NEW YORK - On December 19, 2012, the World Squash Federation
went before the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland to
present its case for the inclusion of squash in the 2020 Olympic Games. The
presenting committee featured the WSF President N Ramachandran, WSF Chief
Executive Andrew Shelly, the No. 1 ranked men's player in the world James
Willstrop and Columbia first-year women's player Reyna Pacheco.
Pacheco is the product of an urban squash program similar to
the one that the Columbia squash programs volunteer with at its home facility,
the SL Green StreetSquash Center in Harlem. While the initial three presenters
of the WSF contingent were there to inform the IOC of the global reach of
squash and the technical aspects of the game, Pacheco provided a human and
emotional element to show the impact squash can have on an individual's life.
"My role was to show what squash has meant to my life," said
Pacheco. "If you look at Olympians, their stories are very impactful in the way
their sport made it into their lives and we wanted to show that squash is real
and that it is touching a lot of lives."
An immigrant from Mexico, Pacheco's discovery of squash
proved to be a defining moment in her life.
"I came to the United States with my mom and my brother when
I was four years old and I think that was hard because we were here knowing
that we could be kicked out any day," said Pacheco. "A lot of immigrants,
especially students, don't feel like they can make it very far because they
don't have the documents to apply for scholarships or school. Because of that I
didn't feel like I could dream very far. I felt like I was limited, but when I
was introduced to squash that completely changed my life."
Squash was introduced to Pacheco in her early teenage years
when a former Ivy League squash program director left his position to develop
an urban squash program in San Diego, Calif. At a time when she was struggling
in school and just the thought of attending college was daunting, squash
entered her life and gave Pacheco an avenue to pursue something she enjoyed
with a new drive.
"I didn't understand how people could ask me to believe in
something four years from now when I was struggling to live everyday. For me,
the fact that someone would believe in me and say that you have the ability to
do this led me to try out. When I got into the program, I just fell in love
with everything about squash. It taught me things I couldn't learn in a
classroom: respect, commitment, dedication and hard work," commented Pacheco.
With her new dedication to squash spilling into success in
school, Pacheco and her family began the process to gain documentation, which
led to her applying to both Columbia and the Bill Gates Millennium Scholars
"I was sitting down with lawyers, the same time I was
sitting down to do my college applications," said Pacheco.
With the necessary paperwork now in hand and her
applications complete, Pacheco received word soon after that she not only
garnered acceptance into Columbia, but was also a recipient of the Gates
Millennium Scholarship which provides a good-through-graduation scholarship.
"I just feel so lucky everyday of my life and I feel so
blessed to have the opportunity to be here," said Pacheco of her time at
Seeing that her hard work has paid off and wanting to give
back, Pacheco continues to volunteer in the squash community. "Our team here
volunteers every week [at StreetSquash] and I keep in touch as much as I can
with the kids in San Diego."
As one of the top recruits out of an urban squash program, Pacheco
has also made an instant impact on the court for Columbia as a first-year,
playing as the primary No. 2 this season. The Lions have played to an early 3-4
record with Pacheco going 4-3 as an individual.
The squash community will continue its goal of adding its
sport to the 2020 Olympic Games in the following months. In May, a second
meeting with the IOC will commence to specific the technical aspects of the
sport and the final decision will come down in the fall of 2013.
"It was such a unique experience," commented Pacheco on the
trip to Switzerland. "The whole experience behind it and meeting all the people
behind the whole movement, the president of the World Squash Federation, the CEO
and the world No. 1 now, it was very impressive to be a part of that committee
and to present to the Olympic Committee."