By Ossian Shine
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A decade of lobbying and dreams ended in heartache for the world of squash on Sunday when the International Olympic Committee rejected their bid for inclusion in the 2020 Games.
Squash had been pitted against wrestling and a joint baseball and softball bid, at a vote in the Argentine capital.
It had always appeared a mammoth task to oust the 3,000-year-old wrestling, a sport which had only found itself in this precarious position due to senior Olympic members linked with other sports protecting their Games status.
Members have said it had never been the intention to eliminate wrestling from the program, with other sports seen more at risk including Modern Pentathlon and Taekwondo.
In the vote, out of 95, wrestling polled an outright majority straight off with 49 votes, with baseball and softball polling 24 and squash earning 22 votes.
World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran vowed to be back. "Today's decision is heartbreaking for the millions of squash players around the world," he said.
"Particularly given the 10-year journey we have been on to join the Olympic Games sports program.
"As the only new Olympic sport on today's shortlist, we believed squash offered something for the future and I still hope that our inclusion may still be possible.
"We have much to offer the Olympic Movement and I am hopeful that today is not the end of our Olympic journey."
Top-ranked woman Nicol David, prominent throughout the sport's bid, said she was disappointed, but proud of the effect the campaign has had.
"What we've done over the last few years, with the campaign, has really made women's squash stronger and it's brought the whole squash community together in a huge way," the Malaysian said.
"We've proven that we can be up there as an Olympic sport and the fact that we were shortlisted shows what a great sport we are. We need to use that and move forward."
Wrestling is now assured a spot at both the 2020 and 2024 Games, while both squash and baseball/softball are free to bid again for 2024.
Under current rules the number of sports at a Games is capped at 28.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)