In loving memory of Ronald Fauvel
A collection of memoirs for the Structural Integrator
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
For Sandra, Antoni and Giovanni – The Dubai Opera House where the PSA World Series Finals is held right now would be missing a familiar voice. The voice of Ronald Fauvel chanting “Come on girl” and “Get it back girl” as he cheers on Nicol David in the front row.
It has been a week since Big Ron, as he is fondly known to many Malaysian athletes, has left us. But the void left by the well-liked Montreal native continues to be felt by the people close to him.
Ronald came to Malaysia in 1994 and has served the Malaysian National Sports Institute for 23 years. He was brought in as an expert in assessing physical and muscle imbalances that compromise the performance of athletes. He was amongst the first batch of foreign sports expertise brought into Malaysia after we had won the bid to host the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
But he is most well-known as the personal Structural Integrator to eight-time world champion Nicol David. Ronald was extremely particular and proud with his profession, and would cringe every single time someone referred to him as a masseur. Such is the passion of this man with his work.
Like many Canadians, one of his passions was ice hockey. He was a competitive player as a junior, but a hip fracture at the age of 19 cut short his playing career. Whilst in Malaysia, Ronald had also contributed his services on many occasions to the Malaysian ice hockey team.
In a moving speech at Ronald’s wake, Nicol paid a heartfelt tribute to the man who has kept her body in tip-top shape through the years.
“Ronald’s passion for his work went beyond our comprehension. He made sure that whoever he worked with was in his rightful care and his commitment was 100% and beyond in everything he did.
“I trusted him the moment I started working with him 20 years ago when I was only 14 years old. He cared for me immediately, demonstrating his genuine loving heart.
“Thank you Ronald for all the love you gave me, it was unconditional and giving.
“Thank you Ronald for always having my back as I walked forward.
“Thank you Ronald for being there with me through my highs and my lows as I could not have done it on my own.
“Thank you Ronald for taking me through great memorable victories which will forever be etched in my mind.
“Thank you Ronald for keeping me ready to fight another day through my competitions and for saving me through recoveries.
“But most of all, thank you Ronald for being you…for being the best friend and family to me.”
The feeling was echoed by Nicol’s parents Desmond and Ann-Marie David :
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ronald. The vacuum that he leaves in the lives of our family will be very hard to fill especially for all that he has done for all our daughters in their junior days and then especially for Nicol for whom he has been a friend, a support system, a guardian and in particular a great contributor to Nicol’s Success over the years by keeping her body in the best possible condition.
He will be a great loss to Malaysian sport and our deepest condolences to the family. May his soul rest in peace.”
Fellow Malaysian squash players and officials also paid tribute to the popular Big Ron.
Former world number 10 Azlan Iskandar shared one of his earliest memories, saying: “I remember the World Junior Championships in Milan. We all checked in late and jet lag was pretty rough. I meant to see Big Ron for a treatment to get over the flight, walked into his room and saw him asleep with food in his hand. He got up, flushed my legs out and treated my back.”
I asked him, “Ronald I’m sure you must have been sore from the flight?” He said, ‘Don’t worry about me big guy, I’m here to make sure you are tip-top’.
“That is the kind of guy he is. Dedicated to his job and always putting others ahead of himself. I feel for his wife and kids cause they must have lost such a great person in their household. RIP Big Ron.”
Ong Beng Hee, who also worked with Ronald since his junior days was grateful in his tribute: “The man that taught me how to care for my body so I was able to play on till 35. I’ve known him since I was 16 so that’s 20 years of work with him. He will be missed not just by me, but by all Malaysian squashers. Thank you Ronald for everything you have done for us. RIP now man.”
Current top two men in the country, Nafiizwan Adnan and Ivan Yuen, will surely be missing the services of this great man. Ivan, who had only seen Ronald a few days prior to his passing, was especially generous of his praises, citing: “I am sure he deserved more than a million thanks for all the things he has done for us athletes, especially us in the squash fraternity. He may be a personal physiotherapist to Nicol, but along the way, he has also helped many of us in whatever way he could. He has not only treated our bodies, but his words of encouragement have helped us all along the way. It’s definitely a big loss to the Malaysian sports family and he will be greatly missed.”
Manchester-based Nafiizwan, who was back in Malaysia, added: “I feel sad we have lost someone who really cares about us squash players. Not only to us Malaysian players, but everyone else on the tour.
“He is someone who is always positive in all angles and he has especially trusted in me, that I will one day become the top player I am today. He is the guy who is always beside me if I have any problem with my body. He is someone I trust my body to and it is well today because of him. I will miss you Ronald. RIP.”
Malaysia’s Director of Coaching, Major (rtd) S. Maniam had a simple and amusing note: “My dear Ronald, I was amused when you looked at the neck when someone came with a knee problem or the shoulder for an ankle problem. You had your ways and you were very good at it. We are going to miss your cheering and support of our teams and I am going to miss a friend.
“My good friend of 19 years. RIP buddy. I’m sad, but your efforts for the athletes will be forever remembered and appreciated”, said Joerg Teichmann, one of Ronald’s earlier colleagues at the Malaysian Sports Institute.
Former Malaysian international and Asian champion Leong Siu Lynn, now based in the United States, was shocked to find out of the news through social media. While holidaying in London, she sent a note saying: “Death may have taken our beloved Ronald Fauvel, the ‘fixer upper’ away from his family and friends, but his vibrant spirit continues to live in our hearts and minds, providing strength and courage to all who knew him.
“Keep Calm and Love Ice Hockey.”
As many who follow the tour would know, Ronald may be there with the main purpose to take care of Nicol David, but he was always ready to help anyone in need. Through the years, countless number of players has been on the receiving end of his expertise.
It is no surprise that the popular Ronald was even honoured with a minute’s silence at the PSA World Squash Awards in Dubai a few nights ago. Additionally, memoirs from players, office bearers and friends of the sport from all over the world poured in.
World Squash Federation’s Chief Executive Andrew Shelley said: “To hear of Ronnie’s passing just reminds us all that our hope of a full life can be so easily dashed – and so unfairly. Ronnie was so proud of his young family, so eager to show shots of them on his phone, would have made a great father to his two children as they grew up. His wife has lost somebody special too.
Ronnie was a ‘giving’ person. Giving treatments of course, but giving of his time, knowledge and personality to anybody who asked him for it.
Naturally, it has been his work in keeping Nicol David in such good order that we know him most for. That and his shouts of ‘Go girl’ as she played! There was so much more besides that has been taken from us.
His family, Nicol, Malaysian Squash and all of us who had the pleasure of knowing Ronnie have lost somebody very special indeed.”
The Professional Squash Association (PSA) even issued a press statement through Cief Executive Alex Gough, saying: “On behalf of everyone associated with the PSA, I would like to express our sincerest condolences to Ronald’s family at this sad and difficult time.
“Ronald has been integral to the incredible success of Nicol David’s career and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone connected to Ronald after this tragic loss.”
TRIBUTES FROM THE WORLD OF SQUASH
“Ronald has been around since I first started on the world tour with Nicol. Always a character and someone who it is hard to believe won’t be there anymore.
He loved a chat, was extremely knowledgeable and was always so generous in offering help outside of his Malaysian and Nicol duties.
I’ll never forget the time he told me to bite into his pillow when he poured surgical spirit on a huge blister I had in India once! He will be missed. Much love to his wife and boys.”
Jenny Duncalf, England’s former world number 2
“Ronald has been a fixture on the international squash scene for as long as I can remember. Friendly to everyone and always selflessly offering his advice or help to any players if in need.
It is strange to think we will no longer be hearing his unmistakable “c’mon girl!” cheers echoing around event venues. He was great support to many, not only the Malaysian team. The tour will not be the same without him. We will miss you Ronald. RIP.”
Rachael Grinham, world champion 2007
“I was really shocked and saddened to hear of Ronald’s passing. A very popular, kind and caring man who always had time to speak to and help everybody. He will be truly missed.”
Alison Waters, England’s world number 9
“It’s so difficult to write something after we shared so many happy moments in life, you were always an angel in my life and in my career. Thank you for making me feel part of the team, thank you for fixing my body, nobody in the world did the work like you.
You will leave a hole in our lives and sport because you were a great person in all the possible ways by sharing with deep love and passion for life, for your work, for your athletes… how many stories, trips, music and great moments spend together.
I will always carry you in my heart and in my best memories. Thank you for all your love, friendship and support it was an honour to have shared this life with you. I love you Ronald, I will miss you, rest in peace.”
Samantha Teran, who is based in Squash City together with Nicol David
“I had the pleasure of knowing him close enough, A man with a truly kind heart and a real genuine love to all those around him… RIP Ronald you are in a better place.”
Ramy Ashour, triple world champion from Egypt
“I had the pleasure of meeting Ronald at a number of events including the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow…. relaxed and funny guy and fun to be around…. RIP Ronald and condolences to all your family and friends.”
Nick Taylor, former PSA professional and current World Masters champion from England
“An awesome man with a great heart who never failed to lend out his help to any player on tour when asked regardless…. a true expert in his field and as one of the most popular figures on tour he will be greatly missed… R.I.P great Ronald.”
Amr Shabana, world champion 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009
“I, like everyone else was shocked to hear the passing of Ronald. Many knew him of his incredible service to Nicol and the Malaysian athletes. But he was also full of life and a genuine man.
My fondest memory was 10 years ago he offered to help me while I was injured competing in Asia. This he didn’t need to do, nor regularly check up on me via email to see how my recover was. This was a man that having initially met him randomly offered to help and I know other athletes had experienced the same.
An infectious personality and humble human being. He will be truly missed. My condolence go to his family and kids. RIP Ronald.”
Adrian Grant, former PSA professional who frequented the KL and Malaysian Opens
“He was a fantastic guy who always had a smile and a joke for everyone. He was known by all in the world of squash as an excellent Physiotherapist and a fantastic man. He will be sorely missed by us all. RIP Ronald.”
Daryl Selby, world number 13
“In complete shock to hear this sad news, my heart goes out to Nicol and his family. He was always so proud of his kids showed me many many pictures of them. A very nice guy who we will miss seeing around and talking to.”
Raneem El Welily, world number 2
“Watching Ronald in Nicol’s corner, you would think he was here for one job only, which underlined the loyalty he had. Step away from the court and he was open and full of passion.
“One of my favourite interviews was with Ronald. Yes, there was great insight in keeping Nicol’s body free from injury, but talk to him about ice hockey, sport and family – and joy swept through his voice.”
Rod Gilmour, renowned sports journalist who interviewed Ronald for a feature in Squash Player
“I had the great pleasure of spending a great deal of time with Ronald all over the world at Squash events. He was a great man to know and be around. He was passionate and knowledgeable in all manner of things. The world is a poorer place now he is gone RIP Ronald we will all miss you.”
Paul Selby, renowned English coach