Malaysian Star Azlan Iskandar To Retire
2 September 2012
Malaysian squash star Azlan Iskandar has announced his decision to retire from the PSA World Tour with immediate effect.
A member of the Professional Squash Association since 2000, the Sarawak-born 30-year-old has enjoyed a distinguished career in the sport, reaching 24 PSA World Tour finals and winning 14 Tour titles – including three Malaysian Open crowns between 2004 and 2010.
The Asian Games gold medallist in 2010 and twice winner of the Asian Championship, Iskandar celebrated a career-high world No10 ranking in March 2011. Ranked 14 in the world last month, he maintained an unbroken presence in the world top 20 since October 2009.
Arguably, his greatest rivalry has been with fellow countryman Ong Beng Hee. The pair first met on the Tour in the first round of the 2000 Malaysian Open – and went on to contest the Asian Games final in 2006, two Asian Championships’ finals, and four Tour finals, three of which were in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
PSA CEO Alex Gough said: “It is always a shame when a long-standing player retires from any sport. Azlan has always been one of the hardest trainers on Tour and his fitness levels have been extraordinary over the years. Having reached the top 20 over seven years ago and reaching one of his goals of the top ten in the world last year, he can proud of having scalps such as beating the great Amr Shabana on more than one occasion, not least of all in reaching last year’s Hong Kong Open semi-final, his best result in a World Series event.
“We wish him all the best in his new ventures and hopefully he all not be too far away from squash in the next chapter of his life.”
Iskandar had much to say of his difficult decision: “It is, of course, a sad moment for me, Malaysian Squash and the Malaysian government. But everyone has taken it in a positive angle as I will be contributing back to the game.
“I would like to firstly mention a big shout out to all the relevant people who have been dear to me on Tour and have helped me be where I have been today. I thank my parents and my sister Zai and Faridah who have supported me fully even though turning pro in Malaysia at 17 – it wasn’t the normal career path! Also the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia for first spotting me when I was 11. If they hadn’t, I don’t know where I’d be!
“The National Sports Council (NSC), National Sports Institute (NSI) and the Ministry of Youth and Sport who have been vital in supporting and funding the sport; my personal sponsors since I remember – Datuk Zainal from Zecon, Datuk Seri Effendi from Encorp, Maxis, Powerbar, Head, Graham watches, Sportspin Athletic Management Company who have helped with my management of my career with sponsors and the negotiating aspect of things,” continued Iskandar.
“The personal people: the current sports minister in the country, Datuk Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who plays squash himself has been a huge driver, especially in 2010 for me to deliver the Asian Games gold medal and 2011 for me to get into the top 10; my fiancée and my wife-to-be, being there through the tough times (have to admit more than the good times, haha, but she’s always there!); my three major coaches and my singular physical trainer Sean Sturggeas (who’s been there with me since I was 19 and a big shout out to the national sports institute). Throughout my career, Neil Harvey, Jamshed Guland of course Peter Genever (now the Malaysian national head coach) – they have been part of my life in grooming me to think the way I do and to play the way I have … a big big thank you!!
“Also my favourite guys on tour …. you guys know who you are, I need not mention you; my fellow countrymen, and women; Ong Beng Hee an absolute legend in his way by opening up the small window of squash back in the 90s, by making squash an option as a career path, for being my room-mate for so many events and so many years; my training partner Mohd Nafiizwan who was my house mate in London and training partner and practically a younger brother to me; Miss Nicol David, of course – Malaysia’s squash princess and world number for making squash so popular in the country and taking Malaysia to heights and places it has never been!
“I just hope that squash will grow more in time in Malaysia and of course the world. Delia Arnold, Low Wee Wern, the relevant parties in SRAM … we have all been a small support group for each other as a family to help grow the sport since the 90’s and I will hope to continue to grow the sport.
“It was a decision that has been going through my mind for a good six months after I got injured a few times earlier this year. I also set huge, huge, targets when I was 12 and I achieved them all last year and the year before.
“I found it hard, or have been finding it hard, to find new goals in the heights of squash achievements, per se. Everyone is built differently and throughout my life things are always mapped out in my head and I have targets to set and found it hard to play and just go through the motions and float from tournament to tournament, especially in my position in Malaysia with government funding, knowing that it is tax payers’ money that is supporting part of my career – so I feel it’s not right to do something if I cannot give it 120%!
“I have tried and just can’t find inspiration apart from setting my next goals that I am passionate about – which are, of course, to give back to my sport SQUASH. I will be working on making sure that the number of courts built in my country doubles; the number of squash events grows; and the popularity and the game’s reach will penetrate the masses and make the sport more accessible in my country as I believe that there is so much to do to help develop the sport.
“I have been to so many states around Malaysia – and there are so many keen learners and so much talent and enthusiasm when squash is introduced to the next generation. Malaysia is growing and has already grown to be such a developed nation thanks to our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muyiddin Yasin, and our Sports & youth Minister Datuk Sri Shabery Cheek – they are huge drivers for sport and for the opportunities of the next generation. I truly believe a career path in squash is one of them, whether it may be as a professional squash player on tour, a coach, or a tournament organiser – I believe it is all relevant in the sports industry and the squash industry.
“I think the most memorable memory in my squash life was when I first played in Cairo and I watched squash being played by the pyramids – then it was, of course, Tournament of Champions in New York where squash is played in Grand Central Station. I think those things were huge motivations in my career to want to play on the ‘show court’.
“Of course there were my most memorable wins – beating a few of the top 10 guys who I don’t need to mention! But, genuinely, it’s been in the last couple of year on the tour that the sport, PSA, WSA and World Squash has grown leaps and bounds, and will continue to make the sport more ‘relevant’ around the world – so I believe that squash has a great chance of making the Olympics in 2020.
“It’s every squash player’s dream to make the Olympics but I guess one that I can only just watch on the TV! I will still be playing for my country, as squash is very much in my bones, but I think the travelling has caught up with me in all honesty – living away from home at 12, then living away from Malaysia since I was 17, I think it would be an appropriate time for my mind and body to call it a day and perhaps start a family and find something else that I’m good at to pay the bills!
“If I have missed anyone, I’d like to apologise as it is an extremely emotional moment in my career and the next stage of life, but this decision is inevitable and it’s just a matter of when one wants to make the call and to dare to move into something else.”
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