The national women's squash team arriving in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. From left: Nicol David, Low Wee Wern, Delia Arnold, Rachael Arnold and Vanessa Raj. - GLENN GUAN/ The Star
GLASGOW: Seven-time world champion Nicol David arrived in Glasgow with just one goal in mind – to defend the individual squash title she won four years ago in New Delhi.
But the Penangite, who will turn 31 on Aug 26, is prepared to put that on the back-burner as she focuses on another task handed to her by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).
Nicol, one of the greatest woman squash players of all time, has been given the honour of leading out the eight Asian countries during the opening ceremony of the 20th edition of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on Wednesday.
Besides Malaysia, the other Asian countries under the CGF are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Singapore and Brunei.
Five-time British Open champion Nicol said that she was surprised when Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar told her that she had been selected to be the flag bearer for the Asian countries in the opening ceremony.
“Tunku Imran asked me if I would accept it, I said yes. I feel privileged and honoured to lead the Asian continent in the Commonwealth Games,” said Nicol, who has been the world No. 1 since August 2006.
“This is also the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Games that an athlete from Asia has been invited by the CGF to be the flag bearer for the Asian countries.”
Nicol, who led the Malaysian women’s team to a record eighth Asian title in Hong Kong last month, declared that she is in tip-top condition after undergoing three-and-a-half weeks of high-intensity training in Amsterdam.
“My goal is to win a second gold in the Games. Expectations are high, so I will go all out to achieve it,” said Nicol, who is happy with the draw for the individual event, which begins on Thursday.
Sixty-four players will feature in the women’s category and Nicol, who will be competing in her fifth consecutive Commonwealth Games, will open her campaign against Vanessa Florens of Mauritius.
The other players in the top half of the draw are eighth seed Jenny Duncalf of England and third seed Joelle King of New Zealand.
Two other Malaysian players – fifth-seeded Low Wee Wern and 15th-seeded Delia Arnold – are in the bottom half of the draw with reigning world champion and second seed Laura Massaro of England.
Nicol is aware of the strong challenges ahead but she has vowed to rise to the occasion.
“With the backing of all Malaysians back home, I intend to go all out to deliver the gold,” said Nicol, who also won a silver and a bronze in the mixed doubles with Ong Beng Hee in 2002 Manchester Games and 2010 New Delhi Games.
The other members of the women’s team are Vanessa Raj and Rachel Arnold.
Nicol will also be competing in the women’s doubles with world No. 7 Wee Wern.
The men’s team comprise four-time Asian champion and veteran Ong Beng Hee, Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan, Ivan Yuen and Valentino Bong.
Five gold medals are at stake in squash – in the men’s and women’s individual and doubles and mixed doubles.