“You have to want it very badly and be prepared to put in the long hours. Nothing comes easy.” The words may sound philosophical, but coming from a world champion, they speak of grit and perseverance.
Nicol David has been world No. 1 for 55 consecutive months. The Malaysian could be the female Roger Federer. But the 27-year-old squash player laughs off the comparison. “Being No.1 is a great feeling, but it is not my position. Everyone is out there to get it. I just work hard enough to retain the spot,” she says.
For Malaysia, Nicol is one of the hottest prospects at the Games. She will also be one of the biggest names.
Nicol lost in the semifinals to Australian Natalie Grinham at the 2006 Melbourne Games, before losing the bronze medal playoff to Shelley Kitchen of New Zealand. She will now aim to capture the only major title that is missing from her glittering trophy cabinet.
Malaysia have two of their women players in the world top 20 (Low Wee Wern being the other at No. 20). Nicol credits this to the work done by the country's sports federation. “Squash's inclusion as a Commonwealth discipline in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur helped the sport to grow. Our states have very strong academies and more schools are introducing squash now,” she says.
Nicol keeps a notepad and likes drawing when free. “I doodle a lot, love listening to good hip-hop and R&B stuff. I also do a lot of window shopping,” she says, smiling brightly like a little girl.
But there is a steely demeanour behind the little-girl grin. Nicknamed the 'Duracell Bunny' for her ability to play on and on, Nicol will be drawing on those reservoirs of energy to attain the missing medal.