KUALA LUMPUR: World champion Nicol David received immediate recognition from the government – earning a RM200,000 reward – for winning the World Open squash title in Hong Kong on Sunday.
Sports and Youth Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said in a statement, read out by the Parliamentary Secretary S.A. Vigneswaran, that the Cabinet had approved the sum at its meeting yesterday.
“I briefed the Cabinet on Nicol’s achievement and also gave them details of her other wins this year. The Cabinet decided to reward her with RM200,000 to show its appreciation and support for her,” said Azalina in her statement.
Azalina is away in Jakarta for a conference.
Under the National Sports Council’s (NSC) reward scheme for athletes, Nicol will only stand to get RM20,000 as the World Open is categorised under Group B.
Nicol returned from Hong Kong with her parents on a MAS flight at 6.20pm, accompanied by Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) president Datuk A. Sani Karim and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar.
Vigneswaran greeted her as she got off the plane and presented her with a bouquet of flowers before she was ushered into the Golden Lounge for a press conference.
Nicol said she was grateful for the monetary reward and was overwhelmed by the reception.
On Sunday, Nicol not only defeated Australian Rachael Grinham in the World Open final but also achieved the world number one ranking.
But the Penang lass admitted that the victory had not sunk in yet and that she would take some time out to enjoy the moment with her family.
“For the moment I want to take a break and enjoy myself with my family back in Penang,” said Nicol.
“There are far greater challenges waiting for me next year and I will get back to work in January to prepare for them.
“Right now I do not want to think about next year’s target. I will be playing in the usual tournaments and the World Open as well.
“In addition, I will also prepare for the Commonwealth Games and the Doha Asian Games.”
Nicol said that she would probably spend more time in Amsterdam next year.
Nicol has been training under Liz Irving in Amsterdam since 2003.
“There is still so much more for me to learn and I will need to train harder to face up to the challenges next year. I will take one step at a time and plan carefully,” said Nicol.
It is going to be a hectic year and I also have to set my priorities. But all that will have to wait as I want to enjoy this short holiday.”
SRAM president Sani said that there should be no pressure placed on Nicol when she starts her reign as the number one ranked player in the world next year.
“It is going to be tough maintaining her status at number one as the other players will be eager to dethrone her,” said Sani.
The gap between Nicol and the other top four players is close. Vanessa, who took over the top ranking in December, could not keep it going.
“Nicol has taken over. So it can happen to Nicol as well.
“But that is as far as the ranking is concerned. For the next 12 months Nicol will reign as the world champion.
“Nobody can take that away from her until the next meet.”