Athlete of April 2024

On 1 April, World No.13 Sivasangari Subramaniam of Malaysia won the prestigious GillenMarkets London Squash Classic at Alexandra Palace, beating World No.1 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) in the quarter-final, World No.4 Nele Gilis (BEL) in the semi-final and World No.2 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) in the final.

“It was quite crazy to realise that I had beaten the World number 1 in the quarters in London. Sherbini is the greatest player on tour right now. She is so talented and she plays unbelievable Squash. Of course, to beat her is something I had always dreamt of doing, but to actually do it was something that made me very proud of myself,” says the 25-year-old who lives and trains at Cornell University, in the USA.

“I guess I didn’t celebrate much on that day because I still had some matches the next day. But I definitely needed time to sink in that win, as it was the biggest of my career.”

Originally from Kedah, Malaysia, Subramaniam has an astonishing story which deserves to be told. Two years ago, in 2022, Sivasangari was involved in a life-threatening car crash near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

Despite life-saving surgery, her head, spine and neck were badly injured and doctors feared she might never walk again. For her incredible journey back to the top of international Squash, Subramaniam is the April 2024 Athlete of the Month.

“It was very tough, but I was willing to push myself beyond limits to play this sport again. It was mentally hard after the accident to go through the rehabilitation process. It wasn’t the normal routine I previously had. I tried to stay as positive as I could during those times, and reminded myself that everything happens for a reason. I also had the support of my loved ones around me, who constantly lifted me up whenever I was in doubt that I could ever make a comeback,” she explains.

Returning to the competitive stage from a hospital bed is a testament to Subramaniam’s determination and a great achievement.

“It took me about 5 to 6 months to step on the court again. But even then, I could only do very light things as I had restricted neck movements during that time. I think the biggest turning point was after my summer training last year. After the summer training, I felt confident in the tournaments I was playing and I felt close to my normal form before the accident.”

Subramaniam became the first Malaysian Squash player since The World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time, Nicol David, to win a Gold-level (or higher) event on the PSA World Tour since David's 2015 Hong Kong Open title.

“It means a lot to me. Nicol is the legend of this game, and such an icon in the sport scene in Malaysia. So to be winning the event definitely is a huge confident booster for me, and allows me to believe in myself more that I’m capable of achieving these kind of results,” Subramaniam confesses.

However, at the moment, Raneem El Weleily is her biggest opponent.

“Raneem El Weleily has been my biggest inspiration in the Squash world. She’s such a good player but also such a good and humble human being off-court.”

“I’ve had a few coaches along the way growing up playing squash, but the recent ones who have helped me reach such heights are coaches David Palmer and Ajaz. They have been my biggest supporters during my ups and downs,” she says.

Sivasangari Subramaniam has yet to take part in The World Games. She is hoping to secure a berth to go to Chengdu 2025.

“Currently I am not sure how the selection works for The World Games as I’ve never competed in it before. But I’m definitely excited and hope to qualify and secure a spot to compete in Chengdu.”

“Hopefully I will do well in the qualifying tournaments and qualify for The World Games, and why not win the gold medal there!”

With a busy season ahead, Subramaniam, who picked up her first Squash racquet at 7, never forgets her goals. She will compete at the CIB PSA World Championships (9-18 May) and the British Open 2024 (2-9 June).

“I have two more professional tournaments coming up before I end the season 2023/2024. The first one is in Egypt and the second one is in Great Britain. I hpe to do well at both these tournaments, and hope to break into the Top 10 by the end of this season.”

In October last year, the International Olympic Committee officially selected Squash for inclusion in the LA28 Olympic Games sports programme. We asked Subramaniam what this milestone means to her and her community.

“It is huge for the Squash World and the fans of this sport. It’s a dream come true for me, and for every other Squash player out there. I am very excited, and hopefully I will be able to qualify for it.”

We wish Subramaniam the best of lucky for her upcoming tournaments and we hope to see her in Chendgu next year!

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