KUALA LUMPUR: Mohd Azlan Iskandar has finally decided to retire from professional squash but the former national No. 1 has pledged to help develop the sport further from the grassroots level.
The 30-year-old Azlan has been involved in the sport since he was eight, having been on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour since 2000 – for 13 years.
The industrious Sarawakian has reached a total of 24 PSA World Tour finals, winning a total of 13 titles including six in Malaysia.
Azlan’s finest moment came in 2010 when he won the Malaysian Open for the third time, beating long-time rival Ong Beng Hee to establish himself as the national No. 1. That year, Azlan also won the Asian Games gold medal for the first time and bagged his maiden Asian Championship title after twice falling short in the past.
However, a series of nagging injuries and a loss of hunger for the game forced Azlan to ponder his future in the sport.
The final straw came in the KL Open in March, when Azlan, having just recovered from an injury a month earlier, suffered another which forced him to miss the tournament.
He has been out of action since and yesterday, he announced his retirement at the professional level to focus on promoting squash throughout the country, especially in the rural areas.
“It’s a really tough decision, retiring from professional squash.
“I’ve been mulling over it for the past six months,” said Azlan at a press conference at the National Squash Centre yesterday.
“A lot of people are asking me why now, I am just 30, and why not after the Asian Games in 2014? “Well, I’ll still be training and if ever the country needs me for the Asian Games and Asian Championship, I’ll be around. It’s just the professional circuit that I’m retiring from.
“Personally though, I’m quitting because of a few factors.
“I’ve struggled quite a bit with injuries throughout my career and every time I get back up, I get injured again and it’s quite frustrating.
“Besides that, I’ve also lost a bit of hunger for the game and having travelled around the world for 18 tournaments a year for the past 13 years... that has finally caught up with me.
“I’ve achieved many goals but I don’t feel right that I have been doing this through hard-earned taxpayers’ money and it’s time for me to give something back to the country.
“So this is the right time for me to take the next step to push squash through the grassroots level and get people involved in the schools and rural areas.
“We have a huge junior talent pool coming through and although the Squash Racquets Association Malaysia (SRAM) have done a good job, they need a lot more help at the grassroots level, which is where I come in,” added Azlan who has already set up three squash academies in Sarawak and one in Terengganu.
Azlan also paid tribute to former SRAM presidents, the late Datuk Alex Lee and Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir as well as former National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Mazlan Ahmad and Datuk Zolkples Embong, the current NSC director general, for being instrumental in his rise.
Name: Mohd Azlan Iskandar Date of birth: June 1, 1982 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg Birthplace: Kuching, Sarawak Affliations: Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) Career Achievements: National Championship winner (2010, 2011), Asian Games individual gold medallist (2010), Asian Games Team silver medallist (2010), Asian Games individual silver medallist (2006), Asian Games individual bronze medalist (2002), Asian Championship winner (2008, 2010), Asian Championship team winner (2006, 2008),World Games bronze medallist (2009), Commonwealth Games Singles semi-finalist (2010), Outstanding Asian Player of The Year Award (2007, 2009); 13 Professional Squash Association (PSA) titles – KL Open (2003, 2006), The Betteridge Trophy (2003), Png Squash International (2004, 2005), Cas International (2004), Malaysian Open (2004, 2007, 2010), North American Open (2007), NSC Series No. 5 (2009), Irish Open (2010), Bluenose Classic (2011). Career Highlights: Breaking into the world’s top 10 rankings, winning first Asian Games gold medal.