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Al Ahram World Open will Be Nicol's Last Event
   
By Howard Harding, Squashtalk Independent News; © 2006 SquashTalk LLC




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British Squash Hero Peter Nicol Plans Final Conquests

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Peter Nicol, at the retirement dinner in his honor. Photo © 2006 Martin Bronstein.

Scotsman Peter Nicol, Britain's most successful squash player of the modern era, is planning to hang up his rackets after more than 12 unbroken years in the world top ten – but not until he adds another two major trophies to his already substantial collection.

Nicol, the winner of more than 50 major international crowns, who boasts 60 months at the top of the world rankings, will defend his title next month in the Mamut English Open in his final competition on home soil, before bidding his farewell at the Al-Ahram World Open in the sport's most spectacular setting by Egypt's famous pyramids in Giza in September. 

"I have had a wonderful career in squash and have largely achieved all the goals I set myself, but I still feel I have two more titles in me – and I'm training as hard as ever to wrap up my competitive career with two further wins," explained Nicol at a special reception hosted in his honour by England Squash at the RAC Club in London. 

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Peter Nicol, always at his best at the TOC in NY. Photo © 2003 Debra Tessier.

"The Mamut English Open is important to me because it's the event that my company Eventis promotes, and I want to defend my title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – and there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity to play my last event by the pyramids, where I won three Al-Ahram International titles and my one World Open trophy." 

Born in Inverurie, near Aberdeen, in Scotland, Peter excelled at all sports when he was a child and took up squash when he was eight.  After turning professional, he made rapid progress up the world rankings and earned some 66 caps for Scotland before shocking the sports world in March 2001 by changing allegiance to England to join and work with the country's World Class Performance Programme. 

He went on to win six PSA Tour titles in the year and the following January regained his world No1 ranking, a position he held unopposed for two complete years – "none of which would have been possible without the England support," explained Nicol. 

Based in London for more than 15 years, Nicol rewarded his country in the strongest possible way by clinching victory for England in the Men's World Team Championships in Pakistan last year. 

"This is my way of repaying England for all the support they have given me over the years – the programme, the funding, the coaching, and everything else," said Nicol, who went on to earn 46 caps for England. 

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Peter Nicol, with his early 2000's short hiarcut. Photo © 2003 Debra Tessier.

In March this year, he produced perhaps the most remarkable run of his career when he won the Singles gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in Australia, and capped this success by successfully defending his gold medal in the Men's Doubles – bringing his gold tally over three Games since 1998 to four! 

"Winning the singles gold medal in Melbourne was the best experience of my squash career – it's as simple as that.  I was more passionate, more open than I've ever been on court before – it's the first time I've ever been able to let my emotions go, rather than do 'the right thing' by keeping them suppressed," said the 33-year-old who was awarded an MBE in 1999. 

"It was a different side of me that hasn't been seen before – and without that I wouldn't have won." 

Though he has a number of exciting new projects lined up, Nicol admits that there a lot of things he will miss about life as a professional squash player:  "For a start, the training – always related to my next event.  That will leave a big hole – I will still do some training, of course, but there won't be the goal. 

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Peter Nicol, at the 2001 Superseries Finals. Photo © 2006 Fritz Borchert.

"Then there's travelling the world, the camaraderie with other players as you arrive at a new event to prepare for the event.  And that regular routine at an event of practising in the morning, then going back to the hotel to relax and watch a movie – then falling asleep in bed.  I'll really miss that! 

"But whilst I'm really excited about moving into a new phase of my life, I'm also terrified," admitted Nicol, whose career title haul includes four US Opens; three Hong Kong Opens, Al-Ahram Internationals, Super Series Finals and Tournament of Champions; two British Opens, PSA Masters and British Nationals; and one World Open and World Games trophy – boosted by gold medals in the Commonwealth Games singles in 1998 and 2006, and doubles in 2002 and 2006. 

When Nicol began his remarkable unbroken world top 10 run in May 1994 (at No8), only four other current world top 20 players featured anywhere in the world rankings – and all were outside the top 50! 

The future 

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Peter Nicol, winning the 2003 US Open. Photo © 2003 Debra Tessier.

Peter Nicol has already identified three major projects that will occupy his time in 'retirement'.  In addition to becoming a Team England Ambassador for 2010 for the Commonwealth Games Council for England these, his services have been retained by England Squash as a guide and mentor to the governing body’s National Academy. 

"Peter will be teaching the best young aspiring players the business of competing – and winning – in the World arena, a subject in which he is of course uniquely qualified," explained England Squash CEO Nick Rider. 

Leading his new career will be a 'greater commitment' to Eventis Sports Marketing Ltd, the company he founded with fellow former squash players Tim Garner and Angus Kirkland. Launched in 2003, Eventis already stages two major PSA Tour events – the Mamut English Open, at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, and the ISS Canary Wharf Classic in London – and last year launched the highly-successful World Squash Awards in London. 

"I'm looking forward to becoming much more involved with Eventis than I have been able to be so far, playing a more active role day-to-day and helping to develop new areas for the company as well as expanding the relationships we already have with our current associates," Nicol explained.  

A new venture is Peter Nicol Squash Limited, a company he has formed with David Weddell, the former team manager of Eastcote Squash Club, the first ever English club team Nicol played for - 14 years ago!  

"That was some team – including Paul Carter, John Ransome, Neil Harvey and Martin Bodimeade!" mused Nicol.  "David and I lost contact shortly after that, but came across each other again recently and, over a period of a few months, came up with the idea of a company to offer management advice and guidance to younger squash players." 

The venture, which has close links with racket brand Prince, was launched with fast-rising Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar, who now boasts a career-high world ranking of 12.  

In October last year, Peter Nicol Squash attracted another Malaysian star, the record two-times women's world junior champion Nicol David.  Within a few weeks of signing both to the company and Prince, David won the British Open crown for the first time – then in December clinched her maiden World Open title to become No1 in the first women's world rankings of the New Year!

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Power and Nicol - always head to head but with a lot of respect. Photo © 2006 Debra Tessier.

"With David Weddell's commercial skills and passion for the game, and my experience as an international sportsman – coupled with the strong link with Prince - we offer considerable expertise and support for players like Azlan and Nicol."

Discovery of Power-Plate, a pioneering vibration technology fitness concept, has led Peter Nicol to launch a further initiative:  The LifeStyle Centre Ltd

Nicol was introduced to the Power-Plate concept by Swiss squash international Lars Harms over a year ago – with the result that he incorporated the philosophy into his preparation for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

"I started using it in January - it ultimately gave me back my confidence and without it I would not have had the belief in my body to achieve what I did in Melbourne," said Nicol candidly. "It's a concept which can change your way of living – across the spectrum from top athletes downwards.

"I believe passionately in Power-Plate, which is why I am pursuing this concept in the LifeStyle Centre venture."

Nicol, in partnership with Lars Harms, will open the first LifeStyle Centre in London soon.  The facility will offer a wide range of health benefits for a broad range of customers.

"I am very, very excited about all of the new initiatives which are going to occupy me from now on," said Nicol.  "I feel very privileged – after all, how many people get the chance to start a completely new life, like this?

"I have had a wonderful 14 years in squash – and would highly recommend life as a professional sportsman to anyone.  

"But I have a smile on my face and I'm now looking forward to what this new life is going to offer," concluded Nicol. 

Tributes 

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Simon Parke and Peter Nicol - whose careers completely coincided, staged several classic battles. Photo © 2006 Fritz Borchert.

England Squash have led a flood of tributes that have been paid to Peter Nicol following news of his impending retirement:  "Peter is a figurehead for all that is good in our sport," said Chairman Jackie Robinson, while Nick Rider added: "Peter truly deserves the tag of greatness." 

Ann Hogbin, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Council for England, states that "Peter has been a terrific ambassador both for his sport and for Team England," while Gawain Briars, CEO of the Professional Squash Association, points out that he "has been the model player of his generation", and World Squash Federation CEO Christian Leighton says that "Peter has become the ultimate Squash professional". 

Of the players that have come forward, former England team captain Chris Walker said: "What Peter has done for the game cannot be underestimated," and current England team-mate Lee Beachill believes that Nicol has "earned the right to be named as one of the best players to ever play the game". 

Andy Bunting of Prince Sports feels that Peter "will leave a void almost impossible to fill", while Neil Harvey, Nicol's coach from 1992 to 2002, points out that he is "one of the most generous people I have ever met". 

Event promoters also speak highly of the Englishman:  Heather Deayton, promoter of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open, commented that "not only was Peter a role model sportsman on the court, but while off the court he put tremendous effort into promoting the game".  Leading US promoter John Nimick said that Squash "has been blessed to have more than a decade of Peter's positive influence and outstanding achievements". 

Not all have been wholly complimentary of Peter Nicol:  England team-mate James Willstrop points out that "his dress sense leaves much to be desired"!  

But the last word is left to Jonathon Power, Nicol's lifelong rival from Canada, who also recently announced his retirement:  "I think if we could have put together his strengths and mine we probably could have made a decent player!"



 








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