Interview with Nicol David

Updated: 10 Mar 2014

World’s number one squash champ and fellow Penangite, Datuk Nicol Ann David chats with Cheng Sim about her hometown, Penang.

Early this year, Penangites sprung up from their seats following the announcement of the 2014 Women’s World Open Squash Championship set to take place in the hometown of its defending champion and world number one, Datuk Nicol Ann David. The championship will be held for the first time at the SPICE Arena in Penang, and includes the prize of a whopping USD$120,000 for its crowned winner. The prize money, albeit an enticing one, comes second to her determination to win in her homeground, Penang.

Nicol on being the World’s Squash Queen
Her first taste of squash began when she was five, the only sport able to tame the lively and active little Nicol before a squash official Ee Phoeh Hoon took the young Penangite under her wings and the rest is history. January 2006 was the year when Nicol became the first Malaysian and Asian female player to be crowned world number one, a momentous record that has never been achieved by any women athlete then. She was 22.

As it gets closer to the upcoming women's tour, the stakes are higher and this year proves to be both challenging and encouraging. 'I've gained a lot from my experience competing and definitely understanding the game on a completely different level at the moment,' Nicol says with quiet confidence. January 2014 marks her eighth year reign as world's top squash player and surely, maintaining her win is keeping her on her toes? 'Not all,' she replies with gusto. 'It drives me to keep going'.

Losing is merely a learning curve for her, a way to improve her game and her surprising loss to Natalie Grinham in the finals of Seoul Open in 2007 proved this. 'A lot of people I know hate losing but I learn more from those losses to improve further. Once I'm aware of the mistakes, then I can deal with it better and move forward afterwards'.

On being Malaysia’s dream Olympian
Since Malaysia's inaugural entry in the Olympics in 1964, hopes are high for the day we celebrate our first Malaysian gold medalist, a record that has yet to be realised by any sportsman in our country, and a goal for athletes such as Nicol herself.

She deliberates on our nation's chances of winning the internationally celebrated Olympic Games before replying, ‘I know for a fact that we have many potential athletes in other sports that has the ability to be an Olympic gold medalist one day. Our Malaysian athletes just have to believe they’re capable to take it to the next level and make the most of the support system available to them’.

Nicol’s golden ticket to the Olympic battlefield is the Squash Back The Bid Olympic, a campaign to bid for squash’s entry in the 2020 Olympic Games, which resulted in squash being 28 votes shy from outranking popular contender, wrestling, last year. However, Nicol feels the campaign generated a fresh buzz and clear visibility for squash's recognition in the Olympics and remains optimistic about the International Olympic Comittee's (IOC) review. ‘Right now, it’s in the hands of the IOC and the best way to support this cause is to continue to encourage more people to play squash and share it with others,’ she reflects with sanguinity.

On her hometown, Penang
In just a few days, Penang will host the 2014 Women’s World Open Squash Championship and excitement is high on Nicol’s homecoming. ‘It’s such a thrill to know that I’ll be able to compete in my very own backyard,’ she comments. ‘Looking forward to it already and also inviting the top women squash players to my hometown,’

She reminisces her childhood memories, mostly around her times at the squash centre where she spent most of her time during school days in Penang. ‘On some occasions, my friends and I will pop into our primary school at Convent Green Lane to visit our teachers and eat the canteen food, preferably the char koay teow,’ she confesses.

Nicol believes Penangites have noticeable evident pride of their city as compared to other Malaysians and those around the world. 'Penangites are very true to our island and we stay close to our heritage that surrounds us,' she explains.

Like most Penangites, she has her own go-to comfort food whenever she's in town. ‘The moment I arrive at the Penang International Airport, my parents take me to Cameron hawker food stall for my favourite char koay teow'. Speaking like a true Penangite, wouldn't you say?

For more on Nicol Ann David, check out her website and follow her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Tags: Features