Nicol hopes accolade helps in David v Goliath battle

Malaysian Nicol David holding her gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. She ended her squash career in 2019 as a seven-gold Asian Games champion.
Malaysian Nicol David holding her gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. She ended her squash career in 2019 as a seven-gold Asian Games champion.ST FILE PHOTO

LONDON • She was never given the chance to shine on an Olympic stage, but Nicol David may derive some consolation from being named the World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time.

Winning the accolade on Monday with almost three times as many votes as the runner-up, the Malaysian squash star, 37, said she hoped the award would help to boost the profile of a sport seemingly unloved in key quarters.

For years David has been the face of a campaign to admit squash to the Olympics, but has instead had to watch sports including rugby sevens, climbing, karate, surfing and skateboarding gain approval ahead of it.

"Hopefully it can elevate attention for the future of squash," she said as the sport - already part of the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games - eyes inclusion in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

She enjoyed an unprecedented nine-year reign at the top of the world rankings between 2006 and 2015. The eight-time world champion also won two Commonwealth Games golds and seven Asian Games golds during her distinguished career, which ended in 2019.

"It's a huge honour to be nominated and to gain so much support from everyone in Malaysia and the squash community," she said.

"It came as a surprise to see me among these other top athletes and I'm grateful for this... and it's a proud moment to represent my country and Asia."

David, ranked world No. 1 for a record 108 consecutive months, beat Irish tug-of-war titan James Kehoe into second place, with third going to Ukrainian powerlifter Larysa Soloviova.

Athletes on the shortlist came from sports including lifesaving, sumo, dancesport and racquetball.

The World Games takes place every four years - a year after the Summer Olympic Games - and features athletes, sports and disciplines that are not part of the Olympics. Founded in 1980, the 11th edition will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, in July next year.

World Squash Federation president Zena Wooldridge said: "Nicol's victory is recognition of a wonderful career that saw her break numerous records and win everything there was to win...

"Not only is Nicol one of the greatest athletes of all time, she is also a tremendous role model for thousands of people across the globe and a true ambassador for our sport."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2021, with the headline 'Nicol hopes accolade helps in David v Goliath battle'. Subscribe