PETALING JAYA: It was just a junior event but what a great impact it had made in the life of Datuk Nicol David.
Nicol was only 10 when she took part in the SportExcel national squash junior circuit but it opened up to many doors of opportunities for her as she began her squash career earnestly. She competed against players even eight years older than her in her debut.
SportExcel was established in 1991 and has played a major role in the development of talents in Malaysia.
“My first memory of SportExcel is when I was about 10 or 11 years old playing the Under-19 category and I took part together with both my sisters, Lianne and Cheryl, ” said the 37-year-old Nicol.
“It was the only girls age-group at that time and I remember the circuit was held in Penang.
“I played against Rebecca Chiu from Hong Kong in the first round and lost 3-0, she gave me lots of chances to make me run around and kept it fun for me.
“She was the top seed at the time. It was an event where we get to keep on playing for placing in the playoff, so after that loss, I found my way to win against all the other big girls somehow.
“Never knew I could beat these girls but I gave it my all. I love the circuit especially because I made so many friends while travelling around Malaysia too.
“SportExcel also gave me my first sport incentive after achieving good results overseas. It spurred me on to keep working harder in my squash progress after that.
Nicol attributed SportExcel success to their visionary approach to sports.
“The SportExcel has a great vision for sport and it came down to creating a competitive circuit within the country to help our local players gain the exposure needed against local and foreigners.
“All players within the country get to play as they hosted it several states.
“I benefited the most in these circuits because I learnt the importance of adapting to different styles of play and playing in an older category, ” she said.
“I was up with tough competition to prepare me for my actual age-group events internationally. Also, I had so much of fun thanks to SportExcel.
“I would like to say a huge congratulations to YAM Tunku Imran and his amazing team who saw the importance to cultivate Malaysian athletes like myself at a young age in this foundation programme and their continued support for Malaysian sport for the past 30 years.
“Happy 30th Anniversary SportExcel. Tunku Imran has always been an inspiration to me and I hope to continue his legacy in Malaysian sports as well.”