THE most expensive ‘item’ on the block during the World Squash Day Nicol David memorabilia auction at the Penang International Squash Centre recently was not the world number one’s sports attire or racquets.
Instead, what got the most enthusiasm from the crowd was a chance to play squash with Nicol for 45 minutes and have lunch with her.
Starting from an opening bid of RM500, the bids were raised quickly as the public relished the opportunity to face the three-time world champion both on the court and at the dining table.
In the end, it was Squash Rackets Association of Penang (SRAP) president Datuk Lim Tiong Chin who placed the winning bid of RM2,400.
Lim, who would not have had problems arranging a meeting with Nicol in his capacity as SRAP president, said that he got into the bidding process solely to help boost the kitty for the ‘Squash for 2016’ fund campaign.
“I participated in the auction as it was for a good cause. I will rope in my squash-playing friends to take turns to spar with Nicol because I don’t think one person will be able to last the full 45 minutes on court with her,” he said.
The auction, which was the highlight of the World Squash Day 2009 celebration in Penang, was held to raise funds for the movement which is campaigning for squash to be included as an Olympics 2016 event.
Among the autographed items put up for auction were Nicol’s playing attire which she wore on her way to winning the Asian Games 2006, 2005 British Open and 2005 Malaysian Open titles and several of her racquets.
A total of RM6,500 was raised from the auction.
The day-long World Squash Day carnival was jointly organised by SRAP and Squash Stars, an organisation co-founded by Nicol.
Apart from the auction, other squash-related activities including a mini tournament in which the public had the chance to take on SRAP players and coaches were held.
Current Asian Junior champion Low Wee Wern was among the players who took part in the event.
Besides Malaysia, World Squash Day events were also held in Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Canada, Italy and Denmark on the same day.
“Malaysia will benefit if squash is accepted into the Olympics as we have the potential to win medals in the sport. Squash’s inclusion will also boost the development of more young players,” said Nicol through a recorded televised message.
State executive councillor for Youth and Sports Lydia Ong Kok Fooi, who officiated the World Squash Day celebrations in Penang, pledged her support for the Squash for 2016 movement by signing on a huge banner.
A total of US$600,000 (RM2.16mil) is required to fund the Squash for 2016 campaign.
The World Squash Federation will be making their final presentation to the International Olympics Council (IOC) Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland, next month.
The outcome of squash’s status for the 2016 Olympics will be known in July.