Squash: Beachill, Britain's miracle man of the court

A broken back stopped him playing for only three months, so Olympic mission should be easy for world No 1.

The destination of the 2012 Olympics Games is not the only item on the agenda when the International Olympic Committee meet in Singapore next July. Five cities are up for consideration - but so are five sports, all, one or none of which may be included in those Games.

The destination of the 2012 Olympics Games is not the only item on the agenda when the International Olympic Committee meet in Singapore next July. Five cities are up for consideration - but so are five sports, all, one or none of which may be included in those Games.

The merits of golf, rugby union, karate, and roller sports will be debated alongside that of squash, which, despite its simplicity and escalating popularity, has been consistently knocked back. Indeed, those who assiduously hit the little ball against the wall are entitled to feel that as far as Olympic recognition is concerned, they also have been hitting their heads against it. The modern game may be played with glass walls, but there seems to be something of a glass ceiling.

However, while squash may have been squeezed out in the past there is now a chance that, like London, its time may come in 2012.

Lee Beachill certainly hopes so. He is not only British but the best in the world, a combination somewhat rarer than pizza and soup in sport these days. It is a position he will be defending, after receiving daily treatment for a strained abductor, in the Harris British Open starting at Nottingham's Albert Hall today. It is a situation that six years ago seemed even more of an impossible dream than squash itself gaining Olympic status.

The 26-year-old Yorkshireman is literally a walking miracle. When he broke his back in two places in a road accident, skidding on ice returning from a Super League match, he was initially told that he might never get back on his feet again, never mind return to the squash court.

So how did he lift himself after the inevitable depression that followed that prognosis? "Life for me has always been about the next challenge. It was a challenge to learn to walk again, and once I did that I realised that if I was determined enough, I could play squash again, and all the time I was thinking, 'When can I get back on court?' I focused myself on a particular tournament two months away and said, 'I am going to play in that'."

That was the next challenge. "A couple of months after the accident, I had forgotten about it, I was so focused on my target." He was determined that his would not be a wheelchair existence. He insisted on trying to walk himself through the pain. His rehabilitation began with frames, then crutches, walking with the assistance of his parents and finally over the hills and dales near his home.

Remarkably, he was only hospitalised for five days, and he picked up his racket again within three months. "In one respect I was lucky that the injury I had was what they call a stable fracture. For 24 hours a day all I was bothered about was the next target I had set myself. However, I must admit that I never thought then that I would be in the position I am now. I was 20 years old at the time, and being the world's No 1 squash player was just one of those things you sat around daydreaming about."

"Sure, I feel enormously proud of what I have done to go from possibly being a cripple for the rest of my life to being the world No 1. Now there is another challenge - and that is to stay there." The sports' fastest-rising star - the first player ever successfully to defend the British national title - clinched the world No 1 spot last month after picking up four major titles since December.

Like so many in the sport, Beachill gets angry when asked about its continuing exclusion from the Olympic Games. "No one has ever given me a valid reason why it should not be an Olympic sport, especially when you look at some of those which are included.

"It is a game which is played universally by some 50 million people. I think more than 60 nations compete in the World Championships.

"Whatever the reasons behind it, they are ridiculous. I would respectfully suggest there is more of the true Olympic spirit in squash than there is in many other sports, but the fact is that if the powers that be don't want squash to be included in the Olympics, then it never will be. But if there is one person in the right position who wants squash, then it will be in tomorrow." Or at least in 2012.

Squash believes it has the right credentials, being well structured with two professional circuits, and unlike either rugby, golf, or tennis, an Olympic tournament would be its ultimate prize.

Beachill has succeeded his friend and rival Peter Nicol, who misses the Open because of an ankle injury, as world No 1. Together they won gold in the last Commonwealth Games, in Manchester. So why is it that squash continues to have a relatively low profile when Britain is so good at it? "The main problem is that there is no one really marketing the game in the way it should be. Even though many thousands of people play it, it is still regarded as a minority sport, a social game."

He dismisses the notion that squash is strictly a middle-class pursuit. "I can see where that image has come from, the suits in the big cities having a game in their lunch hour, but take Pontefract, where I come from, it's a working men's town, and we are all working class at the squash club."

Beachill's father is a road haulage contractor, and Beachill himself says that while he was considered academically bright at his local comprehensive school, he was never really bothered about forging a career, other than being a professional squash player. Beachill says squash totally envelops his life. He has a partner and two children and is planning to get married.

"But at the moment, everything in my life is secondary to squash. I have been playing since I was eight when my dad, a keen social squash player, introduced me to it. For me it has always been squash, squash and more squash. I did get into golf when I was 14 [he now plays off six] but I've never really given it the same sort of attention as squash."

Meanwhile, there are more challenges to be met. "I want to win even more titles. I don't think it will be until I have stopped playing and achieved what I want that I'll actually sit down and think, 'Yeah, that was brilliant'."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam