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SquashTalk>Features>Player of the Month>Aug-Sept 2001 Jahangir Khan

Jahangir Khan:
Aug/Sept Player of the Month

Jahangir Khan, the most dominant player of the modern era, today works tirelessly on the behalf of World Squash and Pakistan Squash. K M Boopahty interviewed Jahangir during the recent World Junior Women's championships in Malaysia

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Sept 1, 2001, Malaysia. © 2001 SquashTalk
Photo above, Martin Bronstein; Archive photos and Fritz Borchert: © 2001 SquashTalk

By K.M. Boopathy

Jahangir's playing record stands by itself: 10 British Opens, a five-and-a half year unbeaten streak, countless titles, including his first that launched it all: his win over Goeff Hunt in the 1981 World Open at the age of 17.

Jahangir (r) against rival Jansher Khan

But Jahangir's inclusion here, just 10 years after his last British Open win, is attributable to his proven dedication to putting something back into the game he got so much out of. He continues to work for the future of the game he loves, the game he once dominated.

As perhaps the game's most famous practitioner, he is in a unique position to help shape the game he once "owned". He is using his influence now to try to guide the Pakistani squash establishment towards a path that will develop future stars. At the same time, he is working on behalf of the World Squash Federation on projects such as squash in China and the Olympics.

K.M Boopathy caught up with Jahangir in Penang in July:

What you have done in squash is considered an outstanding sporting achievement by any athlete. How did you manage to do it?

Jahangir and Gamal Awad played for 2hr 48 minutes in Scotland

It started with my win over Geoff Hunt (four time Australian world champion) in the 1981 World Open final (Jahangir was only 17 then). It wasn't my plan to create such a record. All I did was put in the effort to win every match I played and it went on for weeks, months and years until my defeat to Ross Norman (of New Zealand) in Toulouse in 1986.

The pressure began to mount as I kept winning every time and people were anxious to see if I could be beaten. In that World Open final, Ross got me. It was exactly five years and eight months. I was unbeaten for another nine months after that defeat.

Were you disappointed that the record ended?
Every winning streak will have to end sometime. You can't go on winning all the time. That was one of my bad days and that was the day Ross chose to play his best. It was a little disappointing, but I got over it eventually.

What was the secret behind your remarkable success?
Hard work, discipline, commitment and ambition. To be the best, I had to work harder than everyone else. I trained for eight hours a day and six days a week and I don't remember anyone going to such extremes at that time.

That kept me ahead of others. Squash was my livelihood and as in business, I had to stay on top. Superior fitness is one of the reasons why I remained unbeaten for so long and it helped me to win six world titles and 10 British Open titles.

Jahangir and Geoff Hunt were great rivals

Pakistan have struggled without a top player in the last few years despite having dominated the world stage for almost five decades. What seems to be the problem?
The Pakistan SRA did not have any development program as they were depending too much on Jansher Khan and I. They did not think about the future.

I wanted to start a proper academy and recruit juniors from all over Pakistan following my retirement after the World Open in 1993 but there was no support.

It's very difficult to do something without the support of the association. That was the reason why I did not get involved in coaching in Pakistan.

Generally the younger generation are not hard working. They will have to put in more effort to achieve results in tournaments. most of them can perform well but they cannot deliver when they play abroad. Without hard work and discipline it is difficult to be a top professional.

Is there a solution to revive the squash fortunes of your country?
I am one of the vice presidents in PSRA. We are planning a development program soon. Rahmat Khan (Jahangir's cousin) who was my coach, will take charge of the juniors and we hope to produce some good juniors.

However, there is no assurance that we can produce world class players so soon. Only time can tell. We have some good players like Mansoor Zaman and Shahid Zaman but they will have to be more dedicated and diligent to become the best.

There has always been a debate about who was the best player, Jansher or you? What is your stand on this?
I leave it to the media and squash fraternity to decide who is the best. In terms of records, I have done better. My unbeaten record and the 10 British Open wins have not been equalled.

My match against Gamal Awad of Egypt in the Chichester Festival in England, which lasted for two hours and 46 minutes, is the longest in squash history.* We also played the longest game in that match, the first game lasting for an hour and 11 minutes.

Jahangir collected three North American Opens over 12 year NA #1, Mark Talbott

I led the game 8-1 before Gamal made a comeback to win 10-9 but I clinched the match 3-1. Apart from that, I am the only player to have won the hardball (the form of squash played in North America at the time) world championships in 1986 and 1987 to go with the softball World Open. ** I was awarded the Sportsman of the Millenium by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) last year (Jansher was not considered for the award).

Jansher has won eight world titles and done well in the international circuit and continued from where I left off. I do not want to get caught in this debate.

It was good to see you returning to the international scene as vice-president of the World Squash Federation (WSF) in 1999. What prompted you to join?
I have been involved at management level as a player when I was appointed chairman of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) in 1990. And I am one of the vice presidents of PSRA. Squash has been my life and I owe a lot to the sport. I decided to join WSF and contribute to the betterment of the sport. Squash gave us (my family) life and it is time to put something back into the game.

What is your view about WSF's lobby for the inclusion of squash in the Olympics?
Squash has the credentials to become an olympic event and our goal is to see the sport in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. We are working towards this and will keep trying even if our bid is not successful.

Everything is changing in squash. Lots of television coverage and the game has become very professional.

Nicol David has been the most outstanding player in the world juniors. What would be your advice to her?
Nicol has great potential and there is a huge gap between her and the rest of the juniors
. She needs to concentrate full time on the professional circuit from now on and it is the only way for her to realize her potential.

I began playing in the senior circuit when I was 15 and won the world senior amateur title the same year. She needs to look ahead if she wants to be a top player.

© 2001 Squashtalk

* Jonathon Power and Gary Waite reportedly played a longer match, 2hrs 53 minutes, in the New York Open 1n 1997

** Hashim Khan, Mohibullah Khan (the elder), Roshan Khan, and Azam Khan all were winners of both the British Open and the North American Open -- the World Open did not exist in their day.