The queen of glass court Nicol David has been named the World Games’ Greatest Athlete of All Time after tallying a whopping 318,943 votes in an online poll to beat out 23 other candidates.
The 37-year-old Penangnite, also the eight-time squash world champion, held on to a record nine-year reign as the world’s number one. Her fervent tenacity was not only evident in her gameplay but also in her advocacy to turn squash into an Olympic Sport. It has always been her hope for the sport to be adopted by the International Olympic Committee during her liftetime.
“It came as a surprise to see me amongst these other top athletes and I’m grateful for this ... hopefully it can elevate attention for the future of squash, and it’s a proud moment to represent my country and Asia,” Nicol says.
The poll was held in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the World Games, which takes place every four years for sports that are not part of the Olympic Games. Republic of Ireland’s James Kehoe, who represented in his country in tug of war in nine World Games, took second place on the poll with 113,120 votes. Women powerlifting athlete Larysa Soloviova from Ukraine ended up third with 80,790 votes.
International World Games Association president Jose Perurena commented that Nicol serves as an inspirational and a fine role model for younger athletes.
Nicol’s illustrious career kickstarted at 15 when she became the youngest female to win the World Junior Squash Championships. After that, it was victory upon victory. She claimed her first Kuala Lumpur Open in 2000 and bagged her first World Open gold medal in 2005. But that was only the beginning of her winning streak.
The following year, she ranked world number one — a status never before held by an Asian woman — and reigned for an unprecedented nine years. She proceeded to become one of the greatest squash players of all time, hauling eight World Championship and five British Open titles under her belt. After more than 20 intense and fulfilling years, Nicol retired from competitive play in 2019.
However, Nicol is far from leaving the court behind. Besides working more closely with up-and-coming national players, she is also occupied with setting up the Nicole David Foundation to engage with the younger generation. Her foundation aims to make sports more accessible to children and increase participation of girls through empowerment. Education, such as providing English lessons, will also be a key focus.
Her most recent off-court achievement will definitely come in handy. In January, David completed her Positive Psychology specialisation online from the University of Pennsylvania while studying during the pandemic. If anyone would have a great start to 2021, it will be Nicol David.
See all the winners from the World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time here.