Sport

Published: Saturday August 2, 2014 MYT 7:06:00 PM
Updated: Sunday August 3, 2014 MYT 5:43:00 PM

Nicol cannot bail out Malaysian squash forever

SQUASH was targeted to deliver just one gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

And the sport duly delivered.

How hard can that be when you have the world’s best – world No. 1 Nicol David – in the team, right?

But the question is how long are the Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia (SRAM) – and Malaysia – going to rely on Nicol only?

She’s no spring chicken, you know?

Just imagine. Nicol, who will be 31 come Aug 26, was only 15 when she made her debut in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Since then, she has won two golds, one silver and one bronze at the Games.

She won her first individual gold in New Delhi in 2010 and retained it in Glasgow. She won the silver and bronze in the mixed doubles in Manchester in 2002 and New Delhi.

Nicol, who has been ranked number one in the world for last 100 months, has featured in five Commonwealth Games since 1998 and, chances are, she may not feature in the next Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in 2018.

Even if she does feature in the 2018 Games, will she still be at the top of her game?

That’s why it is high time that SRAM get cracking and start unearthing new talents.

Of the nine players who featured in Glasgow, only Nicol reached the individual final – and won a gold medal.

The jury is still out on national No. 2 and world No. 7 Low Wee Wern, who deserves praise for competing despite having recovered from dengue fever just three weeks ago. She did well to reach the quarter-finals before going down to reigning world champion Laura Massaro of England.

Ivan Yuen also did well to reach the men's quarter-finals before bowing out to world No. 4 James Willstrop.

However, the other six – Ong Beng Hee, Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan, Valentino Bong, Vanessa Raj and Arnold sisters of Delia and Rachel – failed to make much of an impact.

Valentino and Rachel, however, did get past the group stage before falling in the last 16.

SRAM coaching director Allan Soyza admitted that they have to get cracking in order to produce top calibre players who will be able deliver the goods at the next Commonwealth Games in four years’ time.

“We cannot be depending on Nicol to win medals in the Games every time,” he said.

He does have a point as Nicol may not feature in the next Games because of her age.

“I am disappointed with the women’s doubles results … except for Nicol-Wee Wern, no other pairs managed to reach the quarter-finals,” he said

“It shows that our players are lagging behind those from other Commonwealth countries.”

Allan also said that many countries had improved in the doubles and mixed doubles competitions while “Malaysia are still lagging behind due to the lack of training and competitions”.

“The national players have to be more professional in their thinking and be committed to training and competition if they want to progress,” he said.

“The national players must also be ready to make sacrifices.”

Perhaps, it’s time that our players think about basing themselves overseas to further improve their game and world ranking.

Nicol, who has been based in Amsterdam for the last 11 years, made tremendous progress training under coach Liz Irving since turning pro in 2000.

Now, it’s up to the players. The same players are sent to overseas tournaments. And the same one keeps winning most of the time (and we all know who that is).

It’s also time for the second echelon players to raise their game and step up to the plate.

Otherwise, squash’s medal haul will dry up soon – as Nicol winds down her career.

By they way, how many of you remember how Nicol did in her first Commonwealth Games in KL?

Yes, she lost in the first round.

But look where she is now.

The moral of the story is: You have to start somewhere.

So, start sending the juniors out and expose them, SRAM.

Be bold because fortune favours the brave.

Tags / Keywords: Nicol David, squash, Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, Low Wee Wern, Ivan Yuen, Ong Beng Hee, Nafiizwan Adnan

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