HISTORY OF SRAM
The game of squash in Malaysia can be traced back to colonial days when the British Armed Forces introduced it in military camps and private members-only clubs scattered around the country. At that time it was a game enjoyed mainly by armed forces and Malayan Civil Service officers, expatriates, planters, miners and a handful of locals who had experienced playing the game abroad.The first organised squash competition was held in 1939 at the Malay College in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, Perak. Two future great leaders of this country were featured in the finals of that event: YAM Tunku Ja’afar ibni Tuanku Abdul Rahman (later Tuanku, reigning as DYMM Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan from 1967 until his death in 2008, and SPB Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia from 1994 to 1999) beat En Abdul Razak bin Hussein (later Tun, serving as YAB Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1970 to 1976). It is no coincidence that their respective offspring would be heavily involved in Malaysian sport.
In fact YAM Tunku Imran ibni Tuanku Ja’afar (now Tan Sri) was the founding secretary of the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM), formed on 25 June 1972 at the Royal Lake Club, purely through the collective efforts of a handful of Malaysian alumni of British Universities. The founder President YBhg Dato’ Hisham AlBakri served with distinction for six years (1972-1977).
Tunku Tan Sri Imran, who became the first National Champion in 1973 when he beat YBhg Dato’ Dr Hood Salleh in the finals, succeeded Dato’ Hisham AlBakri as President of SRAM. Tunku Imran was instrumental in strengthening the foundations of SRAM through the very successful “Catch Em’ Young” Programme which was initiated in 1982. As its President for 12 fruitful years (1978-1989) he ensured that we got all the basics right – we have indeed come a long way since then. Tunku Imran now serves as President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Patron of the World Squash Federation (WSF), where he served as President from 1989-1996.
The successor to Tunku Imran was the late YBhg Tan Sri Alex Lee, under whose astute guidance we achieved the incredible double world junior titles: the World Junior Men’s title won by Ong Beng Hee in Princeton, USA in 1998; and the World Junior Women’s title won by Nicol David (now Dato’) in Antwerp, Belgium in 1999.
YBhg Dato’ Nik Mohamed Din took over the helm of SRAM as Acting President on 1 November 1999 upon the untimely demise of Tan Sri Alex on 31 October 1999 in a tragic scuba diving trip in Papua New Guinea. SRAM continued to achieve great heights under Dato’ Nik Mohamed Din, who was unanimously elected on 19 November 2000 as the fourth President.
The year 2000 could be hailed as a great year for SRAM when our Men’s Team won the Asian Men’s Individual and Team titles in the 10th Asian Squash Championships held in Hong Kong. Malaysia became the only country to have beaten the Pakistani Men’s team for the two titles since the inception of the championships in 1981.
SRAM’s success story continued into the year 2001 where Nicol David successfully defended her World Junior Women Individual title held in Penang, her home state. The win also made her the first junior to have won the coveted World Junior title twice.
SRAM continued its dominance in Asian squash with Ong Beng Hee and Nicol David successfully defending their Asian Men’s and Women’s titles in the Asian Squash Championships 2002 held in Kuala Lumpur.
In October 2002, SRAM played host to the World Squash Federation (WSF) Annual General Meeting. YBhg Dato’ A. Sani Karim, a former Deputy President of SRAM (1999-2000), was elected as a Vice President of World Squash Federation for the period 2002-2004. Dato’ Sani became the second Malaysian senior squash official to become a member of the WSF Management Committee after Tunku Tan Sri Imran.
On 12 January 2003, YBhg Dato’ Mokhzani Mahathir was unanimously elected as the fifth President of SRAM. Several major contributions were made by Dato’ Mokhzani Mahathir. SRAM’s website was introduced in March 2003. The gala dinner for the 30th year celebration was held in conjunction with the Malaysian Open 2003 and a major donor donated RM1 million to SRAM during the gala dinner. It was the second time SRAM received such a huge donation, the first being after the World Men’s Open 1997. Both mega donations were instrumented by Dato’ Mokhzani Mahathir.
In 2004, SRAM once again hosted the Asian Squash Championships at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil. Our top stars Ong Beng Hee and Nicol David once again successfully defended their Asian titles. Our Women’s Team also retained the team title with our Men’s Team coming in second behind Pakistan.
The most important event that took place in 2004 was the official announcement of the National Core Sports Programme by the Cabinet Committee for Sports chaired by YAB Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Razak on 8 November 2004 in Putrajaya. Squash was chosen to be one of the eight sports under this programme. It was a timely recognition to the contributions made by SRAM since its inception in 1972.
During the SRAM AGM held on 28 November 2004, Dato’ Mokhzani Mahathir named Dato’ A. Sani Karim as his successor and the sixth President of SRAM. The nomination was unanimously endorsed by all the state delegates present.
In December 2004, SRAM once again played host to the Women’s World Open in Kuala Lumpur; the first of which was in 1996 in Petaling Jaya. The Women’s World Open 2004 was an important event for the WSF as squash was selected to be one of the five sports to be reviewed for probable inclusion as a medal sport in the 2012 Olympic Games. Dato’ A. Sani Karim, as Vice President of the WSF was instrumental in portraying and highlighting to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative present during the event, Mr Bob Elphinston, that squash deserved a place in the Olympic Games.
SRAM under the dynamic leadership of Dato’ A. Sani Karim organised a squash bonanza week in July 2005, a first of its kind of activity ever attempted by any squash organisation in the world. A series of high profile squash events were held. It started off with the Malaysian Women’s Open 2005; followed by the WSF Management Committee Meeting and the ASF Officer’s Meeting; and culminating with the Golf for Squash event graced by His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia as the Grand Finale. The reigning World Men’s Champion Mr Thierry Lincou and World Women’s Champion Ms Vanessa Atkinson along with several other World top 10 men’s and women’s professional squash players were presented to His Majesty during the luncheon and prize giving ceremony for the Golf for Squash. This event was widely reported by local and international squash media as the highest profile squash ever received.
The year 2005 was a most memorable year for SRAM. Nicol David became the first Asian to win the coveted British Open on 17 October 2005 and the Women’s World Open title in the Women’s World Open Championship held in Hong Kong on 4 December 2005. These victories were truly rare international achievements in the history of Malaysian and Asian sports.
2006 saw Nicol David taking over the World No. 1 ranking from Vanessa Atkinson of Netherlands, well ahead of our targeted date of end of 2006.. Nicol’s extraordinary achievements in 2005 culminating in the World Open title which then propelled to her new World No.1 ranking in January 2006 made her the only female athlete to have achieved such a feat in the history of Malaysian sports.
Also in January 2006, SRAM again provided the Malaysian sports fan an outstanding international junior achievement through Tan Yan Xin who defied all odds to win the coveted British Junior Open Girl’s Under-13 title. Yan Xin had to battle against three higher seeded top Egyptian juniors including the defending champion en route to her deserving win.
At the Asian Squash Championship held in February of 2006, at Chinese Taipei the Malaysian contingent created history by bagging all the four titles at stake, namely the Individual Men’s and Women’s title and the Men’s and Women’s team title. It was the first time ever that a member nation of ASF had won all four titles. In fact, Malaysia had been the only country previously to have captured three of the four titles at stake at the Asian Championship and we had done it on three occasions: 2000, 2002 and 2004. Also at this Championship, Nicol David and Ong Beng Hee created a new championship record by winning the individual title for the fifth and fourth time respectively.
It was the turn of our Junior Boys to step out and in July 2006, at Palmerston North, New Zealand our boys recorded Malaysia’s best ever position at the World Junior Men’s Championship. The Malaysian team (Elvinn Keo, Chong Kam Hing, Ivan Yuen and Muhd. Asyraf Azan) emerged a proud third in the team championship. In the individual championship, Malaysians Elvinn Keo and Chong Kam Hing made it to the last 16 in a draw of 128. It was again the first time ever that we had two Malaysians in the last 16 of a World Championship.
The Malaysian Senior Women’s team (Nicol David, Sharon Wee, Tricia Chuah and Delia Arnold) at the World Women’s Team Championship at Edmonton, Canada in September 2006 created another record in our squash annals. The team achieved the high position of third and this again was our best ever performance for this Championship.
What better way to to round off 2006 than in a blaze of glory. At the Doha Asian Games 2006 from 1-15 December 2006, the Malaysian contingent lived up to their promise to deliver both the Gold Medals at stake in squash. In an all-Malaysian men’s final, Ong Beng Hee took the Gold medal by beating compatriot, Mohd Azlan Iskandar in four sets. Beng Hee thus walked off as the back-to-back winner of the Asian Games Gold Medal, which he first won in 2002 in Busan. Nicol David who had just earlier retained her World crown at Dublin, Ireland went to Doha as the undisputed World No. 1 player. Rebecca Chiu of Hong Kng had denied Nicol the Gold Medal at the earlier 2002 Busan Asian Games. Nicol was in no compromising mood to allow history to repeat and in the finals, with a straight sets victory walked off easily with the Gold Medal.
The year 2007 started with Nicol David well perched on the pinnacle of World Women’s Squash. She went on to remain No.1 for the rest of the year. She was also named the Malaysian Sportwomen of the Year for 2006 and the Asian Sportwomen of the Year for 2007.
In August 2007 at Hong Kong, Malaysia’s Junior Women’s team (Low Wee Wern, Low Wee Nee, Nesserine Ariffin and Pushpa Devi) continued Malaysia’s impressive performances at world events by coming out second in the World Junior Women’s Team Championship. This equalled Malaysia’s best ever past performance in this Championship.
After being initially dropped, SRAM played an important role in ensuring that Squash remained in the programme for the 2007 SEA Games at Korat, Thailand. Unfortunately, due to the lack of entries, only the Men’s individual event was held. Malaysians featured in the very exciting final, with Elvinn Keo prevailing over Mohd. Nahzahizam Adnan to capture the Gold medal.
Not to be out done by the other Malaysians, the Malaysian Senior Men’s team (Ong Beng Hee, Mohd. Azlan Iskandar, Mohd. Nafiizwan Adnan and Muhd. Asyraf Azan) recorded Malaysia’s best ever position at the 2007 World Men’s Team Championship at Chennai, India by securing the fifth placing.
Moving into 2008, Nicol David was well entrenched as the World No. 1 player. Malaysia’s sterling performance at international championships continued when the Malaysia team for the second time in a row swept all four titles (i.e. Individual Men’s and Women’s title, Men’s and Women’s team title) at the Asian Squash Championship held in Kuwait in February 2008. This feat by the Malaysians would be hard to match by the other Asian nations. Mohd. Azlan Iskandar turned the table around this time by beating fellow compatriot and the defending champion, Ong Beng Hee. It was his first Asian title. Nicol David retained her title for the sixth time. The Malaysian Men’s team comprised of Mohd. Azlan Iskandar, Ong Beng Hee, Mohd. Nafiizwan Adnan and Muhd. Asyraf Azan, while the Women’s Team was made-up of Nicol David, Sharon Wee, Delia Arnold and Low Wee Wern.