BARNSLEY woman Hollie Naughton is ‘ecstatic’ that she will have the chance to play in the Olympics and is currently preparing for another major tournament.
The 29-year-old was born in Barnsley and brought up in Cudworth until she was 12 when her family moved to Canada, whom she represents at international level.
But the Commonwealth Games silver medalist nows lives in Yorkshire again, training at Pontefract Squash Club, and considers Barnsley her hometown.
Last week, squash was announced as one of the new sports introduced into the Olympics for the 2028 games in Los Angeles.
Hollie told the Chronicle: “I was absolutely ecstatic. We had heard that it was possible but there is always some doubt with so many failed attempts before.
“I thought it would happen but it was great to get it confirmed.
“I went down to my squash club after the announcement and felt I had an extra spring in my step.
“Training has been really good since then and I just want to hold onto that.
“It will push me forward.
“I am lucky that, representing Canada, I get the Commonwealths and Pan-America Games. But anyone would say the Olympics will top them by leaps and bounds. It would definitely be the pinnacle of my career and something I would remember and hold onto for a very long time.”
Hollie will be 33 by the time of the 2028 Olympics. She said: “It’s definitely my goal to play in at least one Olympics.
“Having a five-year goal means I am less stressed if everything isn’t clicking into place right now.
“I will be 33 which will hopefully be in my peak years. I definitely don’t think I’ve reached my peak yet and hopefully, in five years time, the mental side, consistency and experience are all more in my favour.
“Hopefully the body stays in good working order.
“It’s decent timing for me. If it was 2032, I don’t think my chances would be too high, especially of being at my best and trying to get a medal.
“It’s one thing just getting that experience, but I would hope to get a medal.
“You never know, it could be the only time squash is at the Olympics so we have to make it count.
“Until then, the goal is to break into the top ten and keep improving.
“I want to reach the latter stages of big tournaments.”
It has been a decades-long battle to get the racquet sport into the Olympics but they are hoping it does not suffer the same fate as karate which was taken out after one appearance.
Hollie said: “Most people just presume it is in the Olympics.
“Every squash player will now be happy to avoid that dreaded question when someone asks them ‘have you been to the Olympics?’ and you have to explain that squash isn’t in it.
“It’s been a long time coming and it is full deserving.
“Hopefully we can showcase the sport, and keep it in there as a concrete sport in future years.”
Hollie is preparing for the Pan-American Games which start in Santiago, Chile next week.
“I will hopefully medal in the individual, team and doubles.
“The best I have done in the individual is bronze so I want to reach the final with the hope of winning gold.
“My year has been up and down.
“I am in a transitional period where I am working on things in practice and translating it into games.
“I have had a little bit of a fight with the mental side and I am still working on that. There has been a big improvement recently.”