PETALING JAYA: One has to be willing to break out of the comfort zone to be a great player.
Former national squash player Ong Beng Hee said his ex-teammate Nicol David did that when she took the bold move to be based in Amsterdam, Holland in 2003 to take her game to a whole new level.
It was there that the 19-year-old came under the tutelage of Australian coach Liz Irving for the remainder of her professional career and went on to become Malaysia’s squash queen.
The 39-year-old Beng Hee, who is currently coaching the Qatar national team, said Nicol showed tremendous grit and passion by moving to Europe.
“Her passion for squash is one to emulate. Sacrificing her time living in Amsterdam to be a pro is not easy because it’s a big risk if you fail, so for her to be based there is a sacrifice that many Malaysian players won’t do now,” said Beng Hee.
“Getting out of the comfort zone is the hardest thing for a player and Nicol did just that. Being outside the comfort zone and creating an environment suitable for her life.”
The former world No. 7 added that even as a junior, Nicol was a handful for the world’s top 10 players.
“Nobody can predict how successful Nicol would have become but back in the junior days she already had shown a lot of potential to be a great player,” he said.
“I remember at 15, she was already giving the top 10 ladies a tough time pushing and almost beating them already.”
“Her strength was her speed on court as nobody could handle her pace in playing.
“She was also able to handle pressure especially in big matches and crucial points and that is what made her such a great player.”
“She will outlast anyone and all players feared her as she will not back out till the last point is played.”
Together with former world No. 10 Azlan Iskandar, the trio formed the golden era for Malaysian squash.
“We had the golden generation for 10 years at least with Nicol being the most successful. Malaysian squash will go through a bit down phase – but certainly not out – as nobody will ever replace the achievements of Nicol,” said Beng Hee.
“I’m sure Malaysian and world squash will miss Nicol as not only she is a living legend but off the court as a person, she is down to earth and a role model with her professionalism.”
Azlan, who has been Nicol’s teammate since their junior days, said that it was clear that she would go on to become a great player.
“We all knew she would be someone special at a young age, because at 12, she was already beating 16-year-old girls and especially when you are a two time world junior champion.”
Azlan pointed out many have failed to realise Nicol’s contributions to the world of squash.
“She has had an illustrious career but many don’t realise she has been at the pinnacle of squash in Malaysia and around the world, and is a great example for athletes around the world,” said Azlan.
“She has been great throughout her career and the World Championships she has won, it is crazy.”
“But most important is that she has given back to the game because she really loves it. She is part of all the World Squash Federation programmes and is always looking to give back.”
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