Nicol David, the World Games Athlete of February 2019, was only 12 years old when she made her international debut in 1996, winning the British Junior U14 Squash Open title.
Since then, David has blazed a trail through the sport of squash, creating record after record. Now 35, David became the first player to win two world junior titles in 2001 before going on to accumulate a record eight senior individual world titles among a total of 81 PSA World Tour titles from 102 final appearances.
In 2005, the Malaysian athlete amassed maiden championship titles as she claimed the gold medals at the World Championships, British Open and The World Games.
But she had her challenges along the way. As a precocious 14-year-old, David had won gold for Malaysia at the Asian Games. Four years later she was left devastated after failing to retain her crown. She knew that she needed to change her game in order to achieve her potential, so she moved to the Netherlands to train with coach Liz Irving.
Irving’s communication skills combined with David’s dedication to training and learning provided the basis for a formidable and successful partnership. Speaking just before the 2018 Commonwealth Games, David said: “It was the turning point of my squash career.”
She told GC2018.com: “I moved over to Amsterdam to train with Liz and if I didn’t do that, I would have stopped squash before [now]. … She’s an inspiration to me and a true mentor who has just guided me along the way.”
Nicknamed “the Duracell Bunny,” the Malaysian superstar is known for her endurance in a game that requires the speed of a sprinter and breathing patterns of distance athletes. She was ranked World No. 1 for an incredible 108 consecutive months.
Speaking of her sportsmanship, Andrew Shelley, CEO of the World Squash Federation, said, “Running the Women’s Tour during so many years of her success, like everybody else I saw her wonderful athleticism so well-honed by Liz Irving, her drive to succeed, but also her humility. Her opponents have always been respected, those who have helped or simply supported her received sincere thanks, never a hint of diva, dealing with defeat … and always that smile. More than this, she would always give of herself.”
David announced earlier this year that she plans to retire from the sport this season. “After more than 20 years playing squash for Malaysia, competing on the professional tour and achieving the absolute best from my career – being the only Malaysian athlete to achieve these accolades and to be recognized as the greatest female squash athlete of all time by my peers – I can proudly say that I am ready and happy to announce my retirement at the end of this season.”
David, who is the United Nations Development Programme Ambassador for Malaysia, now plans to shift her focus on one of her main passions, the support and development of disadvantaged children.
The Nicol David Foundation aims to create, fund and support programs to improve the lives of disadvantaged children by providing them with the knowledge and confidence to choose and determine their life’s path. Using sports, the foundation will empower children by teaching them the value of discipline and routine, a commitment to a cause and aspiration to better themselves.