Ni­col the great

A toast to an ex­em­plary per­former and the pride of a nation.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

HIS­TORY has had stars who shim­mered all too briefly be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into the night, like van­ish­ing comet tails. Then, there are those who have shone as brightly as the light of a thou­sand suns. Luck? That’s for the su­per­sti­tious. I think it’s all down to hard work and per­se­ver­ance.

Ex­cel­lence isn’t easy to achieve, sus­tain­ing it, harder still. Ded­i­ca­tion and a sin­gle­minded de­vo­tion are pre­req­ui­sites, for tal­ent alone sel­dom en­dures.

This is an ar­ti­cle I’ve been want­ing to write for a cou­ple of years but whose time had yet to ar­rive ... un­til now. This is about a sportswoman whose star has siz­zled for al­most two decades – if the light dimmed slightly at times, it wasn’t for long. She al­ways found an in­ner strength, a blaz­ing flame, to ig­nite the game of her choice.

This is about our home-grown squash queen, Datuk Ni­col David.

Some tal­ented peo­ple at­tain ex­cel­lence and suc­cess, and then get dis­tracted by the bright lights. Some achieve these but burn out all too soon. Oth­ers are just too lazy to even try. Then, there is Ni­col.

Had her cho­sen sport been ten­nis, she might have reaped even big­ger re­wards and be men­tioned in the same breath as the greats of the court – Bil­lie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova. But squash was her destiny, and what a ride it has been!

Many of my friends wist­fully re­call a time when Malaysian foot­ball was at its prime. I’ve never been much of a foot­ball fan but hockey and, bad­minton, yes. When we won the Thomas Cup in 1992, I was glued to the TV, bit­ing my nails in anx­i­ety. And for a brief time, I viewed the world through the eyes of a gi­ant. When Malaysia fin­ished fourth in the World Cup hockey in 1975, I was on cloud nine for days.

Squash has never been per­ceived as glam­orous, al­though Ni­col has pos­si­bly won more in­ter­na­tional sport­ing ti­tles than any other Malaysian! It seems cru­elly con­signed to the role of a poor cousin in rac­quet sports, mi­nus the glit­ter of ten­nis or the hype of bad­minton.

Ten­nis and bad­minton get reg­u­lar cov­er­age on TV, squash, less so; thus, it came as a sur­prise to see a game of Ni­col’s be­ing shown on an Astro chan­nel re­cently.

My mis­sus, af­ter a minute of watch­ing, re­marked: “I feel tired!” The ref­er­ence was to the gru­elling na­ture of the game – sure it all looks easy, but few rac­quet sports are as drain­ing as squash. Seems a shame, though, that it doesn’t have a pro­file to match its de­mand­ing phys­i­cal and mental re­quire­ments.

Few will ar­gue that Ni­col has con­trib­uted ex­ten­sively to­wards fur­ther­ing and sus­tain­ing the cause of the game, and to think that she’s just 27! Cruel, then, that she will prob­a­bly never have the chance to add an Olympic medal to her list of ac­com­plish­ments.

The wise men who gov­ern the Olympic Games have so far kept squash out of the event. The ear­li­est it has a chance of be­ing in­cluded in the Olympics is in 2016, by which time, it may be a bit too far into Ni­col’s ca­reer.

Yes, a time will come, as with ev­ery ath­lete, when younger and stronger play­ers will get the mea­sure of her. One hopes that when she fi­nally calls it a day, she’s still at the top of her game.

Malaysia should en­sure that Ni­col’s feats and her in­spir­ing story are never for­got­ten. We spout rhetoric about ex­cel­lence and reach­ing for the stars, but here in our own back­yard is one who has scaled ev­ery peak on her jour­ney to great­ness. Truly, here is a cham­pion, not just for this era, but for all time.

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