for the sport of squash in its bid for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games came on June 15 when a team of six squash representatives made their most important presentation so far to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland.
But it was the youngest member of the group, 13-year-old Hanna Fekede Balcha, who was the star of the show.
Hanna is Ethiopian, but her family moved to San Diego, CA, when she was nine years old to build a new life for themselves. Hanna was accepted to the Surf City UrbanSquash program in San Diego and has progressed to being a Grade A student as well as U-15 Urban Squash Champion. Her aspirations are now to push boundaries even further in becoming the first member of her family to go to university but also, at 20 years old, her dream is to represent Ethiopia at the Olympic Games in 2016.
“I was really nervous but enjoyed doing the presentation today,” said Hanna. “It has been amazing to travel to Switzerland and meet my hero, Nicol David (World No. 1). I feel like squash has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise that when I was asked to take part in this presentation I jumped at the chance. I would be so happy to compete at the Olympic Games.”
Hanna joined the team consisting of IOC Member and World Squash Federation (WSF) Patron, HRH Prince Imran of Malaysia; President of the WSF, N Ramachandran; Nicol David of Malaysia; former world champion, Frenchman Thierry Lincou; and the up-and-coming South African, Siyoli Lusaseni.
Prince Imran introduced the team, and the Executive Board was then shown a spectacular video, highlighting a number of the key areas that squash believe make them a worthy candidate for inclusion. Among these were the progression the sport has made to be easier and more enjoyable to watch on television; the pledge that the top athletes would compete; the range of nationalities that would be represented (current rankings show there would be 30 different countries involved); and the low cost and accessibility of the sport around the world.