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TOKYO (Reuters) - The head of the World Squash Federation (WSF) said he was devastated for the sport's millions of followers after squash was again overlooked for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Squash was among eight sports short-listed for possible inclusion at the 2020 Olympics but failed to make the final list of five sports, recommended by Tokyo's organizers on Monday.
The five proposed for the 2020 Summer Games were baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing. Squash, bowling and wushu all missed out.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make the final decision next year on which sports will be accepted for Tokyo, choosing from the five that were recommended.
"I don't believe we could have done more to get our message across to both the Tokyo 2020 Games hosts and the IOC how Squash could bring something special as an addition to the Programme," WSF president Narayana Ramachandran said in a statement.
"I know I speak on behalf of the millions of squash players around the world for whom the opportunity of seeing their sport participate in the Olympics has been an absolute priority -- and, like me, they will be heartbroken."
Squash, played in more than 185 countries, was one of three sports short-listed for full inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics when the IOC voted on the program at its 125th Session in Buenos Aires two years ago.
Wrestling won that vote for inclusion ahead of baseball/softball and squash but the losers were thrown a lifeline when the IOC later decided that future Olympic host cities could select extra sports they wanted to see contested at the Games.
"However, this is not the end for squash," added Ramachandran. "Our sport, played by vast numbers week in and week out, flourishes at every level from recreational to events around the world.
"We will go from strength to strength while we continue to target participation at a future date in the Games."
Squash has made great strides in modernizing the sport, with the Professional Squash Association (PSA) taking the game to iconic venues such as New York City's Grand Central Station.
Alex Gough, the PSA chief executive, said the latest setback should not detract from its success.
"The Olympic Games should be the pinnacle of any athlete's career and inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games would be a defining moment for squash and our athletes and to know that dream is once again out of reach is naturally a difficult proposition for the sport," Gough said in a statement.
"But I feel we can take a lot of positives from the huge ground we have made over the last decade -- transitioning into a bourgeoning global sport that is now broadcast in almost 100 countries worldwide."
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; additonal reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Julian Linden