MARGARET THATCHER, THE FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, FAMOUSLY SAID:
“IF YOU WANT SOMETHING SAID, ASK A MAN. IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, ASK
A WOMAN.” THE PEAK’S WOMEN WE LOVE IS A CELEBRATION OF THESE WOMEN LEADERS WHO HAVE MADE A VIRTUE OF GETTING THINGS DONE AND SUCCESSFULLY TOO, RISING TO THE PINNACLES OF THEIR RESPECTIVE INDUSTRIES. HERE’S A SALUTE TO 10 OUTSTANDING WOMEN WHO HAVE STRIVED AND SUCCEEDED ON THEIR OWN DETERMINATION, STRENGTHS AND PASSIONS.
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Datuk Nicol David
World Squash Legend
Text by Zunaira Saieed
It is easy to claim that the world may not see another Datuk Nicol Ann David in the history of sport. The matter of fact is that she has set a world record as the longest-reigning world number one female squash player for almost a decade.
Early this year, the eight-time world champion was crowned the World Games’ Greatest Athlete of All Time.But Nicol is more than just the greatest athlete the world has seen because of her invaluable contributions to women society. One of the key contributions was her involvement in establishing the lucrative prize money of tournaments in women’s category on par with men.
Notably, in the past, there was a stark difference in the prize money between men and women. Championing equal rights of women, Nicol reminisces that she insisted on not playing in some tournaments because of the disparity in prize money for female athletes.
“ So, I made a point to voice out to promoters that I wouldn’t play if the prize money was not at the right level, and the tournament promoters managed to get enough prize money to have a top women’s event and over time, it worked its way up to getting equal prize money.
“ People were keen to see pro women playing so sponsors then had to make the prize money equally worthwhile. So they can get all the top players to play in major tournaments,” she says.
No doubt, Nicol’s invaluable contribution had also allowed the women’s category in squash to live in the limelight through equal representation with men in major tournaments. Her helpful contributions to society is also part of the legacy she wants to leave behind.
“I would like to have people thinking that I am a squash champion with a heart. It is important for me that I can help the growth of sports in some way, but also change the lives of others for the better,” Nicol explains.
Certainly, she has left a mark in the hearts of female athletes by breaking age-old stereotypes. For both female and male athletes in any sport to breakthrough, Nicol says it is critical to embed ‘mental toughness’ to cope with pressure and outside expectations.That said, she points out the necessity for players to work with sports psychologists to be mentally strong.
“Although you are physically very fit, the mind is the one to make or break. Your mind has to be fully ready to take on the challenge. “When you are mentally tough and you are with your opponent next to each other in the game, you would be able to see the opportunity to take her on and you will also know how to handle pressure,” she adds.
As such, Nicol discloses that she embarked on mental training with a sports psychologist from the young age of 11 in Malaysia. “They taught us how to do visualisation, goal setting at a young age, so that was my biggest advantage as compared to my opponents.
“It’s a therapy which has allowed me to cope with the pressure situations and take away all factors that could be a distraction to focus on what I have trained for,” confides Nicol. All this will be documented in Nicol’supcoming movie ‘I am Nicol David’ that is set to be a blockbuster, with a touch of Hollywood.
She has collaborated with ACE Pictures Entertainment- a Malaysian digital media and film production investment company. The screenplay will be done by two high-profile female screenwriters – a Malaysian and a US-based writer. ACE Pictures will search for Nicol’s role via a nationwide casting in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
The 38-year-old Nicol has been busy working on her ‘Nicol David Organisation’ for the past two years to empower both girls and boys through a combination of squash training and education for the B40 and the M40 group. Under the foundation, she shares that the five-year subsidised program will be offffered to help families that do not have the opportunity to give their kids access to squash and English tutoring.
Nicol believes that English proficiency is essential for kids to open doors and opportunities for their future. She discloses that the foundation has already garnered more than 50 students and is set to launch in June this year.The training will be located at Bukit Jalil Golf and Country Club.
Nicol herself would be the head coach for the squash program and the English programme modules will be developed in partnership with the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, reveals Nicol. “These are very exciting times, I believe that squash really changed my life. And it gave me all these values that I carry with me throughout my life including positivity, discipline and confidence that you
can really instill through a true sport. I want to bring that through my program so that these children can embed these values,” says the retired squash queen. Apart from that, Nicol wants to continue embarking on women’s development programmes.
“I really want to do more to get more women more active. And it can be through squash and other activities. It’s about getting them to move, get them excited and have a community of women together. So let’s hope in future that I will be able to do that,” she says. Given the unwavering support of both her mum and dad, Nicol says they are her true mentors in life.
“ My father has given me immense support in my professional life and my mum has taught me patience and kindness. So both of them complimented each other in bringing us (me and siblings) up which resulted in creating that positive environment for us.
“My mum always says it doesn’t matter if you win or lose in sport, as long as you’re a good person, that matters to most, I always bring that with me” Nicol confides.
The other mentor in her life that played a key role in her success has been none other than her coach, Liz Irving who hails from Australia. “She knew how to bring me back on track to focus on what I want to achieve and with so much experience that guided me the right way. She is truly my mentor and a friend,” says Nicol.
She adds “Behind every successful woman is a determination and passion to just push through any barriers and work hard for what they truly believe in.”