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Sunday January 27, 2013

Working towards getting squash in the Olympics

There can be no better ambassador to get squash into the Olympic Games than Malaysia’s seven-time world champion Nicol David. The Penangite has gone to great lengths to get the sport into the Games and with the BackTheBid2020 campaign gaining momentum, squash appears to be the frontrunners to make it to the 2020 edition. Starsport’s Kng Zheng Guan talks to Nicol on her future and aspirations if squash gets the greenlight for the Olympics.

Starsport: You’ll be turning 30 this year. How does it feel joining the elite group of 30 plus such as Madeline Perry, Natalie and Rachael Grinham? With so many younger players, especially those from Egypt and even Low Wee Wern (national No. 2) catching up real fast, do you see it as a challenge to keep you on your toes?

Nicol: Thanks for reminding me that I’m turning 30. Beng Hee has been waiting for me to join the elite group for a while. On a serious note, it’s really going to be the best years of my career now because I continue to gain a lot from my past and bringing it forward to adjust to what works for me as I’m sure the other players around my age are doing the same too. The youngsters are just going to keep improving but that’s the exciting part – staying ahead – so precision with training is vital.

Starsport: You didn’t come back to celebrate Christmas last year. That’s the first time since you were based in Amsterdam right? Is Amsterdam growing on you?

Nicol: It’s always tough being away from home especially during Christmas but I have a great group of friends who have become like family to me for almost 10 years and we celebrated Christmas together. The timing with the Worlds in Caymans and then World Series Finals in London was too short a time to travel home but I’m getting really comfortable being in my so called second home in Amsterdam.

Starsport: At 30, some athletes find it harder to recover from a gruelling tournament. But you never seemed to have any problems in terms of fitness. How do you take care of yourself and how well do you work with your physio team in Amsterdam?

Nicol: The important stages in any sporting career is getting proper recovery treatment with the physio and being taught how to rest well without over-training during my younger days. Then throughout my career, it’s all about maintaining the recovery process. You need to do stretching combined specific strengthening exercises without over-loading the body especially as I get older. Everything is precise but it has to start during the junior days and I was fortunate to get the National Sports Council (NSC) to support me throughout my career.

Starsport: Now looking at the Olympics, do you reckon that the best efforts has been put into the Olympics 2020 bid? In comparison to the previous bids, do you suppose that this year’s bid is the most complete?

Nicol: The campaign has improved by leaps and bounds from the previous ones for Rio and London. Squash is getting known and has improved in so many aspects. It is getting more spectator viewership especially with televised matches and video reviews for players to review referee decisions. The players play a big role in this with their appeal to the public and squash enthusiasts by reaching out through the Squash 2020, Back The Bid campaign through the available social media channels. Support the bid at fb.com/backthebid2020 and twitter.com/backthebid2020.

Starsport: Squash does appear to be one of the frontrunners for the Olympics. Do you suppose enough has been done in order to ensure that squash makes it?

Nicol: It’s still going to be difficult as we have to depend on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to first take a sport out of the London Olympic programme to allow one of the seven sports short-listed to get in. I think we have to continue our campaign to create awareness in the sport before we present our bid to the IOC in May. Even then, it’s still up to IOC to decide which sport deserves a spot in the 2020 Olympics.

Starsport: We know that you’ve been craving to compete in the Olympics. How bad actually, do you want it and do you think that if it gets in you’ll still be able to participate in a competitive manner?

Nicol: It’ll mean the world to me and I don’t think I can express it any other way as it’s the pinnacle of any sportman or woman to take part in the Olympics. When you watch the Olympic Games on television, you will dreaming of being there one day and be an Olympic medallist.

If there was even a slight chance that I can see myself participating in the Games in 2020 then I’ll make it happen – to live my dream that one time. However, when the time comes, and I can’t make it somehow then I would still like to be part of the team seeing squash in the Games.

Starsport: How would you celebrate if squash gets in?

Nicol: Wow, too many things crossing my mind as I imagine squash getting into the Olympics! I’ll have to wait for that moment and let you know what I’ll do then.

Starsport: Do you think that there has been enough support from the Malaysians in terms of Backing The Bid for Olympics 2020? Do they need to do more to help?

Nicol: Malaysia is truly been a nation behind our Malaysian squash players and me in the support of Backing The Bid 2020 and their enthusiasm to see squash in the Olympics is very overwhelming. Malaysians can still keep this campaign strong by spreading the news around and start playing squash among their school friends, colleagues and take part in fun squash gatherings and watch the tournaments held in Malaysia to show their support for squash and the campaign. Their involvment can make a difference.

Starsport: You and Beng Hee have obviously laid the foundation for the Malaysian squash years ago. What do you make of the current youngsters and would you hope to see someone emulate your feat.

Nicol: The main thing is to let the youngsters enjoy themselves playing the sport without comparing them to the likes of Beng Hee or me but to have their own personal goals. The quality of squash juniors are at such a high level in the international scene and we can’t force or pressure them to achieve what we have achieved but give them the support and guidance they need to develop and to stay in the game just as long as Beng Hee and me.

Related Story:
Irving: Nicol’s total commitment towards her game is second to none


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