KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s squash legend Nicol David’s calendar may be full of post-retirement plans, but right now she’s focused on enjoying a long-awaited Christmas celebration with her family.
The longest reigning world number 1 in squash history, Nicol retired from the sport in May after a glowing 20-year career which saw her dominate the women’s game with a record eight world championships and 81 Professional Squash Association (PSA) titles.
However, competing in tournaments around the world meant she never really had the luxury of fully enjoying the holiday season with her family in Penang.
She told FMT that this year’s Christmas would be more festive for her since she can spend more time celebrating with loved ones.
The smiling 36-year-old said her Christmas wish is to enjoy the last days of 2019 with her family, reflecting on the year that has passed and hoping for more blessings in 2020.
“Even though I’ve been away these past 20 years, I always try my best to come back for Christmas,” she said. “This time, though, I’m definitely going to be back in Penang for longer.
“What I’ve missed most is all the food and the get-togethers with my extended family. It’s a great feeling. Everybody comes from all over Malaysia and we get together and share stories from when we were younger.
“Having my mum and my aunt making their Christmas turkey, spending time with family and friends. Those are the things that I miss the most when I’m away.
“That’s what Christmas is all about, and I want to savour the moment as much as possible because it goes by so fast. I wish Christmas could be extended for a week!” she laughed.
Nicol, who held the World No 1 spot for an unprecedented 109 consecutive months from 2006 to 2015, now has her sights set on developing the Nicol David Foundation which aims to empower girls through sports for the challenges of life in general.
The foundation is working together with London-based professional services network PwC to encourage more girls to take up sports and so develop their life skills.
Nicol, who was voted “Greatest of All Time” by squash fans worldwide last year, is also working with the Professional Squash Association to increase the visibility of the women’s professional tour around the globe.
Apart from speaking engagements, Nicol – who will be based in Kuala Lumpur – also wants to give back to the public and the sport in Malaysia through events such as her “The Dream Remains” exhibition which ran from Dec 19-20 at the Nicol David Arena, National Squash Complex in Bukit Jalil.
The five-time Asian Games gold medalist hopes events such as these will motivate the country’s junior players.
She delighted the crowd at her namesake arena by lacing up for a match against a national junior player on Dec 20 – her first time playing in Malaysia since her retirement.
She also enjoyed another role as a motivator at the recent SEA Games in the Philippines, when she was appointed as the Malaysian contingent’s mentor by the youth and sports ministry in November.
“It was fantastic! It was a reversal of roles for me, from being an athlete to being a cheerleader in the stands.
“The athletes made Malaysia proud. They fought their hardest, and I was there to watch it all happen. It was definitely a great experience outside of being one of the athletes.”
While countless more experiences await Nicol off the court, right now, there is nothing she would rather do than kick back and enjoy a well-deserved Christmas break with her family.