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,
"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
"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
"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
"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."
WISPA TOUR 2004
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
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.
CSA BUILDS SQUASH IN CHINA
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.
WISPA STARS TAKE ON ALL-COMERS
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
"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.
MASSIVE CHINESE TV MARKET
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
"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
"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 CAN'T WAIT
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
"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 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"
CSA Deputy Secretary General
The Wall Game ...
Beijing squash enthusiasts welcome Rachael and Nicol
"That was a
great game -
I've never played a world
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)
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
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
"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
"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
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
Shanghai Sports Institute students with Rachael and Nicol at the
Hong Kou Stadium
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
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,"
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