Seven Worlds Are Not Enough by Michael Caitlin

Seven Worlds Are Not Enough by Michael Caitlin
She has won a record-breaking seven World Open titles and dominated the women’s game for almost a decade. But with Olympic recognition continuing to elude the sport that she loves, Nicol David is now on a personal crusade to fulfil a ‘life-long dream’.
As she marks a seventh successive year atop the WSA world rankings, it is fair to say Nicol David has achieved more than most during her glittering career in the sport.
Heralded by many as the greatest female squash player in history, David has already amassed an unparalleled 66 titles - some feat considering she has yet to celebrate her 30th birthday.
But as she reflects on a career overloaded with honours and record-breaking achievements, it seems almost incomprehensible how this diminutive and inconspicuous 29-year-old could sit just one title away from equalling Jansher Khan’s record of eight World Open titles.
Brutally brilliant on the court yet chivalrous and incredibly modest off it; it feels almost surreal that this is the same person who won all but one World Series event last year.
Such is her humility however; she seems almost discomfited as she ponders the possibility of winning her eighth World Open trophy.
“To be honest it still hasn’t really sunk in what has happened in the last year,” admits the Malaysian number one.
“I had no idea that I would come to this point and have seven world titles. It sounds weird to say it out loud and the fact that a real squash legend like Jansher Khan has eight world titles, I really couldn’t imagine ever getting that close.
“It’s been such a great journey and it’s going to be very challenging now with the younger generation coming through as well.  But everything has just happened so fast that I’m still coming to terms with it and I just want to enjoy every moment.”
Such is her star attraction in the sport however; it seems unlikely she will have much time to reflect on her most recent achievements.
After all, her life is such that she barely gets a minute to herself. “This is actually my fifth interview today,” admits the seven-time WSA player of the year. But as she carefully sweeps her hair back in preparation for an upcoming photo shoot, her gleaming smile suggests she is embracing her role as the standout attraction in the women’s game.
It is a position she has had to become accustomed to ever since winning her first World Open Championship in 2005. Owing to her cult status in Malaysia; she can barely walk 100 yards without being mobbed by thousands of her adoring fans.
It is unsurprising then that she has chosen to reside in the quieter suburbs of Amsterdam for the past decade. Yet as she reveals, it was a choice made out of necessity, rather than a search for anonymity.
“It was difficult making the move at first but Liz Irving, my coach, had set up a very good base there in Amsterdam and I really wanted to work with her full-time.
“She was coaching the Dutch national team at the time and also coached Vanessa Atkinson as well and helped her to win her first World Open title.
“She just has so much experience behind her and she really helped me to make the transition from juniors to seniors. Since then I’ve gone from strength to strength and she is definitely the best coach that I have ever met.”
Under the guidance of Irving, David’s game immediately flourished and after briefly holding the world number one spot in early 2006, she eventually wrestled it back from Atkinson in the latter stages of that year.
It is a position she has held ever since and after beginning the New Year with her second success at the World Series Finals in London, David’s domination shows no signs of waning.
But as the conversation drifts towards her involvement in the 2020 bid, there is a tinge of sadness which seems to replace her otherwise bubbly persona. For all her countless achievements in the sport, the one title she truly craves remains out of her reach.
Twice the World Squash Federation has failed in its efforts to add squash to the Olympic programme and with their much publicised third bid already well advanced, David knows the outcome in September could prove to be a defining moment in the sport and her career.
And after watching her nation win just two medals at the London Games this summer, it is clear the four-time British Open champion will stop at nothing to win Olympic gold for her country.
“I would do anything to play in 2020. Even if I have to use a walking stick, I will want to play in the Games. That will be my real drive and motivation to stay in the sport for another seven and a half years.
“I’m really passionate about representing the sport and my country and I will do whatever it takes to help squash get into the Games.
“I just want to see the sport keep growing because it has the potential to be one of the top sports in the world.”
From meeting Roger Federer to organising a flashmob dance in Malaysia, David’s life has become immersed with campaigns aimed at enhancing the global appeal of squash.
She has even boldly stated that she would happily trade all her world titles for Olympic Gold.
While such a forthright claim was probably issued with a hint of exaggeration, there is no denying that David’s past achievements would pale in comparison to winning an Olympic gold medal.
But as she launches another impassioned plea for the sports inclusion, there is a quiet sense of confidence that the 2020 bid could finally end years of heartache.
 “I think we have definitely improved on our last two bids and our campaign is so much stronger now,” declares the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
 “We have HD coverage, video reviews and spectators are now getting more involved in the game and are even allowed to cheer during rallies.
“I was actually at the Hong Kong Open where they had the inspection and they seemed quite impressed with what we had to offer.
“The sport has everything Olympic sports should have and I think because of the campaign that we have, the players and the community can really associate themselves with something they truly believe in and support.
“Everyone wants to see the sport get into the Games because it deserves its chance now.”
Just watching David speak so passionately about the bid and you almost feel compelled to drop everything and race off to the nearest squash court; such is her infectious appetite for the sport. But as she gleefully admits: “It’s what I love.”
Despite her many achievements however, there is a sense that her greatest fulfilment comes from just stepping onto the court.
It seems almost inappropriate then to ask whether she has thought about emulating the achievements of the legendary Heather McKay. At the age of 29, David certainly has time on her side.
Unsurprisingly though, she feels fortunate just to be mentioned in the same breath as one of the game’s all-time greats.
“It’s still hard to comprehend because Heather McKay is a true legend in not just squash but in sport. To be unbeaten in 20 years and to have 16 British Open titles is really special and hard to compare against.
“But I’m just so happy to be in the sport that I love playing and I just want to keep improving my game all the time. I hate losing and if I can make sure my performance is always on top, then the results will hopefully come.”
For now at least, David’s most pressing concern will be ensuring that squash finally receives the Olympic recognition it undoubtedly deserves. Provided she can win more titles along the way, 2013 could very well turn all her dreams into a reality.

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