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Nepal Provides Final Bonus 
A visit to the South Asian country of Nepal, which lies between Tibet and India, provided a fitting finale to the 2004 Promotional Tour organised by the Women's International Squash Players' Association (WISPA), after its highly-successful eight-day tour of China.

The tour was the latest initiative in WISPA's continuing drive to promote women's squash around the world. After leading a number of clinics, exhibition matches and coaching sessions in China's two main cities Shanghai and Beijing, Australia's world No2 Rachael Grinham and world No8 Nicol David, the Asian No1 from Malaysia, again wowed audiences in Kathmandu in a whistle-stop two-day added stopover on their way home.

In stark contrast to China, Nepal boasts less than 20 courts nationwide, with the country's flagship facility being the Nepal Squash Rackets Association Academy in capital Kathmandu.

Construction began some four years ago, but the impressive complex is yet to be completed, though its four glass-backed courts already provide exceptional facilities for a growing group of local players of all ages.

"We were determined to provide a superb facility which was also available to the public," explained NSRA President Amar Simha. "We were able to do this by raising funds through selling life memberships, and now the Association also has ordinary members. But by also making it available to the public, we believed that we would not only help to make the game more popular for more people, but also that we would ultimately generate more elite players who could go on and represent Nepal in international competitions."

The NSRC was founded in 1987 by a committee led by Major General Bharat Simha. During a distinguished career in the Nepalese Army, Major General Simha was an active squash player and responsible for building a number of courts in Army facilities all over the country.

In 1989, Simha had to resign his inaugural Presidency when called to London to become the Ambassador for Nepal in Britain - and son Amar took over the reigns, which he has held ever since. The now-retired Major General holds the position of Honorary ADC to King Gyanendra of Nepal.

"Now that the NSRA has a membership of some 400, we can stage our first ever elections - and look forward to the Association being led by an elected body for the first time," said Amar Simha.

"With the new Academy now almost complete, we can also look forward to hosting our first major event, and hope to stage a new U19 Asian Junior Championships later in the year," Simha added.

The WISPA party arrived in Kathmandu on the finals day of the Snow Lion Tournament, the third year of an event featuring many different categories and sponsored by NSRA Vice President Bijaya Shreastha, Managing Director of Snow Lion Carpets.

After an exciting men's final, in which Nepal No1 Hira B Thapa ultimately outran long-time rival Suresh Gurung, the Nepal No2, Rachael Grinham and Nicol David treated the crowd to a best-of-five exhibition match which clearly delighted the enthusiasts who had never before witnessed squash of such a calibre.

In an end-of-evening prize-giving ceremony which eventually had more people on court than off, the WISPA stars were presented gifts in honour of their presence by Major General Simha and two further distinguished guests, Kamal Thapa and Sarat Singh Bhandari. Thapa, a former Minister of Home and Local Government, was responsible for providing early funding for the NSRA, while Bhandari was the country's former Sports Minister who donated the land on which the Academy has been built.

"Both were significant benefactors to us - our 'godfathers' if you like - and the NSRA owes them a great debt of gratitude," said President Simha.

In a speech to the tournament crowd, Amar Simha praised WISPA for bringing the tour to Nepal: "Their visit here has been a good opportunity for us in Nepal to see how the game of squash is played professionally. And to grasp the seriousness and dedication that is needed to reach such standards and, finally, fame.

"Demonstrations like these are a good way of instilling in our potential players and youth the qualities, values and discipline that are needed to excel in sports. Today, the youth of this country needs to see achievements made in the field of sports, so that they can look up to these achievements as examples. Sports could be considered as one of the most important factors in the overall development of a child.

"Hence, with the right sort of resources, technical know-how and funding, it would be a good opportunity for the youth of this country to let their potentials be harnessed into something that is more tangible, like being the World Champion in squash, or in any other games," Simha explained.

Simha, who himself first learned to play squash when studying in Harrow in England, added later that squash is an ideal sport for the Nepalese. "We tend to excel in individual sports, rather than team sports, so I feel confident that we can achieve success here eventually. Our third place finish (to Pakistan and India) in the SAF Games last March was a breakthrough for us, and we are determined to build on that."

Twenty four hours after winning his latest Snow Lion title, Hira Thapa was able to pit his skills against Rachael Grinham. While Thapa arrived fresh for the encounter, Grinham had undergone a serious and lengthy training session with David and, furthermore, was less used to the Kathmandu altitude than her opponent.

After losing the first game, Thapa came back to take the next and raced to a 6-2 lead in the decider. But the plucky Australian maintained WISPA's five-year unbeaten record in such 'battles-of-the-sexes' and ultimately triumphed 2/1!

"It was a good game," said an exhausted Thapa afterwards. "But what was so exceptional was how free she made the court, never blocking as my opponents often do - and she simply doesn't miss anything!"

Nicol David, who also sparred with Suresh Gurung in a match which thrilled the crowd, said of the WISPA Tour: "It's fantastic to have been able to play a part in the development of squash in countries like China and Nepal. I was delighted to have been invited on this trip and have been overwhelmed by the response we have had.

"You really get the feeling these countries want to grow the sport and make something out of squash. And we've visited some great places, like the Great Wall. I'm really, really, looking forward to coming back to play in the WISPA event in Shanghai, and see the all-glass court in another stunning location," said David as she left to defend her Asian Championship title in her home country Malaysia later this week.

In summing up WISPA's 2004 Promotional initiative, Executive Director Andrew Shelley said: "Imagine the Williams sisters spending a couple of weeks getting on and off planes, hitting tennis balls with club players and generally joining local tennis communities for a while - all without getting paid.

"It doesn't compute - yet that is exactly what Rachael and Nicol have done for the last fortnight; and that is what makes them and the other top WISPA girls so special," said Tour mastermind Shelley.

"But special too are all the people we have met. The enthusiasts in Shanghai and Beijing are a wonderful group, and with the huge organisational efforts being made by the China Squash Association, all deserve to have increasing courts and attention at home.

"We have already developed a strong bond with the CSA and are trying to support them - but the major thrust must come from them. Our resources are limited, but although WISPA represents the women's professional end of the sport, we must do what we can to help nurture the grassroots," Shelley pointed out.

"And the same is true with the great new friends we have briefly made in Nepal in the last couple of days.

"Both the Chinese and Nepalese have said how inspirational our visit has been - but it has been the same for us too. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to promote squash in this way; and WISPA is very grateful to our main hosts the China Squash Association, the Nepal SRA, the players and flight sponsor Tom Tarantino. Without all these elements, and especially Tom's support, none of this would be possible."



Nepal Squash Rackets Association coach Dhurba Gurung, flanked by Rachael and Nicol David, with a lively and enthusiastic group of local kids who participated in the coaching sessions at the NSRC Academy.





Nicol and Rachael join Snow Lion Squash Tournament stars (L to R) Bhavana Sunuwar (women's champion), Suresh Gurung (men's runner-up) and Hira B Thapa (men's champion)





Nicol and Rachael after receiving presentations from founder NSRA President Major General Bharat Keshar Simha (centre), and former Government Ministers Kamal Thapa (left) and Sarat Singh Bhandari (right).







NSRA President Amar Simha shows Nicol and Rachael the entrance to the NSRC Academy in its final stages of completion



China aims for World's
Biggest Squash Event

The visit to Beijing, the second leg of the promotional tour to China organised jointly by WISPA and the China Squash Association, has inspired the CSA to aim ultimately at staging the world's biggest event.

Following the stage in Shanghai, top world squash players Rachael Grinham and Nicol David again impressed a host of players, officials and media in China's capital city over three days, visiting four different clubs.

The 2004 tour to China is the latest initiative in WISPA's continuing drive to promote women's squash around the world. Led by Australia's Rachael Grinham, the world No2, and Asian No1 Nicol David, the world No8 from Malaysia; featured clinics, exhibition matches and coaching sessions.

The party was welcomed by delegates from the CSA, including Vice President Wang Li Wei, Secretary General Peng Ning, and the day-to-day driving force behind the organisation Deng Li, the Deputy Secretary General.

The CSA was formed in 1999, following a visit to the country by Susie Simcock and Prasad Pillai, representing the World Squash Federation (WSF) and Asian Squash Federation (ASF), respectively. The administration of all sports in China is the responsibility of the Chinese Sports Commission, with priority given to Olympic sports. Whilst Olympic sports are funded by the CSC, others are expected to seek funding from commercial sources.

Formerly managing the Olympic sport of handball, Mr Deng saw the potential of squash in China and moved to the CSA less than a year ago. His visit to last December's Women's World Open in Hong Kong, where he saw elite squash for the first time, led to a further meeting with WISPA Executive Director Andrew Shelley, following discussions at the WSF AGM two months earlier, and plans for this tour took shape.

One of Deng's first initiatives was a National Conference in March, which attracted 80 delegates with interest in the sport's development in China. The number of courts in mainland China is still unclear, though it is thought to be more than 400, with Beijing and Shanghai perhaps having almost half this number.

One of the CSA's leading initiatives is the launch of a magazine "Squash" which is a joint venture with publishers "Velocity Sports". The new title, just launched, will be produced quarterly and will be sent to all CSA members and squash facilities all over the country. Featured on the cover of the launch issue is Franco Amadei, the Chairman and CEO of Fiat China, who has been a passionate supporter of squash since arriving in China from Rome 15 years ago. He and his Chinese wife Luna, the No1 woman player in Beijing, have vowed to do whatever it takes to help the CSA get squash off the ground in the country.

Rachael and Nicol continued to spar with local enthusiasts eager to challenge such notable world squash stars - and always came out on top. Some 100 players in Beijing participate in a sophisticated ladder scheme - largely initiated by Franco Amadei - in which challenges are played out over a number of facilities in the city and the ratings updated weekly.

Chow Lap Ming, originally from Hong Kong, is the much-revered No1 on this list and prompted a packed gallery at the Capital Club when he took on Rachael for a best-of-three encounter. Much to the delight of his fans who have rarely seen him lose, Rachael swept to a straightforward 2-0 victory and posed for the cameras afterwards as if slaying her vanquished opponent!

"That was a great game - I've never played a world No2 before," said the local hero afterwards. "It was what I expected, but she just played too well in all areas."

Earlier, the party visited the massive Qing Zhi Yuan apartment complex which features two glass-backed McWil courts. A packed press conference attracted Beijing and Central TV and a host of journalists and photographers.

The club also boasts China's first qualified coach, Liu Bin, who is proud of the fact that he gained his Level 2 qualification at the Australian Institute of Squash in Brisbane at the same time as former world No1 Michelle Martin.

"This visit has been a milestone in Chinese squash," said Liu Bin later. "We will look back on it in years to come and realise it was a turning point in the development of the sport in our country - and I am sure next November's WISPA event in Shanghai will have a similar effect."

The Olympic Garden includes a sports centre developed by the Chinese Sports Commission and boasts an array of features that would be the envy of most sports centres. Around 18,000 live in the apartment development that the centre services. In front of another large and enthusiastic crowd, the girls started with an exhibition before a variety of local players became heroic failures against the WISPA players.

Chauncey Ma, his wife Ruby and daughter Jasmine are residents of the development, and all now play: "We started when we moved in two months ago. Mr Lui gave us an introduction and we now play every Friday".

The clinic at the Beijing Olympic Centre attracted an appearance by Karen Li, editor of China National Radio and a part-time player herself. Miss Li conducted a lengthy interview with Grinham and Shelley which will be featured in a sports programme to be aired to households all over the vast country later in the month.

The media interest in the WISPA Tour has been impressive, and national press and TV have already aired news of the squash development and the historic forthcoming event in Shanghai. Vic Flores, the Director of WISPA's television programming who has been present on the tour for the first time, sees it as a significant breakthrough.

"It's been absolutely fantastic. The agreement we have struck with CCTV, starting with the Shanghai event in November, means that we will achieve a five-fold increase in the television audiences for WISPA. This will take WISPA's potential TV audience to around 1.5 billion, which is more than has ever been achieved for squash before."

In addition to their promotion of squash, the WISPA party were also able to enjoy Beijing's most famous tourist attractions. Visits to Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall, were memorable in every way.

As the week-long tour to mainland China drew to a close, Deng Li was delighted with its achievements: "We had been looking forward to, and preparing for, this visit from the moment it was first conceived. We are indebted to Karl Mak of LeisurePro whose help in liaising between us and WISPA has been invaluable. We had two objectives: to learn from the two women players Rachael and Nicol, and to find out how to run promotional activities for squash from a major international organisation such as WISPA.

"The visit gave our local players a unique opportunity to play with top players - to really get a feel for top-level squash," said the CSA Executive.

"At the same time, it gave a world body such as WISPA the chance to see the where we are in squash, and give us some assistance.

"It was a most beneficial experience for our local players, all of whom wished that Rachael and Nicol could have stayed longer so that they could have spent more time with them. Now they realise what a long way they have to go - there being such a gulf between their standard and that of the girls.

"From the CSA's point of view, we hope this visit will not be a one-off so that other outside bodies can help us improve the popularity of squash. CSA may currently be a small association, but we have all the confidence of becoming as successful as others around the world.

"Media exposure is also very important to us and our new magazine will be an important tool to expose squash to local communities.

"We are seeking every opportunity to develop this success here, to build on the one event in Shanghai in November to other events in other parts of China. Indeed our ultimate aim in the future will be to stage the biggest ever event in the sport here in China," Deng concluded.

Rachael Grinham had no idea what to expect on her first visit to China, and her first participation in a WISPA Promotional Tour:

"The welcome and hospitality we've received here has been awesome - and it's great to have had the opportunity to come to a country like China and help in their promotion of squash," said the 27-year-old British Open champion from Queensland.

"There's clearly enormous potential for squash here in China, and Nicol and I can't wait to come back for our event in Shanghai later in the year."

The Tour continues in Nepal at the weekend ...



"Our ultimate aim in the future will be to stage the biggest ever event in the sport
here in China"

Deng Li,
CSA Deputy Secretary General

The Wall Game ...



Beijing squash enthusiasts welcome Rachael and Nicol to Beijing

"That was a great game -
I've never played a world
No2 before!"

Rachael celebrates her victory over Beijing's No1 player Chow Lap Ming


Nicol and Rachael by the
entrance to the Forbidden Palace
in Tiananmen Square

Nicol and Rachael in traditional costume by the Great Wall of China



Nicol and Rachael and  Andrew Shelley join the CSA's Deng Li, Deputy Secretary General (left), Wang Li Wei, Vice President (third left) and Peng Ning, Secretary General (right)

Shanghai Embraces
WISPA Promotional Tour

The three-day appearance in Shanghai by top world squash players Rachael Grinham and Nicol David, on the first leg of the promotional visit to China organised jointly by the Women's International Squash Players' Association and the China Squash Association, has raised enthusiasm for the Shanghai WorldStars Women's Squash Championship which will be staged on the city's stunning Bund waterfront in November.

Announced on the opening day of the visit, the WorldStars Championship will be the first international squash event ever to be held in mainland China. The WISPA Gold tournament will feature all of the world's top women players, including Australia's Rachael Grinham, the world No2, and Asian No1 Nicol David, the world No8 from Malaysia.

The 2004 tour to China is the latest initiative in WISPA's continuing drive to promote women's squash around the world. The Shanghai stage was primarily hosted by the Shanghai Jinqiao Megafit Sports Club, which welcomed the WISPA party for two days. The visit featured clinics, exhibition matches and coaching sessions for a host of local players.

Shanghai, China's second largest city, boasts a population of more than 20 million and is considered the leading commercial centre in China. Squash in its infancy in the city which features high-rise buildings as far as the eye can see, and where there are more bicycles than cars. There are pockets of players spread around Shanghai, enjoying their sport at mainly single-court facilities.

Officially opened just two weeks earlier, the superbly-appointed Megafit Sports Club boasts five ASB glass-backed courts, together with four tennis courts, eight badminton courts, two basketball courts, an indoor swimming pool, a multi-function gymnasium and 'Spa Fusion'. Nestling within the Green City near the Jinqiao Export Zone, the impressive club is spread over 11,000 square metres - and offers the biggest squash facility in China.

"It is truly an honour to be hosting the first leg of this WISPA promotional tour to China," said club manager Walter MacDonald before the opening session. Macdonald, originally from Inverness in Scotland, has lived in China for many years and joined the Megafit organisation at the beginning of the year to oversee the Jinqiao club launch.

Many of the squash players in Shanghai are ex-pats, from neighbouring countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, or from further afield like the UK and the USA. These, and newly-inspired local players, have formerly relied on overseas coaches to set them on the right path, though Megafit have appointed Shanghai-based Dick Dai as Assistant Squash Coach to oversee the squash programme at the club.

Grinham and David wowed the enthusiastic squash followers at Megafit, none of whom had experienced squash at this level before. Shanghai's top local player Johnnie Cia revelled in his chance to play three-times Asian champion Nicol David. The 25-year-old, who only took up the game three years ago, was almost speechless after his one-game encounter.

"She can control the ball so well, with no mistakes, and gets the ball so deep," said Cia. "I must concentrate on my positioning, and learn to control the ball like Nicol."

Judy Ding is another local player who has become a recent convert to squash. "It was so useful to see, and play with, both Rachael and Nicol," said Ding, who will assist Dick Dai as a coach at Megafit.

A press conference at Megafit attracted two TV channels as well as a host of journalists and photographers - all eager to discover the appeal of this relatively unknown sport. Rachael, Nicol and WISPA Executive Director Andrew Shelley were interviewed by Orient TV and Shanghai TV, and the players filmed on court.

At the end of the Megafit visit, Walter MacDonald was full of praise for the efforts made by the party to inspire enthusiasm for squash amongst the club's members. "The visit has not only helped raise the awareness of our own recent launch, but has highlighted the appeal of squash to the whole Shanghai community.

"Rachael and Nicol could not have been more obliging in playing with and talking to all the people that came to the sessions - everybody really enjoyed and it and we are eternally grateful for their warmth and generosity. We have a number of kids' programmes planned for squash, and this will really help us kick-start this initiative," MacDonald added.

On the third day, the party visited the squash club at Hong Kou Stadium. Run by General Manager Mr Sheng, the club is a public facility run by the Shanghai Sports Commission. Originally featuring two glass-backed courts, the club recently converted a badminton court into a third squash court due to the ever-increasing demand for squash!

The club hosts squash sessions for the nearby Shanghai Sports Institute, which was established in 1952 and is the oldest Sports University in China, with students from all over China. Mr Yao, the Institute's Principal, is the Deputy Commissioner of the Shanghai Sports Commission and also sits on the organising committee of November's Shanghai WorldStars Championship.

"We Welcome From Our Heart The World WISPA Players Coming To Our Club" read a large banner, written in Chinese, displayed at the entrance of the club. Some twenty Institute students eagerly awaited the opportunity to see the WISPA stars in action, then queued to battle with them individually on court.

"Sadly, unlike sports like tennis and badminton, squash does not have dedicated facilities and full-time coaches at Universities in China," said Yang Jian Fei. "What we need is more Chinese coaches, who can inspire us, then the sport has the chance to take off," added Yang, a convert to squash when he chanced upon a game being played at the stadium club.

"It has been a great experience for us to see world-class players like Rachael and Nicol here - and I look forward to more opportunities like this, and the big event in Shanghai later in the year," said Yang.

As the party prepared to leave Shanghai, en-route to the second leg in Beijing, Karl Mak acknowledged that the visit had been a sensational success. Hong Kong-based Mak, the Megafit Clubs' Sport & Recreational Consultant who is also a Technical Advisor to Hong Kong Squash, played a significant role in the planning and co-ordination of the WISPA Tour.

"The tour has been a huge success for three reasons: Firstly, it has given local players a unique chance to play against some of the world's top players, and see them in action - something which all the best players in Shanghai were able to benefit from over the past few days. It was good for them to see what top quality squash is all about," Mak explained.

"It was also good for the Jinqiao District Government, who actually own the Megafit club which we manage on their behalf, to see that we have fulfilled what was planned. We insisted that squash should be one of the facilities on offer at the club, and then ensured that the courts were of international standard. Now we have been able to show endorsement of this commitment by this visit by WISPA, one of the sport's leading international bodies.

"And furthermore, such has been the professionalism, discipline and hard work put in by the WISPA party, that we know that the visit will achieve worldwide media coverage, and will therefore help us to raise the profile of the development of squash in China," Mak added.

"Rachael and Nicol are a credit to WISPA and the women squash professionals around the world - we really did not expect them to be so generous with their time, but they exceeded our expectations in every way."



Enthusiastic Megafit players join
Rachael and Nicol in a welcome photograph by the club's five courts



WISPA moves onto
Chinese mainland
Another new WISPA Gold event has been announced, with Shanghai set to stage mainland China's first ever tournament in November, the WorldStars Championship







Nicol with Johnnie Cia


Nicol and Rachael at the Megafit Sports Club with (L to R): Javi (from Hong Kong, studying at famous Fudan University in Shanghai); Judy Ding (Assistant Coach at Megafit); and Helen (a former football player who took up squash a year ago)







Nicol entertains a group of
Megafit members.






The Shanghai Sports Institute students with Rachael and Nicol at the
Hong Kou Stadium


Shanghai Squash
Shanghai Squash





2003: Russia

2002: East Asia

2001: Kenya

Time off for Sabine & Natalie on Lime Cay island beach

2000: Jamaica

China Is Next
Stop For WISPA

China will host the sixth annual WISPA Promotional Tour, from 2 - 8 June, staged jointly by the Women's International Squash Players' Association and the China Squash Association (CSA).

The 2004 tour, the latest initiative in WISPA's continuing drive to promote women's squash around the world, will be spearheaded by Australia's world number two Rachael Grinham, the reigning British Open and Kuwait Open champion - who this week added the Texas Open title to her growing trophy collection - and world number eight Nicol David, the highest-ranked Asian player and recent World Open semi finalist.

The Tour itinerary will feature exhibitions, clinics, press conferences and meetings with sports bodies in Shanghai and Beijing.

The main base in Shanghai will be the "Megafit Sports Club", a new 10,000 square metre sports complex with five squash courts built to international standard. The Beijing activities are likely to be scheduled at the Kempinski Hotel, which features three squash courts.

Walter Li Gaochao, Acting Chairman of the CSA, welcomes the visit, saying: "Squash is only now developing in China, but the following is growing and the potential for growth is great. This initiative with WISPA to bring top players will give us a great opportunity to interest the media and enthuse our players."

WISPA Director Andrew Shelley added: "Our lives revolve around the professional game, but we also view it as a WISPA responsibility to help in any way we can to grow the overall interest in squash.

"We are of course indebted to our two leading players for their part in this programme. They give their time without fee and are genuinely eager to help the young squash nation of China blossom on the world squash-playing map," Shelley explained.

WISPA's promotional tour concept was launched in 1999 with a visit to the Czech Republic. Successive years saw trips to Jamaica, El Salvador, Peru, Kenya, Thailand, Brunei, Sarawak, plus Russia last year.

Nicol David & Rachael Grinham


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