Nicol David – A national treasure

The girl is class. All the adjectives under these blessed skies would do no justice to a lady who has made greatness seem not too foreign to a Malaysian passport.

And for that a grateful nation will always make mention of a young girl from Penang, even if she was to retire today.

I often recall my conversation with student of mine – someone who has the picture of Nicol plastered on her study file – and how she just lit up when I asked her why she liked Nicol. She just said, she is the best.

In a country where a century of British exploitation of class and race for their own survival, and fifty years of the same exploitation by local politicians for national destruction, a Nicol is hard to come by. So polarised is the country, yet no one makes references to Nicol’s race or even gender. To most, she’s just Nicol.

The journey

When Nicol was making inroads in the junior playing circuit, winning the British Open under 14 and under 16, and a slew of age group title, it did not measure on the radar.

First she was a gal. Second they were age group titles, when the caucasian and Egyptian kids are still not much bigger and fitter than a tropical south-east asian. And third, Malaysians bloom and fade.

An early summer of false flattery.

Then she won the Junior world title. The expectations rose a bit. Ong Beng Hee did the same on the boys side, and after awhile the physical strength and mental strength of the Europeans, Australians and Americans were too telling.

World Champion

A champion at work
A champion at work

And the won the World Open, and she was now a world champion. And not like the odd story of someone who plays beyond and above yourself for one tournament, and then fizzle away slowly and painfully until you are in oblivion.

She persisted with winning, and 28 titles later, and today playing in KL for the CIMB Open, you just have to admire the girl from a distance.

I saw her with friends walking down Bukit Bintang three or four years ago, and I was thinking – for a girl with such huge expectations she is pretty small.

All alone winning

There have been bumps along the way, but in the last 3 years she is the most winning player on the circuit. Everyone is in awe.

She has deal tournament after tournament with the Grinham (Rachael and Natalie) sisters, then there is Natalie Grainger (USA) and Vanessa Atkins (Netherlands). They all would have been sharing the titles evenly if there was no Nicol.

She trains away in Amsterdam, she is home in Penang infrequently and she still is 24. And she rarely makes a fuss about it.

Her Malaysian court

People know her more than they know squash. I suppose even for us simple peeps out there – as squash is still a minority sport – the challenges and struggles are something we can understand.

We are used to our sportspeople complaining. We are used to them telling before the match that they are only playing for the experience. Of seeing ourselves as second best when it comes to the real sporting nations in the world.

We can win, we just can’t win when it is tough. Because we clock out when the going is tough.

Little Nicol Ann David is not like that. She’d play, and she’ll lose a few. But she won’t give in to a life of being second best.

And for that I tilt my hat forward for you missy.

Go get them tiger!

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