*UPDATE - Aug 20th - Nicol won the tournament.
Nicol spent the previous weeks on a promotional campaign during the London Olympics to make squash an Olympic sport. When she first told me she was active in this campaign I was surprised, thinking that squash was naturally already part of Olympics.
After all, it's played in 175 countries, and is most definitely a great sport requiring world-class physical skill and athleticism when played at the highest levels. And it's a sport that, in my humble opinion, is far more deserving to be in the Olympics than a handful of sports, like whitewater rafting, or any equestrian event, or the always-ridiculous race-walking. But that's just me. Before we go any further...
Support the bid to make squash an Olympic sport
Now back to the interview.
How much do you travel in a given year?
Well, aside from travelling to tournaments, I try to get back to Malaysia four or five times per year. That alone is about eleven and half hours one way. Tournament-wise, I play in ten or so tournaments a year, all over the world. So travel is a huge part of my life. I can sleep anywhere, anytime though [Nicol has slept virtually the entire trip on the Malaysia-Amsterdam leg before].
Any travel tips? This is a Lonely Planet blog, after all.
I can travel really light - a dress, a bikini, three pairs of shorts, and one set of formal trousers and a top and I can be away for weeks. I also think with my passport, some money and my phone I can survive anywhere.
I see you are the Malaysian representative as the National Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - can you tell me more about this?
It involves some mission work and awareness for the UN's Millenium Developement Goals. I am currently devoting a lot of time to the squash so I hope to spend more time once I've stopped playing competitively.
Aside from more UNDP work, what are your plans after your squash career?
Well, for one, I really hope to stay in top shape for the next eight years so I can participate in the Olympics, if squash makes it in as an event.
I really want to give back to Malaysia. All my training is funded by the Malaysian National Sports Council, which has been such a help. I might like to develop my own academy back home. Hundreds of kids are trying to get in for coaching, so if I can help out in some way that would be great.
And with that, I will sign off. Meeting Amsterdammers is always interesting for me, as it's such a multi-cultural and dynamic city. But this is first time that it's also been motivating.
Meeting the top player in the world in squash, who happens to fit in work with the UN and a campaign to the International Olympic Committee, stays close to her family - all while managing to be a really genuine and cool person - makes for prime motivation to get going on my own self-improvement goals.