Malaysia's Nicol David won three gold medals and a bronze at The World Games, between 2005 and 2017. In her sport – Squash – she won eight World Championship titles and had an unprecedented nine-year reign as World No.1 2006–2015. In addition, David lifted two Commonwealth Games gold medals, five Asian Games gold medals and five British Open titles. David, who altogether won 81 professional titles, retired in 2019, a year after being voted the greatest female Squash player of all time by Squash fans in a poll hosted on the PSA World Tour website. Now she has been voted The World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time.
“This is such a huge honour, to be recognised as The World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time,” David says. “I'm truly humbled to actually get such overwhelming support from everyone, especially all those back in Malaysia voting for me to win this award. The World Games is really special for me, as it is one of the top multi-sport Games for non-Olympic sports and it covers all countries globally. The Squash scene has had the top players gunning for a medal for their country, and I'm truly proud to win medals for Malaysia. It’s a proud moment to represent my country and Asia." David received 318,943 of the 1.2 million votes cast in the poll.
David was recently awarded with an Honorary Doctorate in Sports Science by University of Science Malaysia. She has received the Malaysian Order of Merit (Darjah Bakti), becoming the first recipient of the award since its establishment in 1975. David was also honoured with the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negri Award, which carries the title ‘Datuk’, making her the youngest person ever to be conferred Datukship in her state. David was further given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch for Malaysia during the build up to the Athens Olympics of 2004 – even though Squash is not in the Olympic programme. It is fair to say that the Squash star is a superstar in Malaysia. The Malaysian public really supported her to the full in The World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time vote.
“When the nominations came out and the votes started, that same day my family and friends started to share on WhatsApp, and this just became viral in Malaysia! I hadn't even shared it on my social media, and the next morning when I woke up I saw that all the media and news portals existing in Malaysia had caught on to this WhatsApp chain,” Nicol David tells. “The support was incredible! There were people all over Malaysia who came out to vote and supported me, like celebrities, politicians, fans and the Squash community globally; they posted on their social media to show their support, while encouraging more from their circles to vote as well. It was really overwhelming to see, and everyone had beautiful messages that even the media in Malaysia shared, saying that they can still count on Nicol to bring a cheer in the midst of Covid-19. My sincere thanks and heartfelt gratitude go out to my family, friends and everyone who took their time to vote for me throughout the poll, to get me this recognition.”
David was appointed United Nation’s Development Programme Ambassador for Malaysia in 2002, and she has set up her own foundation to encourage and enable young girls to take up sport, as a tool to help them establish their values. “It has been a lovely transition for me after retiring from my Squash career, and my main focus was to give back in some way. I have been doing a lot of motivational talks and panel speaking for corporate companies, the UN, NGOs and sports organisations to share my experience, in the hope of inspiring more people through my Squash experiences. I'm in the process of working with my team in my foundation to empower boys and girls through the values of sport, and have also been doing Squash events and camps pre-Covid. In the near future I would like to see my foundation launch later in the year or next year in Kuala Lumpur, and also continue my path to be an advocate for women, youth and sport.”
The Malaysian star has played at four of the most recent editions of The World Games. The Games in 2013 in Cali, Colombia, left her with more than just the gold medal: she fell in love with the country, and has now moved to live there!
“My best memory of The World Games was playing in Cali in 2013 where it was my first time in Colombia, and the atmosphere and Colombian people were just buzzing each day at the Squash arena. It felt so alive, and I played one of my best finals there in that edition of The World Games. I think once I even managed to find time to watch the acrobatic gymnastics. It was unreal!”
When asked what advice David would give to children wanting to do sport, she says: “To all girls and boys, just go and give it a try, in whatever you're truly passionate about. It all comes down to how much you want it, and whether you're willing to work hard to get there, even when the going gets tough. Stay true to yourself, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise what you can or cannot do, because it is up to you to make it happen for yourself.”
Nicol David will receive a diploma, a trophy and a branded gift from the official sponsor, Protective Life.
“These past weeks have been an amazing experience, and to be named the Greatest Athlete of All Time by The World Games is certainly something to be really proud of. Thanks again, The World Games, for this honour and for supporting Squash in these multi-sport Games, and for enabling athletes from around the world to play a part in representing their own country in the Games,” Nicol David concludes.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in The World Games.