Nicol targets Commonwealth and Asian Glory

SH7046from SportAsia

This year NICOL DAVID has already won her fifth British Open title and led Malaysia to victory in the Asian Team Championships. World No. 1 since August 2006, the seven-time world champion is now preparing to retain her titles at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, the Hong Kong Open in August and the Asian Games in Incheon starting in September.

Interview by SportAsia

SH7048July 14, 2014: World No. 1 Nicol David holds the honour of being flagbearer for the eight Asian countries at the opening ceremony of the 20th edition Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 23. Besides Malaysia, the other Asian countries under the Commonwealth Federation are Singapore, Brunei, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Now 30, David first competed at the Commonwealth Games at the age of 15 in 1998, but only won the title at the fourth attempt in 2010. As top seed in Glasgow this month, the record-breaking Malaysian is now attempting to win a second successive gold in the women’s singles, while also bidding for glory with compatriot Low Wee Wern in the ensuing doubles competitions.

Having already won her fifth British Open in May and helped Malaysia reclaim the Asian Team Championships title in June, David will then seek to retain her titles at the Hong Kong Open in August and the Asian Games in Incheon, which kicks off in September.

How would you rank the Commonwealth Games – which involves a limited amount of countries – among your overall career targets and achievements?

I think it’s the highest prestige for squash in a multisport games. The Commonwealth Games is a highlight for any squash player to get a gold medal, so I think you’ll see that all the players are really gunning for that medal.

Also, congratulations on being appointed flagbearer for the eight Asian countries at the opening ceremony in Glasgow on July 23. How did that come about?

They will have athletes representing each region who will bring in the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) flag to be hoisted up at the opening ceremony. That will be huge. It’s the first time. I think the Commonwealth Games committee nominated a few athletes. The CGF President, Prince Tunku Imran, has been supporting squash for a long time and I’m sure he put in a good word for me.

The Commonwealth Games marks a return to the UK, where you beat Laura Massaro in the British Open final in May to avenge last year’s defeat. How important was your fifth British Open title, especially with Laura seeded second in Glasgow?

Beating Laura is always a big achievement because she’s playing well, she’s No. 2 and she won the Worlds (in March). She deserves it, she works hard and when you play her, you have to be on your game. I usually now meet her in the finals, so you expect to play the best squash right until the very end. I was glad to win the British Open title because it means so much to me. It’s so prestigious so I just wanted to win it back; get that title back.

You mentioned this year’s Worlds, where you played in front of huge home crowds in Penang, but lost to Nour El Sherbini in the semis. How did that feel, considering the hype and pressure surrounding your homecoming?

The tournament was such a hype and it was one of the biggest crowds I’ve played in front of. To have such great support … it took a while to get used to. I think by the time I really got settled, I needed a bit more … to figure out what was going on. I learned so much that week. We’ve seen Nour growing up and beating all the top players, so we know she’s got a bright future ahead of her.

SH7049You’re involved in a lot of team competitions this year. At the Commonwealth Games, you’ll also play doubles with Low Wee Wern, while you led Malaysia to victory in the recent Asian Team Championships and have the Asian Games in September. How much do you enjoy team events?

It’s great to represent your country in a tournament as a whole contingent together. We’ve got a good team and they’re all really good girls as well. We’ve grown up together and I’ve seen many of the girls grow up, even the guys as well. There’s a good energy in the Malaysia team. Everyone gets along well and that’s important in team events. There’s never a dull moment, really, so it’s just fun. Everybody just does their part and gives it their best and that’s what you want.

You missed the last Asian Team Championships in 2012 but helped Malaysia reclaim the title last month in Hong Kong. How important was it to win the event, especially ahead of the Asian Games?

It was important for Malaysia to do well, especially because the teams in Asia are stepping up another level. Hong Kong, India, Japan and a few other countries are coming through, so it’s pretty exciting for us to see where we stand. We’ve also got the World Team Championship (in Canada in December), so it’s also good preparation for that.

SH7050Do you think Malaysia’s women are favourites for the Asian Games and does that add pressure?

I think on ranking they will put us as favourites. We’ll just have to stick to what we know and play our matches as they come because we’re still pretty much playing individual matches, but as a team. The feeling of playing for a team is much better. You get a good energy around you and you want to do well.

With Low Wee Wern and Delia Arnold as Malaysia’s No. 2 and 3, you could have almost the same team as four years ago. Does it help to have such continuity?

We’ve known each other for so long and we grew up together. I think we’ve also stepped up our level and ranking since four years ago so we really will be keen to see how we fare. It’s really going to be good for the country. There are still the likes of India and Hong Kong who are pushing, so we’ll just have to be ready for it.

How often have you played in Korea?

I played in Korea for the 2002 Asian Games and I’ve played the Korea Open many times. I love going back to Korea, to Seoul. It’s such a great vibe, the people are so friendly and nice, and they really put on a good show. I’m sure it’s going to be a good Asian Games.

How do enjoy the Asian Games outside the court?

If we’re in the village, then you’re among all the athletes so there’s a lot of time that you’re with the Malaysia team, different athletes, all together. Sometimes they fit different teams into one apartment so we sometimes stay in the same place as other sports, like table tennis, because it’s according to alphabetical order. You get along with all the other athletes and it’s so fun. I love the Asian Games.

from SportAsia