Chorley squash star Laura Massaro has branded golfer Rory McIlroy’s ambivalence towards the Olympics as ‘unacceptable’.
This summer is the first time ever that golf has been included in the Games.
However, several of the sport’s top stars including McIlroy will not be competing for gold in Rio – citing the zika virus and the associated health risks as the main reason for their withdrawal.
And in the build-up to this week’s Open at Royal Troon, McIlroy suggested golf was an irrelevence in the context of the Olympics.
Asked which sports he would be taking an interest in Brazil, McIlroy said: “Probably events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.”
The four-time major winner objected to the suggestion that he had let his sport down by not being in Rio.
“I don’t feel like I’ve let the game down at all,” he said. “I didn’t get into golf to try to grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win majors.
“All of a sudden you get to this point and there is a responsibility on you to grow the game and I get that. But at the same time that’s not the reason I got into golf. I got into golf to win. I didn’t get into golf to get other people into the game.
“I get where different people come from and different people have different opinions but I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made and I have no regrets about it.”
World No.2 Massaro, who has long campaigned for squash to be included in the Olympics, was irked by golf’s apparent apathy to the Olympics.
She has long insisted that winning a gold medal at an Olympic Games would be the pinnacle of her sport.
However, squash lost out on its bid to be included at the 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo, to wrestling.
“Part of being a professional athlete is also about growing a game and being a role model for young people watching on TV and the Olympics is a perfect oppirtunity to do that,” she said.
“I was aware of a pledge, which was signed by all of the top golfers – I can’t 100% say that Rory’s name was on that pledge when golf’s Olympic bid went in.
“But I was aware of the pledge which was signed to say that they would be there if golf managed to get in the Olympics.
“A lot of the golfers are blaming the Zika virus, but it does seem a little unfair. There is a lot of sports out there which would love to bein the Olympics, who would see the Olympics as the absolute pinnacle and would do everything they can to win a medal.
“It almost seems a shame that you can’t give that opportunity to athletes , who would really, really want it.”