THE Avengers had the Endgame. Malaysia’s squash adventurer Nicol David (pic) had her last competitive game too – at the prestigious British Open on May 21.
The 35-year-old Penangite, a product of Convent Green Lane, had won the British Open five times but came a cropper against world No. 3 Nour El Tayeb of Egypt, gracefully losing 4-11, 7-11, 13-11, 5-11 and bowing out with her head held high.
What’s next for the adventurous Nicol, who dared to venture overseas at the age of 15 and returned with the first of two world junior titles in 1999?
The next came in 2001 and more accolades followed, culminating in a record eight world titles, 81 Professional Squash Association (PSA) tour titles and being ranked No. 1 for an unprecedented 109 consecutive months from 2006-2015.
Twenty years of blood, sweat and tears. Two decades of glorious squash.
What’s next for her? There’s definitely no ending to a squash career laden with unprecedented achievements.
Like Marvel’s Avengers story there’s never an end. For Nicol it should be the same plot – only this time she will be sweating it out from outside the squash courts.
She has already set her sights on getting squash into the Olympic Games – and indeed she is the right ambassador to do so.
Who’s to stop her from trying to get squash in future Olympics and possibly see a Malaysian fulfilling Nicol’s podium dream?
And this gives rise to the alarming question – who can replace her?
The answer is a comprehensive development system and strong financial backing.
Nicol came through a regimented programme that gave talented squash players a chance to shine at a young age.
The British Junior Open (BJO) in January provides an insight.
There were 33 juniors from Egypt and 17 from Malaysia who made it into the quarter-finals across all 10 age categories. The BJO has been known to be the benchmark for potential world champions.
Of the five Malaysian finalists, C. Ameeshenraj and M. Nickhileswar came out on top in the boys’ Under 15 and 13 events respectively.
More needs to be done if Malaysia were to catch up with Egypt, which has four men and three women players hogging the top rankings in world squash.
Needless to say it would be difficult to find someone in the mould of Nicol – a student who had seven A’s for her Penilaian Menengah Rendah and another seven A’s in her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.
Another person with the same grades in school would have gone to get a university degree, given that her father Desmond David and mother Ann Marie David are an engineer and teacher respectively.
But Nicol had the temerity to discard the comforts of home and go overseas to train and bring glory to Malaysia.
This she did with aplomb and dignity to put our nation on the world sporting map.
Will there be another player willing to take the same path as Nicol – to seek fame and fortune?
Right now no one can hold a candle to Nicol’s feat but there are few putting in the effort like No. 1 Low Wee Wern, S. Sivasangari and Ng Eain Yow – to mention a few.
The problem faced by the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia is budget cuts and, due to that, the juniors are not able to go overseas for as many tournaments as they should to gain experience and to sharpen their competitive edge.
It is time the respective bodies look into this aspect to keep Malaysia on the forefront of world squash.
Now that Nicol has retired, hopefully she can go around the country and produce a clone in her likeness.
All the best, Nicol, and thank you for that numerous back page stories you have given to The Star.