So what’s it’s like in the day of Datuk Nicol Ann David nowadays, I ask. One would think that the record-breaking World No 1 squash champion would miss being playing competitively, as she’s done professionally for nearly 20 years of her life but she dismisses the idea with an empathetic shake of her head. “I’m so happy I’m not competing anymore. I know what it takes, not just playing it but the training that goes into it. I did like the travelling… but I can travel now without my rackets and actually visit places. I’ve been to some cities but I hardly got to visit the museums and see some cool sights but now I can!” she says with a little laugh.
A feeling of contentment seems to emanate from her. “I feel freer now,” she says conspiratorially. “The very first time I woke up in the morning after I retired, I felt free. I wasn’t like stuck in a place where I had to do my training because that was all I did for so long.”
The 38-year-old now happily spends her time between Malaysia and Colombia, after moving there for altitude training a few years ago. A typical day for her involves a leisurely breakfast, taking in work-related meetings, and fitting in a little workout in the afternoon—being a big foodie, she jokes, “I still have to keep fit if I’m in Malaysia too much! Plus it keeps my mind sane.” And unless there’s a motivational talk she needs to do, you can find her chilling and relaxing at home.
Her list of accomplishments is widely known. From picking up her first racket which her father had customised for her at the age of five, the pint-sized lass showed signs that she was meant for greater things on the squash court. Even then, she was fearless, resolute and highly competitive—characteristics that will serve her well in her journey to the top. At 17 she turned pro and a year later moved to Amsterdam to train with Liz Irving, a well-respected coach from Australia and former World No 2. Doing so had improved her confidence and she was able to take control of her game, after the frustrations of transitioning from junior to senior squash. Eventually the 23-year-old Nicol began winning consistently, retaining the World No 1 title for nine years straight, from 2006 to 2015, smashing record after record and becoming the longest-reigning World No 1 in squash history.
Throughout her glittering career, the Penang-born superstar has competed in 102 PSA World Tour Finals and won 81 of them. She also won 61 out of 71 World Series Finals. Her reign ended when she retired from the sport in June 2019, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest female squash players who ever lived. In fact, she was named the World Games’ Greatest Athlete of All Time in February this year, beating 23 others in a worldwide poll.
Her decision to retire from the sport was an emotional time for her to come to grips with, describing it akin to a “break-up”. At the tail-end of her career, it became really clear to her that she had done all she could with squash and it was time to figure out her next move, which is giving back to the community. And so the Nicol David Organisation is born.
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